Sorting out those who are genuine from those who are FSB recruits is no easy thing, but it is a challenge the West must rise to.
Several recent cases highlight a fact often overlooked in the West: the FSB, like the KGB before it simultaneously fights and recruits Protestants and especially Protestant missionaries to work as its agents at home and abroad, US-based Russian journalist Kseniya Kirillova stated.
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.
But in several recent cases in the Russian Federation, this combination has broken down with those the FSB has repressed and recruited letting slip what is taking place, Kirillova documents. She cites the experience of Boris Perchatkin, a Soviet-era Pentecostal dissident who emigrated and has worked to expose those recruited through repression in the West.
“Being a leader of the Pentecostal community and a member of the Helsinki Committee on the Rights of Believers in the USSR, during Soviet times, he was put in jail numerous times and then, having emigrated to the US, contributed to the assistance of repressed confessions” in his homeland.
Unfortunately, he says, today, some religious emigres “do not justify the trust of Americans” because, 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 more Russians coming to the West.
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 this process” and recruit some of its members to work as Russian spies in various foreign countries.
He and others, like former KGB lieutenant colonel Konstantin Preobrazhensky, say that the FSB has its own special department “M” that deals exclusively with emigres and especially with religious groups. And Perchatkin stresses that the FSB sees such religious emigres as useful in several ways.
Espionage, of course, but also as “a channel of influence on American society” and as a means of undercutting Western support for the genuine victims of religious repression in Putin’s Russia because Moscow can selectively expose some of these people and thus suggest that all religious dissidents are suspect.
Sorting out those who are genuine from those who are FSB recruits is no easy thing, but it is a challenge the West must rise to, Kirillova concludes, lest Moscow’s combination of repression and recruitment work against Western countries in general and the United States in particular.
Professor Paul Goble - linguist. He served as special adviser on Soviet nationality issues and Baltic affairs from 1989-1992. He was analyst on Soviet Nationalities, in Central Intelligence Agency. He was Deputy Director at Radio Liberty, and Senior Advisor to the Director of Voice of America. He published "The Situation in Russia: October 1993: Briefing of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe".