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Behind Russia’s Spy Scandal

Prof. Mark Galeotti has a good one on the arrest and expulsion of alleged spy Ryan C. Fogle from Russia this past week.

The FSB, Putin’s own former service and once one of the dominant forces within the “deep state” of the inner elite, has been quiet of late. The oprichniki of Alexander Bastrykin’s Investigative Committee (SK) have been leading the charge, whether against the opposition, or corruption in the government, or even abusive child-care workersBastrykin—a man with few friends and fewer scruples—has staked his career on empire-building the SK and in the process has squarely parked his tanks on the FSB’s lawn. They have already struck back, leaking the story of his threatening a journalist during an infamous “walk in the woods.” Now they may well also be trying to find ways to demonstrate to the one man who counts, Vladimir Putin, that they, not the SK, are still the real guardians of Russian security.

This is not going to lead to some new cold war, nor will it derail the new security cooperation, which is so clearly in both the Russian and US interest. However, when the Kremlin begins to define itself in terms of its enemies, when it begins to invest paranoia as politics and when struggles between secret policemen begin to define the national and international agendas, then this is a depressing time to be a Russia-watcher.