Foreign Policy Magazine

Spooks in the Kremlin

The dangers of Putin’s unhealthy reliance on Russian intelligence.

THREE LEATHER-BOUND FOLDERS SHAPE THE WORLD—or Vladimir Putin’s world, at least. Every morning, after his swim and workout, Russia’s president begins work by looking at these three briefing documents: The domestic Federal Security Service (FSB) gives him an analysis of the state of the country; the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) provides an overview of the global situation; and the Federal Protective Service (FSO), his personal guard, contributes a summary of goings-on among the domestic elite.

There is nothing unusual in a head of state receiving morning briefings. In the United States, for example, the President’s Daily Brief keeps critical intelligence flowing into the Oval Office. There are, however, several distinctive aspects to the Russian process. Together, they suggest that Putin’s government is transforming from an autocracy into a form of government one might

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