KGB senior officer (1976- 1991).
M. Preobrazhensky spent 15 years in the KGB, in the foreign intelligence segment (precisely : technical and scientific espionage, « Directorate T »). He was attached to the Japanese station in the early 80s and spent the rest of his career at KGB HQ in Moscow, where he ended up being the senior adviser on Asia to the deputy head of KGB.
Mr. Preobrazhensky defected to the US in 2003. He has since been the author of eight books on Russian intelligence and was lecturer at Columbia, John Hopkins and Georgetown university.
How did you enter KGB ?
I did not choose it. KGB has chosen me. In the Soviet period it was impossible to apply to the KGB for job. KGB did not even consider such applications! KGB itself was choosing candidates! For this purpose, it has introduced its informants among professors at all universities. They were reporting to the KGB about the best students.
When I was offered to join the KGB intelligence at the personnel department of Institute of Asia and Africa of the Moscow University, I have agreed without any hesitation. Well, if you are a specialist in Japan, you had to travel to the country that you were studying. And that was possible only if you were working for KGB. By the way, Soviet specialists in France were in the same situation. All of them, who had visited France or worked here in the Soviet period, are KGB agents, even now. There was only one chance to avoid working for KGB: becoming an officer of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the member of the highest elite. But it was very hard to do that.
So I only had one choice: either to become a KGB collaborator, whose position is very dependent, or its staff officer with shoulder-stripes and high military salary. The second variant was much better.
But it was very hard to do. In the end, my father, the Deputy Commander of the KGB Frontier Troops, “pushed” me into KGB intelligence, the most privileged and well-paid job in the USSR.
But, contrary to the most of young officers, I was well aware of the inhumane character of the KGB. That is why I began writing my book of revelation from the first days of working there. It was published in Japan in 1994, entitled as “The spy who loved Japan”. It was a best-seller.
How did the split KGB between FSB and KGB happen?
It is explained in the chapter, “”How the KGB Became the FSB,” of my recent book, “KGB/FSB’s Hew Trojan Horse: Americans of Russian Descent”. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, President Yeltsin has reduced the monstrous power of the KGB. It was divided into a few ministries. The part of the former KGB, engaged mostly in counterintelligence, was renamed three times: in 1991 as MB (Ministry of Security), in1993 as FSK (Federal Counterintelligence Service), and in 1995 as FSB (Federal Security Service). In 2004, Putin has returned all the ministries, separated by Yeltsin from the KGB, back under the FSB control, thus in fact reconstructing the former KGB.
You were an expert on Asia at the KGB in the 80s. How did Moscow see Asia then, and now, especially regarding North Korea’s nuclear capabilities?
In 1980s, Asia for KGB was an arena of rivalry with China. Now they are made friends. Their friendship is directed against America and the West. North Korea is Russia’s friend too. On the Russian TV it is called” a friendly country”.
In August, 2006 a Russian church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was opened in Pyongyang, although religion is forbidden in North Korea, and belief in God is considered a political crime. But Kim Jong Il made an exception for his Russian friend. He has also kindly carved out about a million dollars from the budget of his poverty-stricken country for the construction of the church. This gave him the privilege of being considered a “founder of this temple”.
“For the founder of this temple, let us pray to the Lord!” the Russian deacon is proclaiming at each service daily. To make the North Korean dictator an object of religious worship – this is something previously unattainable by any Western president! The appearance on a Russian church in the capital of North Korea is a sign of a great personal friendship between Kim Jong Il and Putin, to spite the Americans. Both Putin and Kim Jong Il admire Stalin. North Korean regime was founded by him. That is why Putin is not afraid of North Korean atomic program. It is aimed at America and its allies.
How does Russia see Israel ?
In the Soviet period, Russia was undermining Israel as an American ally. For this, it has supplied Arab countries with weapons to fight Israel and stuffed the Jewish emigrants to Israel with the KGB agents. That is why there are very many KGB agents in Israel now.
