by J Michael Waller / Center for Security Policy / February 14, 2020
Russia’s security and intelligence organizations continue both to repress and recruit Christians for subversive work inside the country and abroad.
“That this is the case should surprise no one because the threat of repression can be a powerful recruiting tool and the knowledge that repression is often used against Protestant groups gives such people an aura that puts them beyond suspicion of being the agents of Moscow,” Paul Goble says in his Window on Eurasia blog.
Goble is one of the most distinguished American observers of the space that was the Soviet empire. As a State Department official in the 1980s, he was one of the most instrumental in coordinating among political, ethnic, and national opposition figures to dismantle the USSR.
The KGB’s Fifth Chief Directorate, responsible for repressing and recruiting political and religious opposition figures, was never formally abolished after the Soviet collapse of 1991, and nobody was ever held responsible for its crimes.
Goble quotes Russian journalist Kseniya Kirillova, who is based in the United States. Kirillova followed recent incidents inside Russia in which the repress-and-recruit tactics of the Federal Security Service (FSB) – the re-named internal security units of the old KGB – became exposed.
KGB continuum a generation later
Goble writes, “this combination has broken down with those the FSB has repressed and recruited letting slip what it taking place.” He cites Kirillova’s report on “the experience of Boris Perchatkin, a Soviet-era Pentacostal dissident who emigrated and. has worked to expose those recruited through repression in the West.”
This writer warned in 1993 that Russia’s “rule of law” was preserving discredited Soviet mechanisms for such repression, but few in the West wanted to hear such bad news at the time. So the KGB continuum a generation later should not be surprising.
Perchatkin says that today, some Russian religious emigres “do not justify the trust of Americans.”
As Goble explains, “exploiting the image of being oppressed by the FSB, they are in fact working for it just as some did for the KGB in Soviet times. Indeed, the problem is perhaps worse now because there are so many Russians coming to the West.”
Some China-watchers say that a similar problem exists among Chinese emigres to the United States and other Western countries.
The KGB exploited the slow Soviet collapse three decades ago. “Perchatkin says that ‘when toward the end of the USSR, it became clear that the exodus of Russians would not stop and would be massive, the special services decided to take the lead in the process’ and recruit some of its members to work as Russian spies in various foreign countries.”
The FSB’s notorious Department ‘M’
Department ‘M’ is the FSB’s special unit to handle Russian emigres and religious people.
Perchatkin and defectors like former KGB lieutenant colonel Konstantin Preobrazhensky have described Department M and how it operates.
Russian religious activists are used as agents of influence in the United States, and to discredit true persecuted Christians under the Putin regime.
“Moscow can selectively expose some of these people and thus suggest that all religious dissidents are suspect,” Goble says.