CIA Overly Optimistic About Russia

Yulia Latynina
The Moscow Times

In the next decade, Russia may break up into six to eight different states. That, at least, is the view of CIA analysts to be found in a report available on the intelligence agency's web site. In world history, countries that suffer from systemic internal disorder inevitably become the victims of conquest. And not even nuclear weapons can guarantee the territorial integrity of a country, just as a car alarms don't always protect against theft. A country without an army is in trouble, and Russia's army showed its true colors in Chechnya: It's adept at plundering but no good at fighting. In this high-tech age, only professional armies can get the job done; mass conscript armies are as obsolete as cavalry armies were in World War II. However, our generals reject any reform of the army because a professional army would not perform, in their view, its most important function: building generals' dachas. The Kremlin also abandoned reform of the army, though for a different reason: A professional army is a threat to the authorities. All the preconditions for a military dictatorship in Russia are in place, except for the military itself. The authorities would clearly prefer that the army disgrace itself in Chechnya.

The state of the army also means that the preconditions are in place for the conquest of Russia from without. The strategic foes are the Islamic world and China; but we don't hear much about Islam or China, we only hear about NATO. The fact that NATO is at our borders is a slap in the face but not a threat.

A disintegrating empire, which has a war on its hands but no army, tends to delegate the fighting to local princelings and to surround itself with a network of feudal principalities. One such principality is Chechnya, where President Akhmad Kadyrov will remain true to the Kremlin for as long as it serves his interests.

But the list of principalities does not end with Chechnya. The Kremlin has not plucked up the courage to remove the rulers of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan or Kalmykia and these republics differ little in essence from mediaeval khanates.

An attempt was made to remove Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov by putting forward the banker Sergei Veremeyenko to run against him. After the first round of the Bashkir presidential election, Rakhimov was summoned to the Kremlin. After the meeting, an order was issued to close down Veremeyenko's campaign headquarters, seal the door, photograph it and send a copy of the photograph to the Kremlin.

It is widely believed that a deal was struck in the Kremlin whereby Bashkir petrochemical plants controlled by Rakhimov's son Ural would be transferred to Gazprom.

Leaving aside the ethical issues of trading elections for enterprises, most interesting is the fact that Rakhimov did not make good on his promise. That points to the disintegration of the country into the very same six to eight states that the CIA report talks about.

Law enforcement agencies are like the army in Chechnya. They do not catch criminals but rob the public blind. And they are treated in kind.

In Primorye, the Khasan district prosecutor was murdered. It transpired that the prosecutor's dacha was being built by soldier-serfs. One of the soldiers spotted a gun at the dacha and took it; at that moment the prosecutor arrived at his dacha and the soldier shot him. The soldier was caught. At the trial, he said that he was from Khabarovsk, a city run by thieves; he could not return home from the army, only from prison.

There you have the "power vertical" Khabarovsk-style. So, in a sense the CIA report underestimates the severity of the situation. In terms of governance, the country has already disintegrated into six to eight "enclaves." Of course, President Vladimir Putin can still install whoever he likes on the territory of these enclaves -- but that is not the same as being able to govern them.