Today Russia’s tactics is contradictory. Russia wants to make Israel a pro-Russian country and at the same time wants to annihilate it.
Putin has changed Russia’s intelligence concept. While in the Soviet period Russian intelligence was recruiting lovers of the Soviet Union: liberal intellectuals, leftists and communists, now it is making emphasis on lovers of Russia: Russian immigrants and “useful idiots” among Western elite. Lenin has cynically called so the Western intellectuals devotedly working for Russia.
Today Russia is forming its “fifth column” among Russian immigrants in all the Western countries. And only for Israel it has made an exception: it is forming Russian “fifth column” from Jews! Russia is applying their intelligence methods on working on Russians to Jews as if they were Russians.
For this purpose, the Russian intelligence is operating a branch of a government body in the Embassy in Tel Aviv, under the guise of a cultural center. Its head is a famous KGB officer, Dr Alexander Kryukov. His task is to recruit Jewish immigrants from Russia using their nostalgia. Alexander Kryukov used to be a student of the first Hebrew class, founded by the KGB in late 1970s in the Institute of Asia and Africa. There was not a single Jew there, only Russians. And not a single woman but only men appointed as the KGB intelligence officers.
At the same time, Russia wants to undermine Israel by provoking it to attack nuclear objects in Iran. For this purpose, it is supplying Iran with the most advanced anti-aircraft weapons. In the case of Israeli attack on Iran, the oil prices will grow up greatly, and Putin will get a lot of income. At the expense of Israel…
What can you reveal about President Putin’s past in the KGB? What was his position and in which directorate did he work? What does this tell us about his personality and his way of management?
In Putin’s biography there is a noticeable blank. It hides the subdivision of the KGB in which he has worked prior to his Intelligence career. It was the “fifth line” of the Leningrad KGB Directorate. “Fifth line” has been notoriously known as the KGB branch of fighting dissidents and Church.
Putin was devotedly fighting anti-Communists. Even now he is openly expressing his pro-Communist views by glorifying Soviet past and Stalinism. He is despotic like Stalin, his idol, and hates democracy. He has ruined its first seeds in Russia as soon as he came to power. He has considered the restoration of the Soviet Union as his primary political goal. He is returning Russia into Stalinism and the whole world – into the cold war.
Ironically, he has never worked in intelligence. He has worked in “fifth line” even in Dresden, East Germany. There he was monitoring “security” of the House of Culture of the Soviet personnel. It mean only one thing: he was revealing and monitoring, through his informants, those of the Soviet people in Dresden who were anti-Communist, pro-American, who were going to defect to the West, who were mocking the Soviet system.
But still his service in East Germany was regarded as unsuccessful. While most of the provincial KGB officers were remained in Moscow after returning from their mission abroad, Putin was shamefully retuned to Leningrad. But even there he was deprived of a relatively privileged position of the officer at the central KGB office. He was sent to work “under cover” as an assistant to the Head of the International Department of the Leningrad University. It was the lowest of the lowest, the worst of the worst appointment. I think this all was reasoned by some delicate scandal in Germany which is still has been kept secret.
What is Russia’s policy in the War on Terror ?
Americans generally believe that Russia is afraid of Islamic terrorism as much as the U.S.A. They are reminded of the war in Chechnya, the hostage crisis at the Beslan School in 2004 and at the Moscow Theater in 2002, and of the apartment house blasts in Moscow in 1999, where over 200 people were killed. It is clear that Russians are also targets of terrorism today.
But in all these events, the participation of the FSB, Federal Security Service, inheritor to the KGB, is also clear. Their involvement in the Moscow blasts has been proven by lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin, a former FSB Colonel. For this he was illegally imprisoned, and is now suffering torture and deprivation of medical assistance, from which he is not likely to survive.
A key distinction between Russian and American attitudes towards Islamic terrorism is that while for America terrorism is largely seen as an exterior menace, Russia uses terrorism as an object as a tool of the state for manipulation in and outside the home country. Islamic terrorism is only part of the world of terrorism. Long before Islamic terrorism became a global threat, the KGB had used terrorism to facilitate the victory of world Communism.
