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Information Input

If the actual decision was made within a small group of security-related officials with personal ties to Putin, on the basis of what information obtained from what sources did they make their decision? The types of information plausibly needed to make a decision in the case of Crimea come in four categories. Not all issues noted here will be considered in detail.

1. Operational feasibility: essentially military considerations, including the capacity and willingness of Ukrainian military units to respond aggressively.

  • 2. Reaction of Crimean and Russian populations: would the former support the process on the ground; how would it affect Putin’s popularity in the case of the latter?
  • 3. Foreign reactions: how far would the West go in supporting Ukraine militarily, diplomatically, and economically, including through sanctions on Russia? Would Russia have supporters?
  • 4. Economic costs: the general cost of militarization that formed a backdrop to the decision, the costs of sanctions and isolation from the global economy that might ensue, and the costs of integration.

As with the actual decision, two forms of information provision are possible. First, the small group of Putin cronies, who were involved in taking the actual decision and who also headed the major security agencies, relied on their own views of the world plus information received from their own agencies; that is, the information input was narrow. Second, even if the actual decision was taken within a small group, they received information from a broad range of sources that had gone through a process of analysis, debate, and consolidation.

Regarding the second possibility, the most likely institution to have played such a role is the Security Council. Monaghan puts it thus:

Bringing these representatives [of various security and non-security agencies] together as it does, the Security Council is the central locus for forging consensus and the coordination of strategic planning and expert preparation of the concepts, doctrines, strategies and programmes (Monaghan 2014, pp. 9-10).8

Vendil Pallin puts it more conditionally - “certain directorates of the Security Council are probably used for preparing new plans and programme documents simply because it is one of the few coordinating institutions with a sizeable analytical staff” (Vendil Pallin 2009, p. 126). Galeotii rejects such a view, in terms that make clear the implications for our purposes:

The Security Council is essentially an administrative rather than policy body, agencies brief the president individually, and there is no independent national security advisor to help identify questionable findings. As a result, they [intelligence agencies] may encourage Putin’s increasingly assertive and risk-taking policies abroad (Galeotii 2015, p. 10).

Those who see it playing a policy information role point to its apparatus, interdepartmental committees and Scientific Council. At deputy secretary level the apparatus is heavily dominated by people with a background in the intelligence community. Little information is available on the apparatus at department level. Departments identified include Economic Security, Defence Industry and Military-Technical Cooperation, Military Security, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Information Technology, Analysis and Warning of Terrorist Threats and Conflict Situations, State and Public Security. The Economic Security Department was headed for many years until his retirement in2015byValentinV aliukov. No full biography is available, but he was a graduate of the Moscow Aviation Institute (1974) and took up lecturing at the Moscow State Technical University of Civil Aviation on retirement. His 1994 candidate’s dissertation was in economics, on migration processes in the R&D sector. He was closely involved in the Security Council campaign of the mid-2000s to revive minerals exploration through stronger state involvement (info.tatcenter. ru/print/21192). A 2008 publication on inequalities between regional economies was moderately dirigiste in its vague policy recommendations (Vestnik analitiki, no. 1,2008, pp. 154-167). There was nothing to suggest a hard-core silovik from what little we know of him.

The following interdepartmental committees exist (with chairperson in brackets): Economic and Social security (deputy secretary SC), Information Security (deputy secretary SC), Public Security (Minister of Internal Affairs), CIS (deputy secretary SC), Strategic Planning (secretary SC), Ecological Security (member presidium Academy of Sciences), Military Security (no membership, including chair, published). Membership is broad, with a wide range of security and civilian ministries represented, usually at deputy minister level. The Scientific Council has nearly 150 members across a wide range of disciplines, and has reasonably active sections and working groups on a wide range of issues. At least one of them has provided a forum for what could be described as anti-Western economic policies, to be outlined below, at which point some general comment on the possible information input role of the Security Council will be offered.

We now turn to information-input issues across the four categories.

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