Politics / Issue October 11, 2007 №78

219 The re-agent



Appointment of Fradkov the Director of the foreign intelligence service, or FIS, seems to be a threat for this service as a separate institution. It has nothing to do with the democratization of the special services where civil servants are appointed to manage, as Fradkov is a specialist in the area which is of the best priority for intelligence service today.

First, Fradkov has already headed one the special services – the tax police. It was dissolved two years later after his entering the office, and the staff and equipment were passed to the Drugs Traffic Control led by Viktor Cherkesov. Fradkov submitted then to the decision of re-training his staff from tax officers into hunters after heroine dealers and he left for Brussels to work as a representative in the EC.   

It is possible that this Fradkov’s feature – non-resistance to unfriendly amalgamations – might come useful for him in the foreign intelligence service. Like it was with the tax police, the status of the run by him special service is disputable at the moment.

The tax police had two competitors – Economic Security Department at FSB and State Department of Combat Against Economic Crime at the interior ministry. Activities by FIS also intersect with other special services, and not only the Army’s intelligence service. After amalgamation of FSB and Border Service, FIS got a formidable opponent, as border service had its own intelligence facilities as well as in FSB, where such facilities were created in 1999. However, in the mid-2000s it was unofficially considered that FSB and FIS shared spheres of influence. The latter worked for far abroad countries, while the former for CIS countries.

It’s exactly in CIS where competition by FSB and FIS became obvious. In May 2005 the Director of FSB Patrushev announced about crushing a conspiracy in Byelorussia panned in Bratislava by the west non-government organizations. And during Parliament election in Azerbaijan in autumn of that year it was the Head of FIS Lebedev who visited Baku with the purpose of supporting Aliev the junior. One may change these surnames and nothing would change. FIS might have crushed a conspiracy against Lukashenko and Director of FSB could have come to support Aliev in Azerbaijan.

There is another argument for the version that Fradkov’s appointment is preparation for amalgamation of FSB and FIS. The matter is that starting from the end 2006 Putin got discontented with the growth of the employees’ number in the special services.

In Dec. 2006 a decree was issued where the President ordered defense and interior ministers, also FSB, FSO and FIS Directors to restrict growth of actual strength with the figures existing as of 1st Jan of the corresponding year. In June 2007 Putin stepped further and issued Decree #777 ordering reduction of the number of employees in the “enforcing” agencies. Interior ministry was reduced for 96 people, FSB 50 people, FIS 1 person, FSO 15 service men etc.

Obviously, amalgamation of the two agencies would be the best way of keeping the number of employees within strict limits, and that would lead to generals’ number reduction.

However, there is a plus in the Lebedev’s resignation, as now FIS will be headed by a civilian servant like it is in the West.  Though, this comparison is true only on the first face.

Yes, George Tenet, who headed CIA from 1997 to 2004, was not a regular intelligence officer. He didn’t deal with resident agents and didn’t carry out field work. And yet he wasn’t an outsider for CIA. Since 1985 – i.e.12 years before he headed CIA – he had been working in the standing intelligence committee in the Senate where he was responsible for all measures taken by the Committee for supervision of the activities by the intelligence service.    

Fradkov has never dealt with supervision of special services’ activities. Less than half a year he was the first assistant of the Secretary of the Security Council and there he was in charge of economic questions familiar to him after his many-year career in the foreign Trade. 

However, it is possible that Fradkov is not so far from the intelligence issues as it might seem looking at his official biography.

In 1973, a year after he graduated from the institute, Fradkov went to India for two years to work in the staff of the adviser on economic issues at the Soviet embassy in India. Incidentally, two other future Heads of FIS served in India in the 70s. They were Vyacheslav Trubnikov and Leonid Shebarshin. 

It’s interesting that Fradkov graduated from the Moscow Machine-Tool Institute, and scientific and technical intelligence was the main direction of our intelligence service in India. Former intelligence officers say that it’s there and in South Africa where main secrets of western defense technology were obtained. That’s why several networks of resident agents were created by KGB in India, one of them being in charge of obtaining technical information. One former intelligence agent, who lives in abroad now, affirms that Fradkov worked under cover in “T” department of KGB and afterwards he got the rank of colonel of the operational reserve.     

Moreover, one of the major subjects in the Russian-Indian cooperation of that time was military supplies, and tanks first of all. Judging from his education, Fradkov could be an expert in that field. 

Meanwhile, soviet tanks were the object of interest by Americans, and any intelligence about that was obtained in accordance with the rules of the cold war. Such is an affirmation by Robert Bair, former CIA officer, who served that time in the resident agents’ network in New Delhi.  He managed to obtain the maintenance book for the T-72 tank, which he called Holy Grail for their intelligence service for many years. 

Robert Bair has worked for CIA for 21 years. He worked in almost every country of the Middle East, and also in Tajikistan. An expert in the Arabic language, he took part in planning many operations, including unsuccessful attempt of killing Saddam Hussein in 1995 during the Kurds’ uprising. He became a prototype for a loud movie Syriana, based on the spy agent story. Now he is one of the major public critics of CIA.
A few questions to Robert Bair.

Robert, do you remember meeting Mikhail Fradkov in India?

I guess I remember him. He was in contact with the KGB resident agents. It was long ago, but it seems to me that we met at the social events. I can’t say definitely he worked for KGB, but he contacted with the resident agents. 

What was the main task by KGB in India?

Watching CIA’s activities first of all, and keeping control over it. Second, KGB had good influence agents, especially in the press, which was underestimated by us that time. And third, it’s supplies of weapons. KGB was concerned that India continue buying soviet weapon. India retained good relations with Great Britain and there was a chance it could go for British supplies.

Do you know that Fradkov is the third Head of the FIS out of those who worked in India in 70s?

Well, it was a perfect place for training intelligence officers. Our counter-intelligence services were well developed there. Our and your operative agents learnt how to escape being observed. It was a good training center. You had excellent agents after 3-4 years of working there.


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