Intelligence: The Return of the KGB


November25, 2006: The recent opening of a $300 million headquarters for GRU (Russian military intelligence), was but another demonstration of Russia's increased interest in espionage. The 670,000 square foot GRU complex contains the latest of everything for one of the smallest of Russia's intelligence services (the domestic, and foreign, intelligence services are larger). Over the past five years, the increasing flood of oil revenue has made it possible to rebuild the intelligence services. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, there followed a decade of decline for the intelligence services. The feared KGB became the threadbare SVB, with domestic intelligence taken over by the FSB. Many Soviet spies defected, and sold their secrets to Western intelligence agencies.

That's all changed, party due to the current Russian leader, president Vladimir Putin, whose previous career was as a KGB officer. But the Russians are also back to their old Soviet ways, in that most of their espionage appears to be directed towards stealing technology. In a way, this doesn't make a lot of sense. During the Soviet period, the Russians did not recognize a lot of foreign patents, did not export their best military technology, and stole Western technology they needed. For the Soviets, stealing technology was a cheap way of keeping pace, although always behind, with the West. Now Russia has Western quality manufacturing capabilities and the ability to license most of what they need. But there are some military technologies it cannot license. So whatever tech Russia steals, it can now duplicate more effectively than during the Soviet period. But it can't let any stuff, built using stolen technology, get discovered by foreigners. Otherwise, the lawsuits and trade sanctions will arrive, and cause more harm than the lack of foreign technologies.

What the Russians are looking for are not so much patented technologies, as the "trade secrets" that are not filed with the patent office, and given legal protection from copying. Russia is especially eager to get military technology, and intel on government and business decision making. But mainly, the Russians are eager to get ahold of whatever foreign companies or governments do not want them to see. So, after a ten year hiatus, Russia spies are again being found everywhere, as they have been for the last 70 years. It's estimated that there are at least a hundred Russian spies active in the United States, with most other industrialized countries having 20-40 of them. Some are locals, working for the Russians, the others are Russians pretending to be something else.




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