Magazine article The Spectator

Fatal Entrapment

Magazine article The Spectator

Fatal Entrapment

Article excerpt

Deception: Spies, Lies and How Russia Dupes the West by Edward Lucas Bloomsbury, £20, pp. 372, ISBN 9781408802847 I am no great fan of spy thrillers and positively allergic to conspiracy theories, but I found this book difficult to put down.

In an earlier study, Edward Lucas examined Russia's use of energy as a weapon against the EU and the Atlantic alliance.

In this one, he dives below the surface into the murky waters of the country's security apparatus and demonstrates that, while it has shed the old KGB image, it remains as pervasive and just as menacing.

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the battlelines were clear cut and so was the role of the Soviet Union's defenders. At home, they silenced any criticism of the system. Abroad, they carried on an ideological struggle for dominance with the United States and its allies.

With the end of the Cold War, Western societies limply accepted the 'end of history' assumption that the virtues of democracy and the free market economy had been recognised by all. For probably the great majority of Russians, and certainly for all connected with the military and security, 1989 and its aftermath represent a humiliating defeat. They have seen their empire disintegrate and their country's prestige as one of the world's two superpowers evaporate. If they cannot reconstitute their empire and put Russian soldiers back in Berlin, they can at least try to rebuild their power status.

In Putin's Russia, now free of all ideological constraint, the new masters base their power on money. As a result, gangsterism intersects with politics and international mafia operations with foreign policy. At home, the security service, the FSB, which many Russians liken to the religious police of Saudi Arabia or the Republican Guard of Iran, serves the business as well as the political interests of its masters.

Abroad, its sister organisation, the SVR, works alongside various Russian mafias to much the same purpose.

Infiltration, manipulation and subversion have taken over from the conventional spying of the past. The two services have, in Lucas's words, become inextricably enmeshed in a 'toxic combination of chauvinism and criminality', a major element of which concerns the movement and laundering of vast amounts of cash.

The effects are so corrosive that, as one American observer of Russia points out, the country's main export is no longer oil and gas, but corruption. …

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