Russia: Spies Coming Out of Retirement


March 30, 2007: Russia is spending a lot more on spying. Revived Russian espionage efforts are showing up in Western Europe, China, the Middle East and North America. Some old KGB hands have been brought out of retirement, and in many parts of the world, old Soviet era agents have been restored to the payroll. While many local spies for the Soviet Union were exposed in the 1990s, many were not. Most of these were doing it for the money, and the Russians now have money for restoring their world-wide espionage operation. While the Russians are looking for military and commercial secrets, they are also interested in what government officials are up to. Knowing political secrets makes it easier for Russia to play with the big boys in the global diplomacy game. This sort of thing is popular in Russia, where many yearn for the days when Russia was a real superpower.

March 29, 2007: Russia is using its spy satellites to provide, to the public, a lot of information on American military activities. The Russians don't provide the kind of detailed information that could be useful to American enemies, and Russian military commentators tend to give their briefings a political spin. Recently, for example, Russian military officials have appeared in the media describing "American preparations for an attack on Iran." Russian analysis like this have often been wrong in the past. But the Russian intelligence services know how the mass media operates. You can make lots of incorrect predictions, and it makes no difference, as long as the predictions sound plausible, and are presented well.

March 27, 2007: Russia believes that armed resistance in Chechnya has been reduced to about 80 gangs, averaging about ten members each. Most are criminal gangs, but all are opposed to Russians in Chechnya, and the current pro-Russian Chechens running the place. There are a lot more bad guys down there, but these are the official bad guys, working for the police, or protected by the government. Chechnya is, and always has been, a very dangerous place. But the Russians consider the place pacified, with violence returned to normal levels.

March 25, 2007: In Belarus, 15,000 people demonstrated, in the capital, against their corrupt government. Belarus, like several Central Asian nations, still maintains a police state in the style of the Soviet Union. While the trappings of democracy are present, a small group of politicians runs the country, with the help of loyal intelligence and police forces. Russia has many of the same intelligence and police organizations, but a more powerful collection of political parties. Crunch time for Russian democracy comes during the next presidential elections, and how clean and fair those elections are.


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