With John Mann
Western politicians, pundits and hack correspondents have been talking for months now about the awful "Rise of the Siloviki." You've heard the story a thousand times: Russia's reverting to its Communist past, with the FSB/KGB riding shotgun in Putin's administration towards an increasingly prominent role ruling the country, while the liberals, democrats and members of the Family have been completely marginalized in the corridors of power. The FSB's assent has spelled the end of free press, a crackdown on dissenting oligarchs, the swelling of military budgets, and taken various other steps to consolidate state control over life in Russia, all of which point to the collapse of Russia's democratic experiment.
It's easy enough to see what the Westerners are getting so worked up about just by switching on the news. Any channel will do. The Russian TV news reports show nothing but healthy villages, functioning government institutions that provide citizens with (albeit limited) services, and Putin meeting with various ministers and looking at pie charts to give the impression that he's aware of what's happening out in the country. It's unbearable just how complacent they've become, and it's not like there are any alternative centers of power like in the good old days, Limonov's NatsBols aside.
But then we got to thinking: is what's happening here really all that surprising, and who really cares anyway? Russia's essentially a commodities-exporting Third World country these days; its only natural that it should be governed by a group of thugs who like to call each other General and crush dissent. That's just the way of the world, the law of the jungle. Besides, the Russian state's powers have eroded enough so that plenty of things slip though cracks. Face it, today's FSB ain't exactly the Stasi.
Then we gots to thinkin' about a REALLY scary scenario. Like, what might happen if Putin & Co had unlimited resources... what if money wasn't an issue, and they had all the latest technology at their finger tips... what if a bunch of two-bit hoods with visions of grandeur gave the security services of a genuine first world superpower carte blanche to do anything their hearts desired... What if the Siloviki grabbed power in, say, the US? Then we realized, doh!, they already have!
What, after all, are the Siloviki? It's not like every single one of the Russian Siloviki has KGB credentials. Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, for example, wasn't ever linked to Russia's security organs, but he still carries some weight in the Presidential Administration. Being part of the Siloviki is a state of mind which says that you should steal as much power and information as possible and use it... to steal as much power and information as possible... and consolidate it into as few hands as possible, preferably the hands of the state security apparatus. The Siloviki are all about governing in the back halls of power, with as little transparency as they can get away with. They have zero respect for the subjects they govern over, using them as pawns to amass power, with no regard for their lives as individuals. They think they know what's best for the rest, and feed on the passivity of the masses. Sound familiar?
Even if virtually every war-mongering Silovik in the Bush Administration excepting Rumsfeld is a chicken hawk (see eXile #168 for details about their draft-dodging past), they make a much more sinister group of Siloviki than the ones everyone whines about in Russia, if only because the Siloviki in America are riding atop most dominant military-financial power ever assembled.
The real "Rise of the Siloviki," the one the Western press oughta be worried about, began on September 11, 2001, and not in Russia but in the United States. Sure the same guys were in power on Sept. 10, but back then there were things like the Bill Of Rights to rein in their Imperial ambitions. Those guys don't just control a bunch of rotting, misfiring nukes and a few tons of unsecured chemical weapons. They control what they themselves like to call "Full Spectrum Dominance" -- that is, total domination over every dimension of life, physical, mental, quantum and otherwise. And, just like the Bush administration's much ballyhooed "starve-the-beast" fiscal program, which is meant to continue functioning even if Bush gets voted out of office, the mechanisms that they are setting up now will be impossible for the next administration to dismantle.