Intelligence: January 4, 2003


Russia is going back to espionage in a big way. Little in the way of numbers are available, although it is known that the number of operatives in the SVR (the external espionage service) went from one in 1991, to at least 33 today. This intelligence officers supervise intelligence operations overseas. In 1991, right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Western intelligence agencies, like the CIA and Britian's MI-6, had more Russian intelligence agents on the payroll than Russia did. The new Russia was cutting staff in their intelligence organizations and a lot of these guys were looking for a paycheck. The CIA and MI-6 (and other European outfits, and probably China as well) were eager to find out exactly what the Soviet intelligence apparatus had done during the Cold War. It turned out that the Soviets were more successful than imagined. Many Soviet spies were rounded up, not all of them with a lot of publicity. The current president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, was a career KGB man, specializing in spying on West Germany. Putin speaks fluent German and gets along well with Germany today. The second most successful espionage organization in the Soviet empire was in East Germany, and Putin knew that many useful contacts and agents from the East German intelligence empire would survive all the revelations of the 1990s. Putin has quietly rebuilt the Soviet espionage effort. The new Russian efforts are showing up all over the world. Many of the new recruits are not as skilled as the old Cold Warriors, and are getting caught. But because the Cold War is over, few are being prosecuted. They are quietly (or not so quietly) expelled, and Russia is expected to return the favor when they catch Western agents. A side effect of this is the return of the traditional Russian paranoia about being spied on. The Russians have always felt that whatever they were doing to others, would be done to them. So this month, Russia shut down Peace Corps operations in Russia. The Peace Corps volunteers were very popular with the Russians they gave language and business training to. But this foreign assistance rankled Russian leaders, who felt that the Peace Corps was only for Third World countries. They ignored that fact that, in many respects, and many parts of the nation, Russia IS a Third World country. They also ignore the fact that the U.S. has always been scrupulous in keeping intelligence operations out of the Peace Corps. Nevertheless, the great game of espionage is on again with the Russians. It's only a matter of time before Hollywood takes note. 


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