The GRU: Putin’s no-longer-so-secret weapon

Michael Weiss writes: It says something about the ingrained rivalry between the various fiefdoms of Russian espionage that the founder of Soviet military intelligence, Leon Trotsky, had an ice-ax driven into his head in Mexico by an agent of Stalin’s foreign intelligence service.

Ever since, in the long dark history of Soviet and Russian spookery the military’s Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, has been overshadowed by a succession of more powerful, famous and infamous organizations known by a succession of acronyms, most famously as the KGB and, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the FSB and SVR.

But on Thursday the GRU suddenly emerged from the shadows when the waning Obama administration imposed sanctions on the four top-ranking GRU officers for their roles hacking the private email correspondence of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta. The entire spy agency, along with the FSB, was also sanctioned institutionally.

The Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye, as it is formally known, was founded in 1920, assuming the mantle of its prior incarnation, the Registration Directorate for Coordination of Efforts of All Army Intelligence Agencies, after the Red Army’s fiasco invasion of Poland that year. Its first director, Yan Berzin, was appointed by Felix Dzerzhinsky, the inaugural head of Lenin’s Cheka. Yet somehow, unlike the KGB, the GRU managed to endure the rocky transition from communism to democracy to authoritarian kleptocracy with its acronym intact. [Continue reading…]

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