February 17, 2003 - The Advocate: Russian spies back in power
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February 17, 2003 - The Advocate: Russian spies back in power
Russian spies back in power
Read and comment on this story from the Advocate that there has been a sharp increase in blatantly anti-American actions by the Russian bureaucracy. Last month, Russia expelled 27 Peace Corps volunteers, and the official explanation was that to some Kremlin officials, hosting a program that aids many Third World countries sent a signal of weakness at a time when Putin is bent on rebuilding national pride. Even if that is true, it is regrettable that the government acted in the way it did. Peace Corps members help to teach English and to build better understanding between two very different cultures. Read the story at:
Russian spies back in power*
* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.
Russian spies back in power
Is Russia, our giant and important new associate in world affairs, headed back toward more confrontation with the United States?
It may be so, and if not checked the trend could be profoundly disturbing to Western efforts to achieve progress on a huge number of issues, from terrorism to trade.
At the highest level, there hasn't been such a close relationship between the United States and Russia in a century. Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin -- one the son of a former CIA director, the other a former KGB spy -- have bonded and work together in a remarkable fashion.
For those in Europe and the United States who view Bush as a cowboy, a bull in the diplomatic china shop, it is a lesson that the U.S. president can build bridges as well as blow them up.
At the same time, the ascension of Putin also has given greater influence in Russia to the old-boy network of the KGB, now the Federal Security Service, or FSB in its Russian initials.
Not only has the Putin government tried to limit the scope of criticism of its policies by the media, but also there has been a sharp increase in blatantly anti-American actions by the Russian bureaucracy.
Last month, Russia expelled 27 Peace Corps volunteers, and the official explanation was that to some Kremlin officials, hosting a program that aids many Third World countries sent a signal of weakness at a time when Putin is bent on rebuilding national pride.
Even if that is true, it is regrettable that the government acted in the way it did. Peace Corps members help to teach English and to build better understanding between two very different cultures.
However, there's more to this sad story.
Nikolai Patrushev, who heads the FSB, told Russian media last month that two volunteers had been detected spying for the U.S. government. Moreover, he suggested, other volunteers had shown an improper interest in Russian life while teaching English and business courses.
The allegations were vague about what the Peace Corps volunteers were supposed to have done -- "gathering information about the political and socioeconomic situation in Russian regions," said Patrushev -- and we doubt there is any basis for them.
Rather, as The Washington Post reported from Moscow, the comments reflect anti-Western sentiment in Russian officialdom.
It is not only the Peace Corps that is on the receiving end of this kind of Russian chauvinism.
More seriously for future diplomatic relations, Russia ended a 7-year-old mission by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that monitored human rights in the war-torn Russian republic of Chechnya.
The Chechen war is one that Putin wants to win, even as the seizure of a Moscow theater by Chechen terrorists makes it clear that a political solution is desperately needed. To snub the OSCE is to send a signal to the West about Chechnya: Butt out.
That's not helpful or wise, but it can at least be understood in light of Putin's enormous political investment in the Chechen war. What is much less understandable, with serious longer-term implications, is the meaning of another blow at an organization promoting broad reforms in Russian society.
Russia revoked the visa of an U.S. labor activist who since 1992 has headed a U.S-funded program to advise Russian workers and trade unions on their rights. Irene Stevenson's work at the American Center for Labor Solidarity -- founded by the AFL-CIO and financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development -- is not anti-Russian.
If Russians want their economy to look more like that of the United States, they need not only a free market but the healthy influence of a free trade-union movement.
The series of anti-Western decisions is a trend that worries U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow.
"We are trying to convince the Russians that these kind of actions not only spoil the atmosphere but have real and tangible consequences for the achievement of their own goals of attracting more foreign investment and being accepted as a reliable partner for dealing with international challenges," Vershbow told the Post.
He's right. His views are shared by many important Russians who want to improve Russia's nascent democracy.
"The problem is that Russian authorities don't want any intervention or participation of international institutions inside Russia," said Tatyana Parkhalina, director of the Center for Problems of European Security. "They are afraid of this. Of course, it is against Putin's foreign policy line. There are very serious gaps between the new foreign policy line and the domestic policy line."
In the wake of the October hostage crisis, it was perhaps inevitable that the security services would have more clout in the Kremlin -- but the trend that worries Vershbow and others started long before the Chechen attack.
At some point, if the FSB has its way, these incidents could lead to a significant cooling in what are now warm relations between Russia and the West.
We don't think that is in the world's interest, and it is definitely not in Russia's interest if the sprawling republic wants to become an economic success story.
Background on the Peace Corps in Russia
Read more background on the Peace Corps in Russia at:
Special Report: From Russia with Love 1 January 2003
Analysis and Discussion of PC Expulsion from Russia
In response to "Foreigners Wonder Who Will Be Next" 17 January 2003
New Wariness in Russia Toward Help From West 16 January 2003
Russian-US ties strained over Peace Corps 15 January 2003
End of Peace Corps an Opportunity Lost 15 January 2003
Russian Actions against Peace Corps make Foreigners Wonder Who Will Be Next 13 January 2003
A Russian looks at the Peace Corps and the Federal Security Service 8 January 2003
PCVs leaving Russia with regret
Peace Corps Volunteers leaving Russia with regret 14 January 2003
PC out of Russia in 90 days
Peace Corps to depart Russia within 90 days 10 January 2003
Russia Turns Away Labor Activist
Now Russia Turns Away U.S. Labor Activist 9 January 2003
PC Rep won't waste words on spying charges
Peace Corps' Man in Moscow won't waste words on the spying charges 5 January 2003
Peace Corps responds to Russian Allegations
Peace Corps responds to Russian suggestions of intelligence gathering 3 January 2003
Peace Corps disappointed with Russian decision
Exclusive: Peace Corps disappointed with Russian decision 27 December 2002
Moscow to abandon Peace Corps agreement
New York Times: Russia bars future U.S. Peace Corps workers 28 December 2002
Pravda: Moscow informs Washington of intention to abandon Peace Corps agreement 27 December 2002
Associated Press: Russia Rejects U.S. Peace Corps 27 December 2002
US Ready to Remove Peace Corps From Russia
U.S. Ready to Remove Peace Corps From Russia, Citing Disputes 17 December 2002
Russian Spy claims "groundless" says US
Russian claims about Peace Corps volunteers "groundless" says US Embassy 16 December 2002
KGB accuses PCVs of "suspicious activities"
Update: KGB Chief says PCVs involved in suspicious activities 15 December 2002
KGB chief accuses Peace Corps workers of spying in Russia 15 December 2002
KGB refuses visas to religious workers
Russia refuses visas to religious workers 2 November 2002
What RPCVs say about the situation
Exclusive: Read the advice RPCVs gave the Peace Corps in August 18 August 2002
Russia is cooling to the Peace Corps
Time Magazine says Russia "Cooling To the Corps" 23 August 2002
Radio Free Europe makes the Case for the Peace Corps in Russia 18 August 2002
Secretary of State Powell makes no progress on Peace Corps visas with Russian foreign minister 14 August 2002
Russia refuses visas for Peace Corps Volunteers
Peace Corps Moscow chief denies allegations of non-professionalism 13 August 2002
Russia Ousting Dozens Of Peace Corps Volunteers 12 August 2002
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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Russia; Intelligence Issues