First Thoughts on Arrest of Russian Spy in New York

SVRSo today the FBI charged three Russians with being spies, agents of the SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service). Two are already out of the country and were in diplomatic cover anyway, so the worse the US government could have done would have been to “PNG” them (persona non grata — in other words, kick them out). The third, though, Evgeni Buryakov, was in “non-official cover”, apparently* working undercover at Vneshekonombank, the Russian Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs. More will emerge about the case and I’ll have more time later to ponder it, not least thanks to tomorrow’s snow day, but here are some first thoughts:

This underscores my view that Russian espionage in the West is not only intensive and extensive, it is geared for the long haul. Many of the recruitment targets the SVR were after were not especially valuable now, they were being cultivated for years in the future or for potential future tasking.

This is proper espionage, by which I don’t necessarily mean especially skilled (it’s hard to tell so far whether it was or was not), but the methodical collection of information, leads and assets that truly establishes intel resources rather than the showy and expensive nonsense of the deep undercover illegals of the “Anna Chapman Ring” (not that she was their leading light).

Russia is still heavily using every state-affiliated agency available for its illegals. Vnesheconombank is a state agency rather than a real bank, by the way, and if you’re wondering why I assume this is where he worked, well, it’s because someone of the same name is listed on their webpage as a deputy rep:

Unless there are two Russians of the same name working in NYC in a Russian bank, I can assume this is a "gotcha"

Unless there are two Russians of the same name working in NYC in a Russian bank, I can assume this is a “gotcha”

Russians are very heavily invested in gathering economic and econ-political intelligence, as well as the usual political/military stuff. In part this is part of general assessment of Western capacities, but also to support Russian economic interests and, these days, to identify not only potential scope for sanctions but also ways of undermining the Western economy. One danger, after all, of the sanctions regime over Ukraine is that it has further strengthened Moscow’s awareness of the potential in the weaponization of finance…

More anon.

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2 Comments

  1. The points here should be considered very carefully by all the European states too, both the military significant and economically significant nations, and the banking transit countries. Dr. Galeotti’s key points are, IMO, that state and business organisations are all part of the same information and intelligence network; the extremely long term view taken; finance and economic organisations are key conflict assets and targets, with banks at the fore; cyber risks obviously very important here, but it’s NOT just cyber.
    Edward Lucas has argued that all significant Russian “private” businesses operate under licence from the State. It follows logically that they must be seen as domestic and international agents of the State. The European states, individually and collectively, and Brussels, need to act accordingly, and raise their risk mitigation very significantly.

    This article is exceptionally well timed, given that the UK’s public enquiry into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko has just opened. Watch that closely.

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  1. World Class Hour on #FTRRadio with just me! 1/28/15 | A Single Voice

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