Analysis: Assessing the record of Russian espionage

R. Kupchinsky

R. Kupchinsky

Roman Kupchinsky has penned an article for The Prague Post, in which he examines the recent expulsion of two Russian spies from the Czech Republic as part of a broader decline in Russian intelligence operations. The Jamestown Foundation analyst explains that Vladimir Putin’s campaign to rebuild the Russian espionage activities abroad to their former glory has not borne fruits. Rather, the gradual decay in Russia’s global intelligence presence, which began in the early 1980s, continues to mire the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). The SVR is the successor to the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (PGU), which was responsible for foreign operations and intelligence collection. Although Kupchinsky’s view is shared by a many Western intelligence observers, some remain skeptical. Recent instances of exposure of SVR assets in the Czech Republic, Estonia and elsewhere may signify a broader breakdown of Russia’s external intelligence activity only if they represent a large chunk of it. If they don’t, that is, if they only represent a small portion of SVR activities, then their exposure may simply signify the tiny visible tip of a sizable floating iceberg. Furthermore, Russian espionage failures or successes abroad must be evaluated against the failure or success of similar operations in Russia by Western intelligence agencies. And there the picture is extremely murky, as the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), Russia’s counterintelligence force, rarely publicizes its record.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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