Putin Gives Army Chief Kvashnin Charge of Intelligence

Intelligence is traditionally the most powerful and sensitive sector of Russian government. It took a president as firm in the saddle as Vladimir Putin, 47, to dare tame the tiger.
Just before leaving for Camp David for his September 26-27 visit with President George W. Bush, Putin named Army General Anatoly Kvashnin, chief of staff of Russia’s armed forces, as overlord of all Russian intelligence services – according to an exclusive report from Moscow by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military and intelligence sources. For the first time since the tsars sat on the Kremlin throne, one man headed Russia’s armed forces and its sprawling intelligence-security empire, making Kvashnin the strongest man in Russia after Putin.
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At the age of 57, Russia’s top general stands at the helm of the SVR-Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (the Russian equivalent of the US CIA), the FSB-Federal Security Service (the Russian FBI) and the FAPSI -The Federal Agency for Government, Communication and Information. FAPSI is the Russian version of the US National Security Agency, but unlike the NSA, which collects intelligence only outside the United States, FAPSI handles electronic surveillance and monitoring and the gathering of trade and financial information both at home and overseas.
As chief of staff of the military, Kvashnin is also boss of the GRU, or Russian military intelligence.
One rumor making the rounds quotes Kvashnin as declaring triumphantly to his friends after he left Putin’s office with his new appointment: “I have now attained my life’s dream. Russia is going to have a new Yuri Andropov.”
While most of Russia’s top echelon was shaken by Kvashnin’s comment. Andropov grew into a legend as the supremely talented chief of the KGB from 1967 to 1982, at the peak of the Cold War. But he had the foresight to recognize the communist empire’s innate social and economic weaknesses and flaws. Without reform, later known as perestroika, he realized the empire was doomed to collapse. But before that happened, he developed the First Chief Directorate, the KGB’s foreign intelligence division, as Moscow’s key political-operational Cold War instrument. This body attained the mythical stature of the finest intelligence and counterintelligence service of modern times. Andropov’s spies and moles penetrated almost every Western intelligence agency including the CIA and Britain’s MI6.
Aware that the Soviet Union was on its last legs, Andropov would still smile secretly when he entertained Western guests at his Finnish-style offices at Yasenevo, the Directorate’s headquarters compound 35 miles south of Moscow, saying words to the effect of: “You will defeat the Soviet Union in the Cold War, but Yasenevo will beat you from within.”
Kvashnin’s mode of operation was first revealed to the West in a typically Andropovian ruse he pulled against the West in the Kosovo War in the time of Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.
US and British forces were slowly advancing on Kosovo’s capital of Pristina to capture the city for NATO, whose supreme commander then was General Wesley Clark – one of the current Democratic presidential hopefuls. Suddenly, Russian armored vehicles with ‘RUSSIA’ painted on their sides burst out of nowhere and raced past the NATO convoys to beat the Americans and the British, hoist the Russian flag and declare “We’re here!”
Those vehicles had been diverted from Bosnia on orders from Kvashnin in order to catch the White House, Pentagon, the US intelligence community and NATO headquarters by surprise. Although Moscow opposed the NATO invasion and the war against Serbia and its leader, Slobodan Milosevic, no one imaged he would dare dispatch forces to carve out a military enclave in the heart of Kosovo. Deploying small refueling and maintenance units – some airlifted in — along the way, Kvashnin sent Russian special forces contingents speeding to the strategic Pristina airport to confront the NATO force with the fait accompli of Russian armored vehicles parked at the entrances and on the runways. To this day, Russian forces control Pristina airport, Moscow’s foothold in the Balkans.
Putin’s first real opportunity for building an intelligence base under his control and free of the iron hand of the First Chief Directorate emanated from the 9/11 suicide attacks on the United States and the American wars in Afghanistan and later Iraq. His offer to the US president to help dislodge the Taliban and fight al Qaeda was strongly opposed by the top men at Yasenevo.
But the worst reverse ever suffered by the FCD’s old guard was the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003. All its networks and their entire Middle East and Arabian Peninsula operation had been underpinned by partnerships with Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services.
Although Putin took a formal stand against the Iraq War in and outside the United Nations, he was glad of the stick it gave him for knocking the stuffing out of the First Chief Directorate.
In between the Afghan and Iraq Wars – and up until the summer of 2003 – the Russian president further clipped the wings of the Cold War veteran.
He found the Directorate’s incoming stars more manageable than the old guard. They could be lured out of the service by offers of lucrative and powerful jobs such as regional governorships. For a large number of leading lights, such posts were often more appealing than dangerous undercover work in the state service. By August 2002, Putin had completed his Yasenevo overhaul. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources note correspondingly the striking number of new faces that popped up among Russia’s 30 regional governors.
After dismantling the Yasanevo power base, Putin handpicked Kvashnin as the strong, trustworthy hand he wanted for reshaping Russian intelligence and counterintelligence services for the new tasks ahead.
Why are Putin’s two power moves in removing an oil tycoon and cutting his intelligence organs down to size important for President Bush?
debkafile‘s analysts stress Bush needs to be sure that his candidate for senior foreign partner is fully in control of his intelligence agencies and can rely on them to support Kremlin policies. Both knew the old guard’s loyalties were reserved for itself and its historic partners, mainly European and Middle Eastern parties who stand firmly against Bush’s objectives. For instance, whereas the former intelligence bosses were enthusiastic about Moscow’s nuclear assistance to Iran, the new men have applied the brakes to prevent Russia helping Iran become a nuclear power.
And why do Putin’s reforms matter to Israel? And why does Sharon invest so much effort in fostering his personal relations with the Russian president?
Three reasons stand out:
1. Israel now imports 80 percent of its energy needs form Russia and its neighbors. Since these suppliers are regarded as safe, Israel no longer needs to hold large stocks of fuel in reserve.
2. Israel is interested in a role in the Russian economic projects for which massive American investments have been promised, including programs for developing Russian oil reserves. This role might be as a connecting link in the technological and financial interchanges ahead. Israel is equipped to assist in the formation of economic infrastructure and industries in the republics of Central Asia as well as in the development of oil and other natural resources in the Caspian Sea region.
3. Israel is eager for similar sorts of exchanges of intelligence and a working relationship in the war against international terror. Russia, like the United States and Israel, lives under the threat of Islamic fundamentalist terror. Before Putin carried out his reshuffle of the Russian intelligence community, the United States and Israel were shy of contacts with the departments that had been closely aligned with Iraqi intelligence or French Middle East undercover agencies. Both are now looking forward to finding fertile areas of cooperation with Russia’s new intelligence overlord, General Kvashnin.

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