Russia: Counter Espionage as Foreign Policy
Posted by democratist on December 29, 2010
December 29th 2010,
Some of our readers may remember that back in September Democratist suggested the strong likelihood that Russia would need to place an increasing emphasis on military and industrial espionage over the coming years in order to compensate for a lack of domestic innovation and FDI.
We argued that such a trend is more or less inevitable, given the country’s extraordinary corruption, very little foreign investment, and historical precedence.
Democratist readers may not therefore be too surprised to hear that, in an Itar-Tass article published on 28th December, SVR Chief Mikhail Fradkov is reported as having stated,
“In the foreseeable future, the SVR’s workload will not be diminishing…the SVR provides active assistance to the task to modernize our country…the intelligence service is making a palpable contribution to the development of the national science, technological and defence potential.”
Evidently Fradkov is doing his best to pander to the expectations of both Putin and Medvedev (who is, despite his “liberal” image a keen advocate and supporter of Vorsprung durch Spionage).
Since the US-Russia spy exchange in July, Democratist has become more sceptical about the SVR’s abilities. It appears a mere shadow of the KGB’s “First Directorate” (Первое Главное Управление), has evidently been penetrated by the CIA several times in recent years, suffers from seriously lax personnel security (stemming from corruption), and is likely to face similar problems in the future.
Nonetheless, we feel that the West should do everything in its power to exploit Russia’s evident weakness in the sphere of innovation; while the opportunities to reverse-engineer Western military gadgets may be limited given Russia’s industrial backwardness, the more apparent national military-industrial weakness becomes to the nomenklatura over the next decade, the more likely we are to see calls for genuine political and economic reform (as opposed to the current sham). Additionally, a militarily weak Russia is preferable for the West, given the potential for the current regime to take on a more nationalistic and revanchist hue.
In this regard counter-espionage in relation to Russia needs to be seen not just as a function of Western national security, but also of foreign policy, and deserves a commensurate increase in attention and resources.