Beginning as a not-so-friendly rivalry between the longstanding and entrenched Military Гла́вное Разве́дывательное Управле́ние / Glavnoe Razvedyvatel'noe Upravlenie Generalnovo Shtaba (ГРУ/GRU) or, roughly translated, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff and the fledgling State Комит́ет Госуд́арственной Безоп́асности / Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti (КГБ/KGB) or State Security Committee, this legendarily long-running, bitter and bloody feud has claimed countless casualties and even since the renaming of the KGB to the Федера́льная слу́жба безопа́сности / Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti (ФСБ/FSB) or Federal Security Service, shows no signs of abating and on the contrary, seems to become yet more intense and overt.
Ever since the KGB's first major overseas work in the 1950's with operations in Laos and (as then named) Persia along with the United Kingdom, the rivalry soon began costing the USSR potential assets and intelligence gains. Three specific agents, Phoc Tun Lao, Hassan Berkha Kalanjari and Anthony Blunt are known to have acted (at least briefly) as triple agents in the pay of not only the KGB and GRU but also of their own country's national intelligence agencies.
Such was the embarrassment within the various services over these three agents that Phoc Tun Lao was assassinated, Kalanjari was betrayed eventually to the notorious SAVAK of Mohammed Reza Shah where he died under torture in the late 1960's, and Blunt was abandoned but watched by both services along with Britain's MI5 until his eventual disgraced death in 1983.
In the 1960's and 70's, the two agencies did their best to embarrass each other on all fronts including a particularly unpleasant exposure of a political mole for the GRU, Adrian Callaghan in Australia in 1974 and the beautifully staged betrayal of the GRU officer Oleg Vladimirovich Penkovsky in 1959 which became apparently "complete" in 1961. Penkovsky systematically burned exclusively KGB assets for the entire period until eventually caught and executed by the KGB in 1963.
Beginning with the second tenure of Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (1977 to 1982), the KGB and GRU began to balkanize by nationality, largely as a result of patronage and nepotism within both services. While the KGB became almost entirely ethnically Russian, the GRU recruited more and more of its senior officers and field agents from Georgia and the Ukraine. Naturally, this only exacerbated the by now savage rivalry between the two. Under Brezhnev, the GRU slowly gained ground and was regarded internally as the "Senior Service".
This suffered a dramatic reverse under the former KGB head, Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov. His reign also proved dramatically short but the GRU suffered truly crushing funding cutbacks which were reflected (often tragically) in living circumstances of many of its agents. The KGB, on the other hand, was flying very high during this period.
The GRU enjoyed a brief renaissance during the extremely short tenure of Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko, himself a Georgian.
Although everything changed with Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, the changes were not, in the Intelligence community, as dramatic and sudden as they appeared from the outside. Unlike his greatest rival for ultimate power in the USSR, Grigory Valentinovich Romanov, Mikhail Sergeyevich had never served with the KGB and unlike his mentor, Andropov, had no special attachment to it.
Furthermore, the sitting head of the GRU, Georg Eduardis dze Melua, proved such a strong supporter of both the Glasnost and Perestroika policies (to Romanov's reported fury) that Gorbachev did not scale back GRU operations with the same heavy hand he curtailed the KGB - although external international pressure from the Western Powers was directed mainly against the more widely-known KGB which doubtless had some effect since Gorbachev was actively seeking Western investment during his tenure.
With the failed coup against Gorbachev, the Old World finally seemed to end. Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin led the way with the democratization of Russia and the formation of the Russian Federation and this, unwisely, was seen as the end of the GRU / KGB internal feud. Sadly, this did not prove to be the case and the GRU still struggles with the FSB (the renamed KGB) in the day to day operation of both the Russian Federation and surrounding states.
Recent issues between the two services have included:
- Each side supplied conflicting information to MI6 and the CIA regarding the purchase of Nigerian Uranium by Iraq. In this case, the FSB data was more accurate since it dismissed the whole thing as absurd and unsubstantiated.
- Both sides shipped nuclear technology to Pakistan, although the GRU made a concerted attempt to switch sides and support India as soon as it discovered the FSB dealing plutonium into Islamabad.
- The "heart attack" suffered by Turkmenbashi of Turkmenistan which conveniently occurred after he had dissolved all traces of co-operation between his internal Intelligence network and FSB.
- The murder of ex-KGB agent Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko using Polonium-210 (an alpha-radiation emitter) which he apparently ingested at the Itsu sushi restaurant in Piccadilly, London. Although no-one has yet been charged with this offence, it has been noted by many conspiracy theorists that Litvinenko was eating right next to the niece of a former Georgian GRU head, a singer named Ketevan "Katie" Melua.
The Georgian connection inside the GRU is still very strong and the feud shows no signs of calming down any time soon. This node will be updated as further evidence and examples are forthcoming.