U.S. citizens working at the four U.S. embassies in Russia can rest easy: Although Putin ejected their American security team, they now have a new one. Or maybe not so easy: The new Russian security firm has KGB connections.
The Trump administration has awarded a no-bid contract to Moscow’s Elite Security Holding Company to replace security personnel that were fired in September 2017, when President Vladimir Putin ordered the expulsion of hundreds of US diplomatic and security personnel in retaliation for sanctions. This favor from Trump to Putin suggests all is forgiven.
The firm was founded by Viktor Budanov, a counter-espionage agent who worked for the KGB from 1966 through 1992, including a late-1980s stint in East Germany under the supervision of former KGB officer Vladimir Putin. Budanov’s son now heads the firm. The agreement was announced in the Russian newspaper, Kommersant, although the US State department and Trump administration have been less eager to broadcast the deal. The firm will be paid $2.8 million for its efforts to protect the US Embassy.
Memos indicate that the State Department says no other security firm would meet the unique licensing requirements of the job: “The Department of State’s essential need for security services is of such an unusual and compelling urgency that the Mission is significantly impacted unless the agency is permitted to limit the number of sources from which it solicits proposals. Elite Security Holding Co. is currently licensed in Russia as a private security firm and is performing security services in all four locations where State Department requires services.”
The KGB served as Russia’s main security agency until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. This military organization oversaw foreign intelligence, counterintelligence and spy operations, and governmental services including government communications. It was known for its harsh efforts to punish nationalism, dissent, anti-Communist sentiment and anti-Soviet activities. The organization is especially known for murdering those who dissented with the Soviet regime.
Despite ongoing investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, President Trump has been reluctant to distance himself from Putin and has made several moves that directly benefit the Russian leader’s agenda. Following Trump’s decision to reverse Obama-era efforts to thaw economic and diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, Russia has taken on a greater supporting role in Cuba, supplying the strategically located Caribbean country with oil and pledging $1.5 million in hurricane relief. Russian automakers are now supplying the Communist island with new vehicles, and Russian senators Franz Klintsevich and Viktor Bondarev have suggested that Russia reopen Cold War-era military bases in Cuba, “within spitting distance from the United States.”
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