SPIES WITHOUT CLOAKS by Amy Knight

SPIES WITHOUT CLOAKS

The KGB's Successors
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Persuasive evidence that Boris Yeltsin, since becoming president of Russia, may have found the KGB far too useful an organization to have tried seriously to constrain it. Knight (Senior Research Analyst/Library of Congress; Beria, 1993) using some of the archival material that has recently become available, as well as interviews and the vigorous Russian press coverage of security matters, demonstrates how Russia's security services have been weakened by the demise of the Soviet Union. There is no censorship, abuses are freely criticized in the press, and many of the sanctions previously available to the KGB can no longer be used. But Yeltsin, she believes, has been readier to change the names and responsibilities of his security agencies than seriously to tamper with their powers. Even the KGB-led ``coup'' to topple Gorbachev--a story which looks increasingly threadbare as evidence grows of Gorbachev's complicity in it--did not persuade Yeltsin to take stern action against the security agency. Indeed, turbulence within Russia, including the huge increase in criminal activity and the events in Chechnya, clearly increased the influence of the security services. Similarly, while the foreign intelligence service was even more severely affected by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it continued to run agents like Aldrich Ames very effectively until 1994 (while apparent KGB ``dissidents'' like Gen. Oleg Kalugin were saying that there were no KGB moles in the CIA). The irony is that Russia, with the largest and most powerful police apparatus in Eastern Europe, has hardly confronted the question of its abuses. The democratic institutions beginning to emerge, she concludes, ``will remain fragile until the security services are reformed.'' Knight cannot avoid the difficulty inherent in her subject of having to draw conclusions from scanty evidence, but this is the most scholarly and dispassionate assessment yet available of a question critical to the future of Russia.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-691-02577-0
Page count: 328pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1996




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