4 Weaponizing Cyberspace rationales or implications by which an already targeted group is already spurned. Awareness of tsarist henchmen and Bolshevik plotters helps illus- trate British academic Keir Giles’s otherwise counterintuitive point that “throughout history, we see that change in Russia is not always change and it is most certainly not always for the better. Vladimir Putin,” who has operated continually as the country’s president or prime minister for two decades, “is far from the worst leader that Russia could have—and has had in the past.” Rather than being an endorsement of Putin, a former Soviet intelligence officer whose outlook will be explored more deeply in the coming chapter, it is sufficient at the moment to note Giles’s descrip- tion that the fact that “Russia is not at the moment imprisoning and mur- dering its own citizens and those of occupied territories on an industrial scale” is “something quite novel and something which is worth preserv- ing” in contrast to other episodes in Russian history.10 Spycraft constituted a major area of effort by the Soviet Union, both before and during the period thought of as the Cold War (roughly 1947– 91). “The [early Soviet era] Cheka and its successors were central to the functioning of the Soviet system in ways that intelligence communities never were to the governments of Western states,” scholar Christopher Andrew observed. This of course also placed spymasters near the center of power. Following Stalin’s death, his intelligence boss Lavrentiy Beria was outmaneuvered and murdered by rivals who feared that (unless dead) he could attain power. The reorganized Committee for State Security (KGB) was later headed by Yuri Andropov, who led the country for 15 months until his death in the 1980s. Another KGB chief, Vladimir Kryuchkov, spearheaded the hard-liners’ attempted coup meant to depose Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991. After the collapse of the Soviet system, Russian president Boris Yeltsin first elevated and then ejected yet another intel- ligence chief (Yevgeny Primakov, head of the SVR or post-Soviet Foreign Intelligence Service).11 When seeking Primakov’s successor as prime min- ister, Yeltsin briefly tapped Sergei Stepashin (former chief of the FSB or Federal Security Service, successor organization to the KGB). Stepashin lasted three months, and he was replaced in August 1999 by another intel- ligence officer, Vladimir Putin, whose resume included eight months of heading the FSB. Not only did spycraft and spymasters figure significantly in steering the country, disinformation in particular played an important, if not always admired, role within Russian intelligence efforts. The organiza- tions that engaged in disinformation, described in the course of the next chapter, were not high profile but did boast a peak personnel strength of 15,000 members.12 Deeming race relations to be a weakness in the United States, Soviet active measures as noted in recent analyses “made race a central feature of its operational targeting” while also attempting to
Previous Page Next Page