ALEX COHEN, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Cohen.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
I'm Alex Chadwick.
Coming up, high school kids in New Orleans, storm-damaged schools, and the lessons of do-it-yourself.
COHEN: But first, to Russia and the KGB.
Here in America, those three letters conjure up images of brutish spies in dark overcoats and fur hats, images we've gleaned over the years thanks to James Bond films and Cold War novels. But the KGB is no fiction, especially not in today's Russia.
The KGB, now known as the FSB, or Federal Security Service, is stronger than ever and runs much of the country.
That's according to an article by Arkady Ostrovsky, the Russian bureau chief of the Economist magazine. Earlier, I asked him how the KGB of old has evolved.
Mr. ARKADY OSTROVSKY (Moscow Bureau Chief, The Economist): The power of the KGB was very much subordinate to that to the Communist Party. Now, what changed? Two things. One is with the elimination of the - with the disappearance of the Communist Party, I mean after the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, the KGB today has really become the main power. If you look at who controls the commanding heights of the economy, you will quickly discover that most of these people either had a direct link with the KGB or were affiliated with it. And the term which is used today in Russia, is described by the Russian words of (Russian spoken), which roughly means power guys, power people.
COHEN: The KGB today not only has a lot of authority, they also have a lot of financial backing.
Mr. OSTROVSKY: Correct. They control the biggest companies in Russia pretty much. Igor Sechin, who's the deputy head of the Putin staff, is the chairman of Russia's largest oil company, Rosneft. Gazprom, Russia's biggest company of all and the huge gas monopoly, has several members of the KGB on its management board and in its banks and affiliated companies. So I mean, if you just take those two, in addition you could look at the Russian company which is a monopoly for arms trading, which has grown into a huge industrial conglomerate, which is controlled by a close friend and a former colleague of Vladimir Putin, Sergei Chemizov, it's a pretty extensive economic and financial empire. A lot of these companies are in state hands. And these people control enormous cash flows going through these companies.
COHEN: Can you tell us a little bit about who some of the key KGB players are today in modern Russia?
Mr. OSTROVSKY: Starting from the top is Vladimir Putin himself, but the people who came with him were also very close colleagues. They share two things. One is they all served in intelligence or counterintelligence services of the KGB. And they all come from St. Petersburg.
So even within the security apparatus, it's a very small group of people. And under Putin there are several key decision makers. Two of them, one is called Igor Sechin and the other is Viktor Ivanov. They both hold very modest posts of deputy heads of the Kremlin administration. The fact of that they are deputies is slightly misleading because it was a very common Soviet practice that a number two would be more important than number one. So these two deputies are more important than the chief of staff.
COHEN: You write that they kind of like to live in the shadows to make it look like someone else is in charge but they really hold the strings.
Mr. OSTROVSKY: Right. And one of them, Igor Sechin, kind of controls all the (unintelligible) documents that reach Vladimir Putin's desk. He is sort of the gatekeeper, if you like. And that's his official job, and his other brief, which is less advertised, he oversees the economy.
COHEN: You write about the very strong anti-Western sentiment of the current KGB. It almost sounds reminiscent of the Cold War. What do you see as the future of the KGB in Russia?
Mr. OSTROVSKY: It's a very good question. There are two conflicting trends. One is their psychology and their mentality is very much shaped by the Cold War. And that's not going to change. I didn't get any sense when reporting on this piece that any of them were prepared to take a view that the West is no longer an adversary of Russia. So anti-NATO, anti-America, anti-West will very much continue to define this course, which these people bring.
Then on the conflicting side, there is - there is the economy. These people have benefited from the market economy and they've benefited from capitalism. And they're not about to get rid of it.
To what extend this first belief, the first sort of anti-Western beliefs will collide with the economic reality will be a very interesting test of their endurance.
COHEN: Arkady Ostrovsky is the Moscow bureau chief for the Economist magazine. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
Mr. OSTROVSKY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
The Soviet KGB evolved into the Russian FSB after the fall of Communism. Now, according to a report in The Economist, the agency is stronger than ever and runs much of the country.
The Soviet KGB evolved into the Russian FSB after the fall of Communism. Now, according to a report in The Economist, the agency is stronger than ever and runs much of the country. The magazine's Moscow bureau chief, Arkady Ostrovsky, talks with Alex Cohen.