My warning to Britain: your democracy is under attack from Putin's KGB infiltrators
The late Alexander Litvinenko once spoke to me about Putin's strategic plan for damaging Western democracy and reducing it to the level of what passes for democracy in Russia. I believe that this plan is already being successfully accomplished. For proof, just look at how all Western leaders are today happy to close their eyes on Russia's deviation from democracy - by doing so they are taking the first steps toward ruining democracy in their own countries.
Russian agents have a stranglehold on the UK because Putin has modernised the Russian concept of intelligence. Now they are putting emphasis on the use of Russian emigrants and not on the use of leftist or liberal Western intellectuals, whom Lenin once cynically described as his "useful idiots". Though a lot of KGB officers still hark fondly back to the days of Stalinism, they would never dare to recruit a British intellectual today because they know that your intellectuals would believe that Russia has finished with Communism. That is not the case at all.
MI5 says that the number of Russian spies in the embassy and affiliated institutions is about 30, around the same number as it was in the Soviet times. In fact, it is much larger. In the Soviet period the number of vacancies for KGB and GRU agents in the Soviet embassies was strictly restricted by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Today though, Russian intelligence does not suffer restrictions. The KGB's privileged position in Russia gives it unrestricted freedom to operate all over the world. British intelligence is deprived of such a privilege.
The number of Russian intelligence officers in the UK exceeds 30 people many times over. Litvinenko described to me a new KGB recruitment method in the UK. The Russian businessman is approached in the street with the suggestion that he become a spy. He, of course, declines. Then the agent says to him, with a sly smile: "Well then, we will put out a search for you on Interpol. We'll lie to them about you being a member of the Russian mafia. We'll see what happens to your business then!" The unfortunate businessman gives in. He already knows how pitilessly his colleagues are treated in Russia, and that Putin does, indeed, use Interpol in his fight with his political enemies.
Also, a lot of Russian spies are coming to the UK as clergymen after "the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia" was merged with the Kremlin-controlled Moscow Patriarchate in May 2007.
What should the UK do about all this? Increase their spy missions in Russia? I am afraid it is too late for that. People are already afraid to contact Britons or British institutions for fear of being accused of espionage. As the FSB (the successor to the KGB) now doesn't need to hamper itself with the search for proof, it is possible to declare anybody a British spy. Once that happens the person will go to prison for 15 years, as has already happened to Igor Sutyagin and many other Russian intellectuals. On the other hand, North Korean intelligence is allowed to work in Russia openly. They are friends. You, the British, are not.
It is better for the UK to get realistic, and rid itself of its illusions about Russian democracy. The UK must treat Russia as a non-democratic state; it must require the expulsion of Russia from the G8, with which Russia does not share any common values. The UK must also start expelling diplomats just as you did in Soviet times because Russia is now harking back to that era as well.
MI5 has complained of swarms of spies from Russia and China roaming around Britain. I suspect the two countries may be working together. As a former adviser on China to General Zaitsev, head of the KGB Scientific and Technical Intelligence, I have a strong feeling that the intelligence services of Russia and China have resumed their co-operation in spying on the West. The heads of Chinese intelligence and counter-intelligence visit Moscow every month. What for, I wonder?
In our long phone conversations, Litvinenko told me, with a smile in his voice, that Putin wanted to kill him. He knew that Putin was vindictive and did not forgive insults or those who gave away personal revelations about him. Litvinenko said he still had his sources and informants in Moscow. It was a claim that was to turn out fatal for him.
When I spoke on CNN a few days after Litvinenko's murder, the interviewer wondered: "Why are you sure it was Putin? Why not anybody else?"
It was a question put by a man who had been brought up in a democratic society, where the state's intelligence apparatus are civil bodies in which officers are allowed a degree of freedom in their political views. The KGB is a military body. It is a part of Russia's military bloc, and it is subordinate to the Supreme Commander of the Russian Army - former Comrade President Vladimir Putin. As such any uninvited intruder into the sphere of Putin's personal power can expect to be severely punished.
We should also note that Andrei Lugovoy, Litvinenko's alleged murderer, was promoted to the Russian parliament. What other proof of Putin's involvement does one need?
P utin is not afraid of the West anymore. More importantly, the West is afraid of him. All the Western leaders want to be Putin's friends. They are all in his pocket. Making Lugovoy a parliament member is not only an insult to the UK, it is the beginning of his cruel revenge towards Britain. His revenge may well continue to damage British interests all over the world. Putin is not afraid of the consequences; he is sure that the West will forgive him everything because of Russia's oil supply.
Can Putin order his agents among Islamic terrorist cells to create acts of sabotage in the UK? He's already probably ordered them to do the same thing in certain Russian cities. It's strange that the West still considers Russia its ally in fighting world terrorism when terrorism as a concept was initially invented in the KGB's headquarters as a tool of world Communist revolution. Terrorism is a part of Communist ideology. That is why, as Litvinenko used to tell me, that terrorism in Northern Ireland faded as soon as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991: the paramilitaries stopped getting support from Moscow.
The very problem of world terrorism had also faded until the KGB regained power in Russia in the mid-1990s. That is why, according to Litvinenko, all the leading world terrorists have been KGB agents, like Carlos the Jackal. Even al-Qaeda's two leading figures, Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Juma Namangani, are KGB agents. In 1996, Litvinenko secured the secret arrival of Al-Zawahiri in Dagestan in the Northern Caucasus in Russia to be trained by FSB instructors. Namangani was once a student of the Saboteur Training Centre of the KGB's First Chief Directorate in 1989-91. Litvinenko's friend saw him there.
Russian intelligence is using Islamic terrorism all over the world. Now it is trying to prevent any easing of tension in the Middle East in order to keep the price of oil high for the Kremlin's coffers.
Konstantin Preobrazensky's latest book is The KGB's New Trojan Horse: Americans of Russian Descent.
11:23pm Saturday 12th July 2008