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By John Helmer, Moscow

“Least said, soonest mended.”

Uriah Heep, one of Charles Dickens’ evilest characters, said it to silence his mother who was about to expose him.

Dickens made sure his readers didn’t miss the point. “Though I had long known that his servility was false, and all his pretences knavish and hollow, I had had no adequate conception of the extent of his hypocrisy, until I now saw him with his mask off. The suddenness with which he dropped it, when he perceived that it was useless to him; the malice, insolence, and hatred, he revealed; the leer with which he exulted, even at this moment, in the evil he had done – all this time being desperate too, and at his wits’ end for the means of getting the better of us – though perfectly consistent with the experience I had of him, at first took even me by surprise, who had known him so long, and disliked him so heartily.”

David Copperfield was doing this thinking in print in 1850; the maxim Heep used on his mother was already a hoary one. But in the 170 years which have expired since then, the meaning has softened. The expression is now uttered by elderly English people to refer to difficult situations, not always false or malicious ones.

During the Soviet period, it was the Russian custom to adapt this maxim to reading Pravda and other official newspapers, so that the real meaning should be read between the lines, and not printed visibly or said aloud. Whether and what this custom mended used to become clear in time. Sometimes, a very long time.

This Russian custom of public writing and reading continues. It should be applied to the analysis of the recent performance of the Russian foreign intelligence agency, the SVR, just published in Vzglyad by Yevgeny Krutikov, a military intelligence officer of the GRU before he became a journalist.

The article follows in unofficial translation into English, without interpolation, explanation, or comment — according to the same old English maxim.

Source: https://vz.ru/

Russian intelligence begins work in Ukraine with a clean slate
Russian foreign intelligence has really not really dealt with Ukrainian issues for decades.
October 11, 2022,
Text: Evgeny Krutikov  

The leadership of the Russian foreign intelligence service has declared that Ukraine has passed through the path of transformation into a fascist state in just one generation. Paradoxically, all this time the Russian special services have not been able to monitor what was happening in a neighbouring and so important a state for us. How did this happen and what to do about it today?

The head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) of the Russian Federation, Sergei Naryshkin (lead image, left), said that a group of ‘totalitarian-liberal regimes of the West’ turned Ukraine into their tool and established a dictatorship of fascism there. According to him, the transformation of the country took place in a single generation. He called it a tragedy that the prosperous Ukraine that was is no longer there. The head of the SVR emphasized that Russia is obliged to fight this.

Naryshkin delivered his speech during the opening ceremony of the exhibition ‘Evidence of the crimes of the Ukrainian Nazis and their accomplices.’ The exposition is based on eyewitness statements, as well as materials which were brought from the special operation zone.

A week earlier on September 30, Sergei Naryshkin said that the SVR ‘began to extract information that will help the Russian military during a special operation (SVO) in Ukraine.” According to him, the intelligence is aimed at obtaining operational and tactical information necessary for victory ‘on the battlefield.’ In addition, Naryshkin noted, the urgent task of the SVR remains to obtain information which contributes to the adoption of the most important foreign policy decisions by the country’s leadership. As an example he cited Kim Philby, who during the Great Patriotic War obtained information about the upcoming German offensive on the Kursk Bulge.

Left: German Army disposition map before the Battle of Kursk began in July 1943: for enlarged view and analysis of the early intelligence advantage of the Red Army, click to read.  Right: Kim Philby in his coffin, with his widow Rufina Pukhova, at Kuntsevo Cemetery, Moscow, May 1988.  Illustrations added for this publication.

The words of the chief of Russian intelligence that the SVR ‘began’ to extract information on Ukraine require clarification. The fact is that Russian foreign intelligence has not really dealt with Ukrainian issues for decades.

After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Russian intelligence was formed in the specific conditions which were determined by the political position of the government of Boris Yeltsin and its seasonal fluctuations. One of those conditions was a peculiar and not always objectively motivated relationship with the countries of the post-Soviet space.

In particular, an agreement was quickly reached at the informal level on the mutual rejection of  operations of the new national intelligence agencies against each other. That is, the CIS countries refused to spy against each other (alternatively, to engage in intelligence activities against each other’s national interests and on foreign territory), because all friends had grown out of the same cradle. And friends don’t spy on each other. Then the informal agreements were supported by the relevant documents.

The Ukraine has been one of the founders of the CIS since 1991, although it bargained constantly, literally for every item. In particular, Kiev signed the declaration on the formation of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States], and the Rada adopted the relevant law. But in 1993, the Rada did not approve the CIS Charter, bidding instead for their own takeover of the former USSR and its financial assets. In general, the whole history of the Ukrainian state is the history of haggling with the entire surrounding world. As a result, Ukraine turned out to be a founding member of the CIS, but not an actual member of the Commonwealth.

