Gorbachev was clearly perceived by the West as a reformer, which he certainly was.But less clear to the West were his motives for reform. He was in favor of glasnost andperestroika, but not because he rejected the Soviet system. Rather, Gorbachevembraced these because, like the KGB, he was desperately trying to save the system.Gorbachev pursued the core vision of Yuri Andropov--and by the time he took over, hewas the last hope for that vision. His task was to end the Cold War and tradegeopolitical concessions for economic relations with the West.It was a well-thought-out policy, but it was ultimately a desperate one--and it failed.In conceding Central Europe, allowing it to break away without Soviet resistance,Gorbachev lost control of the entire empire, and it collapsed. At that point, theeconomic restructuring went out of control, and openness became the cover for chaos--with the rising oligarchs and others looting the state for personal gain. But one thingremained: The KGB, both as an institution and as a group of individuals, continued tooperate.
Saving the System: A Motive for Murder?
As a young KGB operative, Vladimir Putin was a follower of Andropov. Like Andropov,Putin was committed to the restructuring of the Soviet Union in order to save it. He wasa foot soldier in that process.Putin and his FSB faction realized in the late 1990s that, however lucrative theeconomic opening process might have been for some, the net effect on Russia wascatastrophic. Unlike the oligarchs, many of whom were indifferent to the fate of Russia,Putin understood that the path they were on would only lead to another revolution--oneeven more catastrophic than the first. Outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, therewas hunger and desperation. The conditions for disaster were all there.Putin also realized that Russia had not reaped the sought-after payoff with its loss of prestige andpower in the world. Russia had traded geopolitics but had not gottensufficient benefits in return. This was driven home during the Kosovo crisis, when theUnited States treated fundamental Russian interests in the Balkans with indifferenceand contempt.It was clear to Putin by then that Boris Yeltsin had to go. And go he did,with Putin taking over.Putin is a creation of Andropov. In his bones, he believes in the need for a closeeconomic relationship with the West. But his motives are not those of the oligarchs, andcertainly not those of the West. His goal, like that of the KGB, is the preservationandreconstruction of the Russian state. For Putin, perestroika and glasnost were tacticalnecessities that caused a strategic disaster. He came into office with the intention of reversing that disaster. He continued to believe in the need for openness andrestructuring, but only as a means toward Russian power, not as an end in itself.For Putin, the only solution to Russian chaos was the reassertion of Russian value. Thestate was the center of Russian society, and the intelligence apparatus was the centerof the Russian state. Thus, Putin embarked on a new, slowly implemented policy. First,bring the oligarchs under control; don't necessarily destroy them, but compel them towork in parallel with the state. Second, increase Moscow's control over the outlying