Monday, July 17, 2017

Russian Intelligence

In the old days when the Soviets had a KGB and other intel agencies they were pervasive and managed to keep themselves well hidden from Western intel agencies. The classic example was the Philby clan who managed to keep themselves out of the MI6 and CIA radars. The Russians are quite intelligent and sophisticated and somewhat unlike Chinese intel have well established western outlets. There were thousands of fellow travelers in the old Soviet days and in today's world the need for promulgating a Soviet world view are no longer necessary. The interest is establishing a strategic advantage to maximize whatever Russia may have.

Unlike China which has an economic dependence on the West, Russia sells its extraction elements, oil and minerals. You really can't buy any "Made in Russia" stuff at Walmart. So why doe Russia do what it does? Simply it is the Russian mindset of having a presence, a seat at the table. It is doubtful that Russia wants to overthrow the United States. Frankly they have enough problems at home without taking on more. International influence, yes, international "respect", yes, recognition, yes.

Now as to Russian Intelligence Operatives. What do they seek? Sources of information, strategic advantages, weaknesses of the other side. If a target can be compromised then a target can be manipulated. Yet to compromise one must know something the target wants kept secret and then let the target know that they are vulnerable. Classic extortion. To work, the Operative must be invisible, yet present to the Target.

What are the rules for an Intelligence Operative?

There are three simple rules:

1. Never put it in writing

What does this mean? Simply never leave a discoverable trail. Clearly when one enters Trump Tower or any other major building in New York one is captured on video hundreds of times and one must register to enter the building, one is photographed, one must submit valid IDs etc, pass through Secret Service filters. Thus, any meeting at Trump Tower is a major violation of Rule 1! Let us assume that the Trump folks were just naive. They took a meeting which may after the fact have poor optics. Let us assume they were smart. They took a meeting knowing that any operative would never appear in such an open venue. Operatives meet in obscure locations like forests, mountain paths, under bridges, or anywhere where they chance of being seen is as near zero as possible. Operatives do not meet at a location under Secret Service control, like Trump Tower. Unless the Secret Service has also been compromised in toto! That is a tale going too far.

2. Trust no one

As an Operative you must trust no one, not even your father (or mother as the case may be). Anyone can be anything at any day. Trust is a non-entity. Counter Intelligence relies of building trust with a target. If the target is themselves an Operative then the target knows enough not to trust anyone. In fact any attempt to build trust may be a sign of a Counter Intel Operative. I have seen Counter Intel Stasi and Cuban Operatives, very attractive but they scream beware!

3. Always have a second exit.

This is a critical one. It covers a lot of ground. From that of a simple Plan B to the use of third parties to do messy jobs and seeing that they are expendable. Never hold the knife, you may get caught. Have plausible deniability, be transparent. Have another identifiable as the Operative, always have a delaying plan while escape can be made.

Is Russia a Major Threat?

In the old days we worried about a Soviet nuclear attack, really! There were plans for various options such as the RISOP plan[1]. We still live on a remnant of RISOP. Russia has ready nuclear forces, and the US maintains its triad forces. The past Administration let the weapons remain un-updated, but there are still more nuclear weapons to destroy the earth many times over. Russia likewise has active capabilities. But both Russian and American key players understand the end game of any nuclear engagement and would thus mitigate against any. China is a bit uncertain but its focus has been on economic warfare. Thus Russia may at the extreme be a threat but not in any day to day environment. One may then ask why they are acting as they do? The answer is simple. It is the tale of the frog and the scorpion. The scorpion walks to the edge of a raging river and seeks to cross. He asks a frog who at first refuses, after all it is a scorpion. The scorpion promises not to sting. The frog agrees and halfway across the raging river the scorpion stings the frog, now both will die. The frog asks in his last breath; why? The scorpion replies: I can't help it, I am a scorpion. Thus one understands the Russian mind.

Is Russia more of a threat than China?

Now here we have a concern. This is an economic player. A large military but one suspects to keep peace at home. But a massive player in world economies and growing. Perhaps more time on this issue would be better spent than on the scorpion!