May 2016 Publications Round-Up

A belated summary, delayed by lots of travel and events.

The main publication for May was my lengthy report for the ECFR, Putin’s Hydra: inside Russia’s intelligence services, which I’m pleased to say has become its most-read product yet. The summary is:

Far from being an all-powerful “spookocracy” that controls the Kremlin, Russia’s intelligence web-russias-intelligence-architecture-graphicservices are internally divided, distracted by bureaucratic turf wars, and often produce poor quality intelligence – ultimately threatening the interests of Vladimir Putin himself.

Drawing on extensive interviews with former and current intelligence officials, “Putin’s hydra: Inside Russia’s intelligence services” explains how the spy agencies really work, and argues that Europe’s view of them is patchy and based on outdated caricatures.

The paper punctures the myth that the agencies are the power behind the throne in Russia. They are firmly subordinated to the Kremlin, and Putin plays them off against one another. They are not a united bloc but a disparate group, whose solidarity disappears as soon as there is an opportunity to make money or avoid blame.

The agencies often replicate each others’ work, engaging in bloody competition rather than sharing intelligence. The need to please the Kremlin and deliver quick results leads to shoddy information gathering and analysis. Intelligence chiefs must shape and sugarcoat the facts to suit the president – or risk their jobs.

Fighting for territory, and locked in a Cold-War mindset where “If the West loses, we gain”, Russia’s spy agencies take extreme measures abroad – even assassinations. Their actions in the West may seem tactically effective but are strategically disastrous, painting Russia as an unpredictable threat.

European governments can moderate the agencies’ actions in their countries by adopting a tougher approach. This means investing not just in in counterintelligence but also addressing the governance weaknesses that facilitate the Kremlin’s campaigns, including placing tougher controls on their sources of dirty money.

Articles about the report have appeared in Pan-European Network, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Газета.ру, and (a very kind note by Edward Lucas), the Centre for European Policy Analysis website.

Beyond that:

Spain versus Russia’s kleptocracy,’ ECFR blog, 4 May

Don’t Feed the Troll, and Don’t Reward a Tantrum,’ Russia! magazine, 4 May

The Russian patriot’s dilemma,’ Business New Europe, 9 May

Putinism won’t end with a bang, but a warrant‘, openDemocracy: Russia, 10 May

Why the departure of Putin’s chief bodyguard actually matters,’ ECFR blog, 26 May

Russia’s pessimism paradox,’ Business New Europe, 30 May

Also, the video of a joint event with Alexander Golts at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Russia’s “New Way of War”: Not so new, and not just war, can be watched here.



Leave a comment


  1. Reblogged this on Andreas Umland.

  2. HI Mark,

    I was doing the usual browsing when I found this article:

    It says that Russia is drastically stepping up its forces and that it will conduct nuclear missile tests. Is there anything we should be concerned about?

    I look forward to your response.


    C Hades

    • Mark Galeotti

       /  June 12, 2016

      Honestly, the same response as last time: I don’t see a risk of nuclear war


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