This leads to the logical connection between Russian and Islamic terrorism. The late Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned in London in November, 2006, told me that his former FSB colleagues had trained famous Al-Qaeda terrorists Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Juma Namangoniy during the 1980s and 1990s. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, has been responsible for the murder of U.S. nationals outside the United States. Before his death, Juma Namangoniy (Jumabai Hojiyev), a native of Soviet Uzbekistan, was a right-hand man of Osama bin Laden in charge of the Taliban’s northern front in Afghanistan.
In 1996, Alexander Litvinenko was responsible for securing the secrecy of Al-Zawahiri’s arrival in Russia, who was trained by FSB instructors in Dagestan, Northern Caucasus, in 1996-1997.
At that time, Litvinenko was the Head of the Subdivision for Internationally Wanted Terrorists of the First Department of the Operative-Inquiry Directorate of the FSB Anti-Terrorist Department. He was ordered to undertake the delicate mission of securing Al-Zawahiri from unintentional disclosure by the Russian police. Though Al-Zawahiri had been brought to Russia by the FSB using a false passport, it was still possible for the police to learn about his arrival and report to Moscow for verification. Such a process could disclose Al-Zawahiri as an FSB collaborator.
In order to prevent this, Litvinenko visited a group of the highly placed police officers to notify them in advance. « If you get information about some suspicious Arabs arriving in the Caucasus, please report it to me before informing your leadership », he told them.
Juma Namangoniy was once a student of the Saboteur Training Center of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB in 1989-91. The school was notorious for the international terrorists who matriculated from it. It now belongs to the FSB, and since only KGB staff officers were allowed to study there, Juma Namangoniy’s presence clearly suggests that he was much more than a civil collaborator.
Tartars have always been patriotic to Russia. Their independent kingdom was conquered by Russia in the 16th century, but their gentry were allowed to join the Russian upper class and enjoy all its privileges. Even today, many Russian families of noble origin have Tartar origins. Russia has a half-millennium of experience in turning conquered Muslim nations into obedient citizens by bribing their elite.
There are many Soviet Muslims, therefore, who seem to face no conflict of spirit. One can be a Muslim in name only, whose heart belongs to Communism. There have been a lot of such people among Russian Muslims, especially among the Tartars. The Soviet Union has typically preferred to appoint them as ambassadors to Muslim countries. Their Muslim names give them a pass to the local society, but their Communist hearts order them to serve world Communism and not the world of Islam.
In the Soviet period, the highest leadership of the Muslim republics like Uzbekistan were unofficially allowed to practice Islam under the guise of folk rites, even though their Russian colleagues were severely reprimanded for participating in such Christian « rites » as Christmas or Easter. Unlike today, Soviet cartoonists were able to mock Islam as they mocked all other religions and it didn’t bring any special reaction.
Muslims of the Uzbek and other Central Asian republics’ elite joined the KGB intelligence in order to spy on fellow Muslim countries. In the KGB, I have met a lot of such quasi-Muslim officers.
Putin continues the traditional Russian policy of giving privileges to the Muslim elite. Today’s Russian Minister of Healthcare, Mikhail Zurabov, is a Chechen. His political agenda includes the total destruction of the Russian healthcare system, looking like revenge for the war in Chechnya. Putin shows no concern over that.
Strategically Russia is surrendering to the Muslim world. The Russian population is declining rapidly, being undermined by 70 years of Communist experiment and the cold indifference of post-communist rulers. Annually, Russia is losing 900 thousand people who are being replaced by Muslims from the Caucasus and Central Asia. Islam is now the second-largest religion in Russia, where it may total up to 28 million adherents. Because of this, Russia was able to join the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 2003.
Russia’s great qualitative population change represents both a departure from the past and a strengthening link with it. The synergies between the history of Russia’s national policies of terrorism and the radical Islamic terrorism that it is spreading around the world are natural partners that may severely impact on America’s own future.