Intelligence: The Cold War Isn't Over, It Just Took A Time Out

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June 26, 2014: The increasing Russian aggressiveness in espionage and now seeking to annex land from its neighbors has forced NATO nations to again devote a lot of intelligence resources to Russia and what Russia is up to. That revealed a major problem. After 1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved, over half a century of Soviet military and espionage threats to Western Europe disappeared. Western intelligence agencies stopped recruiting Russian specialists and by the end of the 1990s many existing Russia experts were being fired or offered early retirement. Then came Islamic terrorism and the money and attention went to Arabic speakers and Arab experts.

By 2000 Russian experts were few and generally had little to do. That began to change in the 21st century after a former KGB officers (Vladimir Putin) got elected the leader of Russia and revived the Soviet era foreign espionage program. This time the goal was stealing commercial secrets and a lot of recently retired Russian KGB (intelligence) officers were back working full time. The espionage led to meddling in the affairs of neighboring nations (another Soviet specialty) and that led to the 2008 annexation of parts of Georgia and 2013 effort to bring Ukraine back under Russian control. The Ukrainian affair did not go according to plan and got rather messy.

Meanwhile many former subject (or “satellite”) states of Russia in Eastern Europe were not surprised by this Russian resurgence and after 1991 made the financial and diplomatic effort to join NATO. This irritated the Russians a great deal, but for people in Eastern Europe who had endured decades of Russian occupation after World War II, pissing off the Russians was a bonus. These East European nations warned their Western neighbors that Russia would soon be up to its old bad habits again and these warnings were downplayed or ignored. Now everyone is a believer and intelligence experts with Russian language skills are in big demand. Many retired or fired Russian experts (the youngest of them in their 60s) are being sought and rehired if possible.

The Cold War isn’t over, it just took a time out.

 

 


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