During this buildup, Putin has dramatically increased Russia's intelligence activity against the U.S, its friends and allies, mainly to penetrate their secrets but also to influence the policies of the Western governments in favor of Moscow's strategic interests.
Currently, Russian intelligence agencies are providing the Kremlin with information about the plans and intentions of Western leaders vis-a-vis Russia and its "lovely rogue friends," keeping Moscow informed about political, military, economic and other Western secrets, many of which are known only to a very limited number of those government officials.
Russian spies are also delivering to Moscow on a regular basis the details of the most modern technologies and the results of secret scientific research and developments in the Western countries. This stolen information is being used by Russia's arms industry for the production of deadly weapons especially designed to kill Americans and to fulfill other deadly functions.
The recent expulsion of Russian intelligence officers by the Bush administration is not a return to the Cold War, but is a very reasonable attempt to reduce, for a while at least, the level of Moscow's extremely hostile intelligence war against Americans in this country.
However, Americans are the main targets for Russian intelligence not only in the U.S., but worldwide, in every country where they visit or reside.
Russian spymasters from the SVR and GRU (respectively, Russian political and military intelligence agencies) have learned that, outside the U.S., Americans are more vulnerable to recruitment by their organizations. In foreign countries Americans are more open to clandestine contact than at home, where the FBI and other U.S. counterintelligence services endeavor to closely monitor associations between Americans and suspected foreign agents.
To begin with, this foreign activity is connected with Russian intelligence stations in the NATO countries, where Americans are not as vigilant because of the general and sometimes naive belief that they are protected there by friendly countries' counterintelligence services.
This, however, it is not correct, because local intelligence and counterintelligence agencies are too busy with their own problems to pay much attention to American visitors and residents.
Special SVR and GRU attention is given to the new members of NATO such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, which do not have the history and traditions of the West's long-standing experience in dealing with Russian espionage. Not to mention that Russian intelligence has already established very deep roots in those countries, which go back to the time of the former Soviet domination.
In these countries Russian intelligence services are working hard to recruit Americans and other Western citizens, as well as new agents inside the newly democratic nations, while reviving dormant networks of spies left behind by Soviet forces years ago.
Moscow spies are now seeking to establish networks among radicals and left-wingers, ambitious young politicians, trade unionists, businessmen with Russian connections, and many other people who in the future could influence their home countries' development and policies.
Russian spies are also approaching military officers, police, special services and law enforcement agency officials, government bureaucrats, students and many other people. The aim of the espionage is to "maintain, stabilize and gradually renew Russia's position in the region" where it had dominance for many decades before.
For example, as the media has reported, Russian intelligence has been rebuilding a vast espionage network in the Czech Republic at the same time this country is being integrated into NATO's command structure. About half of the more than 60 diplomats and 100 other staff members at Russia's palatial Prague Embassy are spies protected by diplomatic immunity – thus providing Moscow with a secure intelligence window to the West.
There are significantly more Russian diplomats in Prague than in the other NATO countries. For example, in Britain, which has a population six times that of the Czech Republic, Moscow has only about 50 diplomats at its London Embassy.
The number of spymasters in the Czech Republic is aided by an unknown quantity of so-called illegals, or agents without diplomatic immunity, such as former KGB and Red Army officers who married Czechs during the Cold War, different experts, businessmen, and others.
Many Western intelligence specialists even suspect, and for good reason, that Moscow spies have gone into business with the Russian Mafia in order to help overcome temporary cuts in funding since the Cold War. They are said to have joined forces with companies with both legal and illegal operations, with one operation making money and the other conducting covert espionage activities.
As the media have reported, Prague has now become the regional center of operations for the Russian strategic military-intelligence agency, or the GRU. Western intelligence experts have noted the extremely high volume of secret communications between the GRU's Prague Field Office and its stations in Germany and Austria, suggesting that it coordinates espionage activities over a wide area of Central and Western Europe.
Of course, NATO authorities are trying to prevent the growth of Moscow's espionage with increased counterintelligence activity. For example, in the past decade Germany has expelled 150 Russian spies and Poland has expelled 11. Additionally, last year Russia was embroiled in a new spy scandal with the Polish government, throwing out nine Polish diplomats after Warsaw expelled nine Russian representatives on espionage charges.
Currently, Moscow is also trying to restore its intelligence penetration of the potential new members of NATO, and Russian spies are working very hard in the Baltic States, Slovakia and Bulgaria, against other former Soviet satellites. Sometimes this activity becomes so dangerous that the authorities in these countries don't have any other choice but to expel Russian spies.
Last month it happened in Bulgaria, where authorities expelled three Russian diplomats suspected of links to two local Defense Ministry officials arrested a week earlier for alleged spying. The diplomats, who were not identified, were given until March 23 to leave the country. Bulgaria said it would not declare the Russians as "persona non grata" but would wait for them to leave voluntarily.
Unfortunately, not every new democracy pays close attention to preventing Russian spying. For example, several months ago Britain's Sunday Telegraph pointed to serious derelictions in the Czech Republic in highly sensitive areas as counterintelligence. During the last decade the Czech government has expelled just one Russian diplomat, and he was allowed to leave the country in secret. This indifference is causing increased concern among pro-Western Czech politicians, but so far, the Czech government has not resolved the general concerns in this area.
It would be difficult to say that the new democracies do not want to prevent dangerous Russian intelligence activity against themselves and the West in total. However, without support from the U.S. and other traditional democracies they cannot succeed in the battle with the world's most experienced and aggressive intelligence services. And without this support Americans cannot feel comfortable while visiting or residing in the areas targeted by Russia's spy agencies.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.