Staunton, February 1 – There are denials, “non-denial denials,” and then denials that have the effect of confirming exactly what those doing the denying are seeking to disown and providing additional information as well. A classical example of the last is provided by the head of a Kremlin think tank who was trying to undercut the revelations of one of his former staffers.
As Kseniya Kirillova documents on Novy Region 2, the head of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISI), earlier part of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and now in the Presidential Administration, admits his institution “over the course of the year has actively cooperated with analysts of the Greek SYRIZA Party” and that its leader, the new Greek prime minister, visited RISI.
That admission came in the course of a press release from RISI director Leonid Reshetnikov, a retired lieutenant general, concerning statements by Aleksandr Sytin, his former staffer, about RISI’s involvement in planning the Russian Anschluss of Crimea and the war in the Donbass and its current appeals for forming “pro-Russian” groups in Belarus on the basis of ties with the security agencies in that country.
Reshetnikov clearly intended his remarks to undercut what Sytin had said, but in fact, the director’s words serve to confirm in large measure what the Russian analyst has said. Thus, as Kirillova notes, during the course of 2014, the director said, “the institute…prepared more than 600 analytic materials for those involved in the foreign policy of our country.”
In response, the former lieutenant general said, the institute and its staff “received for many of them a highly positive assessment from the policy-making organs of the government.” Clearly, at least in Reshetnikov’s mind, RISI is not one voice among many but a key player in the policy process in Moscow.
More than that, it continues to play a role far beyond Ukraine. Reshetnikov noted that RISI analysts have “devoted great attention to the situation” in other former Soviet republics and beyond and to economic problems as well.
But perhaps most immediately intriguing, Reshetnikov pointed to the close cooperation RISI has with Alexis Tsipras, the new Greek prime minister, who is also thought to have close ties with Eurasian ideologue Aleksandr Dugin who has also been a major advocate of Putin’s “Novorossiya” program.
And lest anyone think that RISI is out on its own, Reshetnikov concludes his statement with the observation that his institute “occupies a correct government position, and with complete conviction,” he says, “we will continue this line!” – words that should worry anyone concerned about the aggressive positions he and RISI have taken up to now.
For background on Sytin and RISI, see my “Russian Think Tank that Pushed for Invasion of Ukraine Wants Moscow to Overthrow Lukashenka,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, 27.I.15.