Robert Peston takes a look at the new owners of the UK’s Independent newspaper.
Mikhail Sokolov: So is Russia continuing to travel along the path laid out by Putin – anti-Westernism, “soft” dictatorship, and so on, or not?
Yuri Felshtinsky: You know, I can’t really call what’s happening in Russia today anti-Westernism, or even soft dictatorship. The people in the government are mostly those who worked for the KGB all their lives, or sometimes for other law enforcement agencies. In addition to the fact that all these people were born and lived in the Soviet era and were trained in the Soviet system, these people have passed through the school of the law enforcement agencies.
I don’t mean to offend the former or current leaders of the KGB, but you and I both know how the selection process for this organization, especially the KGB, worked. In other words, let’s put it this way: there are no good people there. I can’t emphasize this enough. A good person did not go to work for the KGB. I know it from Sasha Litvinenko. I always said to Sasha Litvinenko: “Sasha, you know, there are two people in your organization. One needs to be rewarded, and the other needs to be punished.” He would say: “Who are they?” “The person who should be rewarded is whoever chose you to work in the FSB and the KGB. Because it’s incredible, I mean, you’re a typical KGB officer. And the person who ought to be punished is whoever let slip the moment when you decided to defect from the KGB, because it’s extremely dangerous for the KGB to have you as an enemy.” And as an enemy of the FSB Litvinenko was indeed very dangerous, and so they killed him. They couldn’t find any other way of fighting him, they had to kill him.
To return to our topic: a good person did not go to work for the KGB, so by definition absolutely all the people who served in the KGB were bad people. That may be a naive thing to say.
Mikhail Sokolov: Not very scientific.
Yuri Felshtinsky: No, but it’s true. In everyday terms, you and I and all of us know that all those people are bad people. So what can one expect of the political system of our country, whether present or future, when it’s overwhelmingly led by these same bad people? Of course, nothing good can be expected of it. The fact that from time to time we encounter some anti-Western statements, for example, or some minor wars such as the one in Georgia –it’s all the result of the fact that these people run Russia today. They can’t act any differently, it’s just the way they’re made.
The possibility that Islamist movements in Europe and probably also further afield to some extent work in harmony with the Putin/Medvedev schemes in the field of military and foreign policy is evidenced by an interesting statement by the Finnish Islamic Party (Suomenislamilainenpuolue), which aims to represent the interests of Finland’s small Muslim minority. The statement condemns the “aggressive acts of the Georgian leadership” and gives the party’s full support to Russia. It also makes a savage attack on the president and government of Estonia, and demands that President Saakashvili be put on trial for war crimes. Although Finland’s Muslims are mostly Tatars, and have little time for fundamentalist ideology, the document is a curious and revealing indicator of the sort of sources where the Kremlin may really be deriving support in today’s world. The fact that the Hamas organization was the first to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia may not be a coincidence.
That some voices in Finland may be helping to foment a movement which they call a “Russian Intifada” among Estonia’s Russian-speaking minority is shown by this blog, which is dedicated to the subject.
There has long been a noted connection between the Kremlin and Islamist groupings, and it is no secret that, as Alexander Litvinenko pointed out before he was brutally murdered in London, Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri trained at a Federal Security Service (the former Russian KGB) base in Dagestan in 1998.