I believe that while the core of the Russian government, its military, spy agencies, etc. all run somewhat like we might think, with professionals who have received official training and gone through a process to get to their role, that’s not the limit of Russian governmental activities.
Communism made money irrelevant. The way you got stuff was through connections, favor trading, and plunder. That’s how you rose through the ranks.
The key to success in all of that, at the lower levels, is usually less about brute force as playing spy games - con jobs, blackmail, fraud, faking it till you make it, getting people drunk and having them sign stuff over to you, etc. Once you’ve gained some power, maybe you start adding muscle, but it’s raw street smarts and foxiness that gets you through the first few levels, and that means that everyone on the higher levels is a sort of natural spy type / con artist personality.
Money now has value, but still most of it started in the hands of people like that, after the collapse of the USSR, and it’s hard to change the culture on a dime. You probably need another 40 years before things can start to shift.
So, as it is, there’s still a strong culture of “committing audacious acts, that you know will gain you favor with those higher up the ladder than you”. It’s still how you get a social promotion.
There is no strong separation between the government, business, and the mafia. The government, internally, operates using a top-down meritocratic, promotion scheme, pulling in Russian patriots and expecting them to operate according to orders. But all the mafia and all the businesses know that they couldn’t survive against the military. Some gangsters with pistols are no match against the people with tanks and rocket launchers. You can’t buy Putin off with a briefcase full of cash, because he could simply put you in jail and take your business for yourself.
In the US, business is viewed as its own thing. You’re supposed to leave it alone and let it thrive, maybe just policing it a bit, but otherwise ignoring it. Criminal Enterprise is bad, and an enemy.
Putin, I don’t think, looks at business nor the mafia that way. He looks at them and he just see the word “mine”. It’s all just more of what he can utilize as he wants.
(Technically, these organizations probably operate more like proxy states - self running and not always obedient, but still under the thumb.)
But so, if you want to own more businesses or control more mafia groups, you need to gain the favor of those higher than you, and at the top that means gaining Putin’s favor.
And so going back to Soviet teachings, the way to do that isn’t by giving him money, it’s about figuring out what would make him happy and trying to make that happen, using whatever means - legal, moral, or otherwise - to make it happen.
So even though you have the government running spies, you also have regular businessmen operating spy-like operations, because that’s how their minds work, it’s how they climbed the ladder, and it’s how you gain the favor of the Big Boss.