Russia: Cold War Spy Tactics Return


November24, 2006: In the Caucasus, a bomb damaged a natural gas pipeline carrying fuel for Georgia and Armenia. Chechen terrorists are suspected, although Georgia claims that Russia is behind the "terrorist attack," in order to cut off gas supplies to Georgia. The Georgians believe Russia wants to punish them for not complying with the Russian desire to have military bases in Georgia.

November 23, 2006: Former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko died in London, and the British are still trying to figure out what killed him. Russia says it had nothing to do with it, but Russian involvement is suspected, and being investigated by British security organizations. If a Russian connection is found, and proven, it will signal a revival of Cold War espionage tactics. The former Soviet Union was not adverse to killing defectors like this. And a former KGB officer is now the president of Russia. Meanwhile, in Canada, Russia is under attack after a man identified as a member of the Russian SVR (a successor to the KGB for dealing with spying overseas) was arrested in Canada, along with incriminating documents. Russia insists it's all a misunderstanding. 

November 22, 2006: The Russian defense budget for 2007 will be about $31 billion (compared to about $460 billion in the United States.) About 40 percent of the Russian budget will go to buying weapons and equipment to replace decaying Cold War era stuff. 

November 21, 2006: Ill former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko has been put under the protection of British counter-terror forces, and the British government has launched an investigation of who, and what, poisoned Litvinenko

November 19, 2006: In Britain, it was revealed that Alexander Litvinenko, a former FSB (the successor to the KGB) lieutenant colonel who received political asylum in Britain in 2001, is in a hospital, dying from a mysterious poisoning. Litvinenko fell ill after a November 1st dinner meeting with an Italian journalist (who said he had information on dirty dealing in Russia.) Mysterious poisons were a common KGB weapon against enemy agents, or defectors, during the Cold War.  Litvinenko became a British citizen this year, and was investigating the murders of Russian journalists inside Russia.  

November 18, 2006: Chechen warlord Movladi Baisarov, he former head of security in Chechnya, was killed by police in Moscow, while resisting arrest. The guy he was supposed to be protecting in Chechnya, the pro-Russian governor of the province, was killed in 2004, and   Baisarov was not getting along with the deceased governors son. Meanwhile, two small bombs went off in Chechen oil wells, and a third was found and disabled. 

Indonesia has become a major customer for Russian weapons, agreeing to buy a billion dollars worth over the next four years. The deal was facilitated by generous credit terms, and the refusal of the U.S. to sell Indonesia weapons (because of human rights issues.) Russian arms sales last year were over six billion dollars, and that is expected to increase to over seven billion for 2006. 

November 17, 2006: Russia's population of 140 million should be shrinking several hundred thousand a year because of a low birthrate. But the booming economy has attracted immigrants from neighboring countries. In the last fifteen years, some 14 million people have moved to Russia, largely from countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union. About half these migrants are illegal. The government used to be hostile to the illegals, but is changing its mind, given the need to prevent the national population from shrinking.