For more than two decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s status as an important actor in global security affairs appeared to be in terminal decline. As a country that could barely muster enough military power to suppress an insurgency within its own borders, as the troublesome wars in the Chechen republic had demonstrated, it seemed that its influence had been reduced at best to the immediate neighbourhood. As a result, throughout much of the 1990s and 2000s, little attention was paid in the West to developments in Russian security and military affairs. During the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, if the subject was addressed at all, analyses were largely limited to the study of failed military reforms and the continuing decay of the armed forces. When Vladimir Putin was elected president in spring 2000, the attention of observers was drawn to developments in the country’s force structures – quasi-military organisations other than the regular armed forces tasked predominantly with internal security – and in particular to the role of the Federal Security Service (FSB). Putin’s close ties to this service and the rising numbers of officials with a background in the FSB, the so-called siloviki, became a popular subject of inquiry.
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