In 2014 the process of Ukraine’s final withdrawal from the organization, to which it did not actually belong, began; and this was completed in 2018 in fact, but not in law. Nevertheless, a significant part of the internal processes in Ukraine is still determined by the agreements which were concluded within the framework of the CIS. For example, about pension payment, mutual recognition of diplomas, legal aid,  and the like;  that is, things which are really important for the people with a Ukrainian passport.

A paradoxical situation has developed in the intelligence community. If we approach it from the point of view of the letter of the law, then it was impossible to work against Ukraine on the territory of the Ukraine, because it is, as it were, in the CIS. In general, though, relations with Kiev were not so tense. They were just nonexistent. For twenty years few people in the intelligence community noticed Ukraine at all or took it seriously.

It’s amazing, but the 40-million piece of the former USSR was on the periphery of the attention of Russian intelligence. During this period of time, control was lost, or at least due attention was not paid to those internal trends which the head of the SVR now speaks of as ‘the transformation of the country in one generation’ into a fascist society.

I must say that at the grassroots level, the mutual refusal to work against each other was  supported sentimentally.  In the Soviet Union, all the intelligence officers of the post-Soviet countries studied together and many not only knew each other well, but they were also friends.

There were special training courses for national cadres of the KGB of the USSR (in Minsk and Kiev), where young cadres from all over the big country studied in the interests of a single organization. For the most part, they returned to where they came from to study. Not everyone got into what is now called the Intelligence Academy in the forest near Moscow, but the Minsk advanced courses (from a year to two, depending on the initial level of knowledge of the cadet) were a melting pot.

These people didn’t really want to work against each other; they did not understand why they should, and they thought this on an emotional level. The exceptions were Armenians and Azerbaijanis, but that’s an eternal, almost biblical story.

Sergei Naryshkin recalled Kim Philby, which is quite significant. The fact is that the whole context described above led to the fact that information on Ukraine could only be obtained from sources in third countries. Relatively speaking, employees or sources of Russian intelligence could get some information about Ukraine – but accidentally, someplace in London or Warsaw. And it doesn’t matter which place. The agency went to the source.  That’s all. Even if and when this happened, such information had to be processed and evaluated by the political and administrative structures. Recall that the intelligence service itself does not take any action on its own information. The organization brings these materials to those who then make decisions.

And for a long time no decisions were made. At the moment when it suddenly became necessary to cope with the political and social trends which had already gained strength in Ukraine, they decided to cope with them in ways which were considered politically effective at that time. That is, by intrigue. It is difficult to weigh in the balance here factors which are not comparable: how thorough was the intelligence information? Or was it simply ignored by those individuals who had been accustomed over the long decade of the 1990s used to rely on other data sources and other methods of work?

This is an old dispute, what is more important — the information itself or its assessment and interpretation. Now Sergei Naryshkin says that the SVR has started purposeful work on Ukrainian topics. At a minimum, this means the removal of legal restrictions on obtaining such information. This is already a lot, but we should not wait for a miracle. After all, we are talking about strategic information, and not about battalion intelligence for which completely different people are responsible.

In addition, there are other intelligence systems which also need to prove their competence. This is also an eternal competition and sometimes this has a positive effect on the results. But often the outcome depends on the level of the competence to start with of those who participate in this competition.

If we talk about methodology, now the set of intelligence tools is significantly limited. This is  not just about the radical reduction in the number of embassy residencies over almost all of the world. Due to the circumstances described above, there has not been even this basic organizational line in the work in Ukraine, nor in general in the countries of the former USSR.

Even in Transcaucasia, where the chaos has not stopped for decades, there was no clear administrative management. There was also no purposeful training on the realities of the Baltic states. And this has been a systemic problem, the roots of which go back to the shaky foundations of the 1990s.

Thus, now this work will have to start, if not from scratch, then on fundamentally different organizational and ideological foundations. There is no longer any ‘fighting brotherhood’ of those who studied together. In Kiev we are dealing with a new generation which is no longer emotionally or historically connected to Russia or the USSR; it has been brought up on western principles of work. Now, moreover, we can forget about the lost decades because the situation in Ukraine itself is no longer connected to the circumstances of that time. Now this is a completely new field, which must be processed [обрабатывать] as if we are seeing it for the first time. This is a kind of new challenge that needs to be approached in a new way.

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