KGB Thrives In 'New' Russia
HAS perestroika changed the most oppressive tool of the Soviet Communist Party, the KGB? As a former KGB officer, I believe that the answer is "yes but not for the better.The "Committee for State Security" is much more than an intelligence service. Imagine an agency that combines the work of the CIA, FBI, Coast Guard, National Security Agency, National Security Council, Secret Service, and more. Only in the Soviet Union does the national intelligence service deal with economic and ethnic problems, organized crime, border patrols - and now food distribution and environmental protection. Most Americans do not realize that since Mikhail Gorbachev's rise to power the KGB's jurisdiction has grown. Two factions fought for control of the KGB in the 1960s and '70s. One, led by Yuri Andropov, aimed to reform the agency - not to make it more tolerant of human rights, but simply more efficient and less vulnerable to corruption. The other faction consisted of timeservers who resisted all changes. Andropov's group won. Today's KGB remains as powerful as ever - and as tightly controlled by the Soviet president and the Communist Party. The Kremlin wants Americans to believe that the party has renounced its monopoly on political power, but 100 percent of KGB officers are still party members. The KGB still maintains a network of informers and of electronic "bugs" that spy on every aspect of Soviet life - especially on the new democratic political parties, strike committees, independent news media, religious and ethnic organizations, business cooperatives, and joint ventures with Western companies. The targets of such snooping may include foreign businessmen, diplomats, journalists, or tourists. Surveillance starts at the border and continues 24 hours a day. KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov was right when he said that KGB microphones work much better than those in the Soviet parliament. As the most reliable pillar of the Leninist system, the KGB has proved even more resistant to budget cuts than the military-industrial complex. While Soviet army troops returning from Eastern Europe worry about where to house their families, Kryuchkov is demanding more foreign currency to pay KGB agents abroad and more posts for KGB officers in Soviet consulates and embassies - and getting them. Unlike many Sovietologists, I do not believe that the KGB brought Gorbachev to power, or even that it is in a position to force him out of the presidency. On the contrary, it is, as labeled, the "vanguard" of the Communist Party; its power stands or falls with the party's. To some extent, local KGB offices throughout the country have been independent of party leaders. But they always consult with party leaders on arrests of dissidents. For example, General Bobkov, chief of the Fifth Directorate of the KGB, consulted with Leonid Brezhnev and Andropov before arresting dissident Andrei Sakharov. Last month, Kryuchkov and Boris Yeltsin signed an agreement that supposedly will allow Yeltsin's Russian republic to create its own independent state security agency. The main task of that agency, according to the statement of its newly appointed acting chairman, Victor Ivanenko, will be "defense of human rights, law and order." This agreement is pure window dressing: Ivanenko may meet with Yeltsin, but his real bosses will continue to be Kryuchkov and Gorbachev. No matter what new KGB image-polishers say, it has never been and will never be a defender of human rights. Its techniques may change, as they have changed in the past, but its goal is still to deprive dissidents of rights. It is still an obedient tool in the hands of "the leading and guiding power of the USSR," the Communist Party - not just the party's "eyes and ears" but at the same time a machine to annihilate all who disagree, such as myself. A new song popular in Moscow goes like this:
Believe me, comrade: It will pass, this so-called glasnost, And then state security Will remember our names.
I think the Muscovites are right.