As one of Vladimir Putin’s closest advisers on Ukraine, Nicolai Patrushev spreads disinformation and outlandish conspiracy theories

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev watches the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in central Moscow on 2022 May 09. Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

By Lecturer in Post-Soviet Government and Politics, Texas State University
Nicolai Patrushev is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest advisers and wields considerable influence on government policy as the head of the powerful Security Council of Russia.

The council is where Russia’s security policy is formulated, and it is the center where intelligence from Russian sources and networks from abroad are received.

Patrushev is the one who interprets that intelligence.

Patrushev often gives interviews to state-owned media about his conspiratorial views of the West and what the Kremlin describes as Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.

There is nothing to counter his disinformation, as all independent media in Russia has been silenced.

This should be worrisome for the U.S. and other Western allies.

As an academic who tracks Putin and his inner circle, it is apparent to me that Patrushev’s close relationship with Putin, which began more than 50 years ago, has given him a good deal of influence over the president.

Both deplore the end of the Soviet Union, and both share a deep distrust of the West that is fueled by nonsensical conspiracy theories.

Patrushev has emerged as one of the leading voices in Putin’s inner circle who wants to wage a merciless war in Ukraine, with the ultimate objective of capturing Kyiv.

According to Mark Galeotti, a British expert on Russia’s security services, Patrushev is Putin’s most right-wing ideologue and is referred to as “the Hawk’s Hawk,” within Putin’s inner circle.

Patrushev’s unproven conspiracy theories

It is those close to Putin, such as Patrushev, who continue to repeat the disinformation that Ukraine is full of Nazis and that Russia needs to protect itself from the nefarious designs of the West.

A white man wearing a business suit delivers a speech while holding a sheet of paper in his hand.
Russia Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev delivers a speech on 2021 Jun 24. Alexander Zemlianichenko /POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Patrushev is not shy about giving interviews. I have read many of his interviews and essays, and they never disappoint in revealing his conspiratorial way of thinking.

On 2022 Apr 26, Patrushev gave an interview to the state Russian newspaper “Rossiskaya gazeta.

He began with his favorite topic – the evil intentions of the West in general and the United States in particular.

Patrushev said that while other countries are intimidated by the U.S. and “can’t even raise their heads,” Russia has “not only dared, but publicly declared that it would not play by the imposed rules” of the U.S.

Indeed, the Russian government has been true to its word as evidenced by the brutal war it is waging against Ukraine and its people, which is in flagrant violation of all conventions of war.

During the interview, Patrushev talks about a made up “criminal community who fled Ukraine” and “who are now engaged in the widespread business of the sale of orphans taken out of Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, the West, Patrushev asserts, “has already revived the shadow market for the purchase of human organs from the socially vulnerable segments of the Ukrainian population for clandestine transplant operations for European patients.”

The West, Patrushev continues, “is giving support to Ukrainian neo-Nazis, by continuing to supply Ukraine with weapons.”

Patrushev then quotes Putin, who called the West an “empire of lies” once sanctions had been imposed.

In Patrushev’s world view, the West seeks to reduce the “world’s population in various ways.” One of which is the creation of “an empire of lies, involving the humiliation and destruction of Russia and other objectionable states.”

The friendship of Putin and Patrushev

Putin and Patrushev have known each other since 1970.

Both hail from Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, and worked together in Leningrad’s KGB in different departments. Putin has said that he feels a “comradeship” with Patrushev.

Both men served in Boris Yeltsin’s government. In 1998, Yeltsin appointed Putin to lead the FSB, the KGB successor, and Patrushev became Putin’s first deputy.

When Yeltsin appointed Putin acting prime minister on 1999 Aug 09, Patrushev replaced Putin as director of the FSB.

Two white men dressed in business suits sit across from each other at desk.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) speaks with Nikolai Patrushev, Director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), during a meeting on 2007 Dec 29. Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA NOVOSTI/AFP via Getty Images)

On New Year’s Eve in 1999, Yeltsin made the surprise announcement that Putin would replace him as acting president. Putin won the presidential election on 2000 Mar 26.

Shortly before Putin won the election, the cozy relationship between Putin and Patrushev was displayed when the two decided on New Years Eve in 2000 to fly to Chechnya with their wives to bolster Russian troops.

This was during the second Chechen War that occurred between 1999-2009.

Despite another turn in hostilities and bloody attacks on civilians by Russian forces on the ground, Putin and Patrushev opened two bottles of champagne and the two couples drank straight out of the bottles as they flew in the helicopter above the combat zone.

After spending an hour with a unit of surprised soldiers, the group flew back to Moscow.

Putin’s power base

A week before Putin’s inauguration on 2000 May 07, the newspaper Kommersant noted that Putin was packing his new administration with former officials from the FSB, Russia’s principal security agency, along with the SVR, the Foreign Intelligence Service, which had also been part of the KGB during the Soviet period but was now a separate agency.

In a subsequent article, Kommersant wrote that the hires place “the political life of Russia under full control of the Kremlin” with the use of “KGB methods.”

In an interview in December 2000, Patrushev explained the preponderance of former FSB and SVR officials in the Kremlin, the presidential administration and in the outlying regions of the Russian Federation.

One man is talking while another man holds his ear muffs and is listening.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev fly on a helicopter to visit a military outpost on 2008 Feb 04. Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP via Getty Images)

They were placed “in the highest echelons of power,” Patrushev said, because they came from “leadership roles in institutions of national security.”

He added that there was a “vital need to revive the Russian administrative corps with ‘fresh blood’ … not limp idealists, but tough pragmatists who understand international and domestic political developments, emerging contradictions and threats.”

Appointed in 2008, Patrushev has become the longest-serving secretary of the Security Council. Since then, the council has changed a great deal from the 1990s when it was a sinecure for aging security forces veterans.

Patrushev has turned it into a dynamic institution for all matters relating to Russia’s security and has positioned himself as chief adviser.

Galeotti, the expert on Russian security services, believes Patrushev to be dangerous because of his “paranoid conspiracy-driven mindset.”

This is fundamental to understanding today’s Russia because Patrushev’s conspiratorial beliefs and view of the world is the lens through which his friend Putin sees it.

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