Magazine article Security Management

Former Foes, Future Friends

Magazine article Security Management

Former Foes, Future Friends

Article excerpt

Sixty men and women from ten countries flew into Moscow on a brisk, clear day last fall to begin one of the most extraordinary experiences of their lives. They made up the first delegation visiting the former Soviet Union to exchange with their counterparts information about the private security industry.

The delegation, which I headed, was sponsored by the Citizen Ambassador Program of People to People International. The organization was founded thirty-seven years ago by President Eisenhower to promote understanding among people around the globe through the sharing of professional experience. Hosting the delegation from the Russian business community was the recently established professional organization, the Association of Personal and Business Security (ABS), which had been formed a few months earlier by twenty-one security and investigation firms in Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) republics. It now has more than fifty member firms.

Public sector hosts included law enforcement elements from the Ministry of Interior and the Militia and the successor agencies to the KGB--the Ministry of Security (MBRF) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). The MBRF is charged with domestic and internal security responsibilities and with protecting the Russian borders. The SVR took over the functions of the former First Chief Directorate of the KGB. It is charged with conducting espionage and the other intelligence and counterintelligence activities.

As the jetliner approached Moscow's Sheremetovo airport on October 16, I noticed a change in attitude from the jovial and lighthearted air that had marked our journey from New York. For most of us, this was our first visit to the land of our recent enemy. Some members of the group had served in American and other Western intelligence services and had been active combatants in the cold war. Everyone was apprehensive as we entered the once forbidden lair of the Russian bear.

The anxiety, although momentarily revived from time to time during the next two weeks, evaporated as we were welcomed in the airport terminal by the President of ABS, former KGB Major General Victor Budanov. A handsome, athletic-looking man in his mid-fifties sporting a Yul Brynner hairstyle and a black leather coat, Budanov looked as though he had come right from central casting. The warmth of his greeting, however, put everyone at ease. It set the tone for the days that would follow. The delegates learned that few people are as friendly as the Russians.

Such a reception was even more remarkable considering the times. Not since World War II have the Russian people been subjected to the type of deprivations they now face. The costs imposed by the transformation from a command to a free-market economy are daunting. Near hyperinflation has put food and basic amenities almost beyond the reach of the average citizen; daily life for many is drudgery. Still, people went out of their way to make us feel at home.

Recording our welcome was the crew of the CBS-TV weekly program Street Stories. Led by correspondent Peter Van Sant, the crew remained with us during our entire stay in Moscow. A month later, the delegation's historic visit, described and narrated by Ed Bradley, would be shown to millions of television viewers.

In a jam-packed program filled with one unforgettable experience after another, our stay in Moscow started off with a visit that still seems surreal. At the center of the huge square named after Felix Dzherzinski, the founder of the modern Soviet intelligence services, there now stands a pedestal, empty except for a large, plain wooden cross. The statue of the square's namesake, which once stood there, was toppled during the coup of 1991. Against this background, the delegates were escorted into the enormous yellow building overlooking the square, the Lyubyanka, home of the KGB, site of one of the world's most notorious prisons, and now headquarters of the MBRF. …

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