Putin isn't just nostalgic for the past, he wants to turn back the clock. In particular, he doesn't like sharing political or economic power and if he feels threatened he'll react aggressively.
That's why so many Russian billionaires have come to live here and why both Ukraine and Georgia are currently locked in disputes with Russia over gas supplies.
Another group exercising Putin are non-governmental organisations like Amnesty International and the British Council.
Putin dislikes them because they're not under his control and aren't afraid to criticise his authoritarian tendencies including the brutality of the Russian military in Chechnya.
He wants to curb their activities with new laws and ban any that operate using foreign money. What better way to discredit them than accuse them of being fronts for western intelligence?
And what better way to shore up domestic support for the new laws than to uncover a spying scandal involving British intelligence, deeply ingrained in the Russian psyche as the most duplicitous and ruthless of all.
While Russia no longer has vast armies pointed at Western Europe, it retains considerable influence over us.
It's a major provider of gas to the West and it's offered to enrich uranium for Iran's nuclear programme.
We need to know what plans Putin's Russia has and are right to be wary - it is after all a country run by ex-KGB men.
And all the time there is the suspicion that Russia cannot be trusted, we need spies to uncover exactly what the Kremlin's intentions are.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Crispin Black in the U.K.'s Daily Mirror, discussing the Moscow spying allegations, comments that we seem to be back in the "dangerous but strangely reassuring world of John Le Carré and the spy novel":