Analysis: Crimea crisis brings Russian military spies back in the game

Russian troops in UkraineBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The recent crisis in Ukraine, which resulted in Russia assuming control of Crimean Peninsula, marks the post-Soviet resurgence of Russia’s military intelligence apparatus and points to “a new playbook” in Moscow’s foreign policy strategy, according to a seasoned Russia analyst. In an article published on Monday in Foreign Policy, Mark Galeotti, Professor of Global Affairs at New York University, who specializes in Russian security affairs, said Russia’s military intelligence agency is now “back in the global spook game”. He was referring to Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, known commonly as GRU, which he said the Kremlin will be employing increasingly in the years to come as a major foreign-policy tool. It is no secret that, despite its significant role in Cold War intelligence operations, the GRU has been in decline in the post-Soviet era. Its substandard performance in the 2008 Russo-Georgian War convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin that the agency was “unfit” for operations in what Russians call the “near-abroad” —the regions of the former Soviet Republics. In 2003, in addition to facing what Galeotti calls “a savage round of [budget] cuts”, the GRU saw its near-abroad functions taken over by the FSB, Russia’s Federal Security Service. The FSB descends from the domestic component of the Soviet-era KGB, the agency that employed Vladimir Putin before he entered politics (as an aside, the SVR, which is the post-Soviet reincarnation of the KGB’s external intelligence directorates, is legally prevented from operating within the Commonwealth of Independent States). As late as last year there was even a discussion about whether the GRU should be demoted from a main directorate under the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff to a simple directorate, a move that would have fatally diminished its institutional stature. But in the recent Crimea crisis, says Galeotti, the GRU was able to turn the tables on Kiev by deploying its battle-ready Vostok Battalion, whose members cut their teeth in Chechnya. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #869 (Ukraine edition)

H First PostBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►US and UK warn Russia not to deploy troops in Ukraine. US National security adviser Susan E. Rice said Sunday that Russian troop intervention in Ukraine would be a “grave mistake”, arguing that a return to a Cold War posture would not reflect modern realities. Earlier on the same day, British foreign secretary William Hague cautioned Moscow “not to intervene” in Ukraine. “If there is an economic package” from Russia, said Hague, “it will be important that Russia doesn’t do anything to undermine that economic package and is working in cooperation and support of it”.
►►Analysts touting Ukraine’s East-West division are just plain wrong. “The image of two competing blocs is just dead wrong. Ukraine’s diversity is pretty much on par with that found in just about any country of the world. The real divide in Ukraine is not between East and West, but between the democratic forces on the one hand and the Party of Regions on the other. The latter is strongest in the southeast, mostly because its cadres (who are mostly former communists) have controlled the region’s information networks and economic resources since Soviet times and continue to do so to this day”.
►►The global implications of the Ukraine conflict. Thus far, the Kremlin hasn’t sought to encourage separatist sentiment in eastern and southern Ukraine. And it doesn’t appear that Vladimir Putin and his system of power is interested in the prospect of a civil war in his backyard. But it still has the potential to break out even if Moscow doesn’t want it. Those familiar with Ukraine’s history know that the militant nationalists in the west of the country have gone time and time again into battles they can’t win. Whatever the case, romanticizing revolution can only end in a “big bang”, the fallout from which would extend far beyond Ukraine.