John R. Schindler writes: … you need to know a lot of things to grasp the full scope of Russian spy-games against America and how they impact our politics right now.
You need a deep understanding of Russian spycraft, what Moscow calls konspiratsiya (yes, “conspiracy”), which goes back a century and more. The good news is that Kremlin spy-games have remained remarkably consistent over time; the bad news is they’re very intricate and long-term. Russian intelligence agencies are far more aggressive and risk-taking than Western counterparts and they are much more patient. In Moscow, successful espionage operations are measured in decades, not years.
You also need a deep understanding of how the Russians conduct offensive counterintelligence operations, particularly the recruitment of moles inside the enemy’s spy services. The Trump presidency is one piece of a complex Putinist puzzle which includes the long-term, far-reaching penetration of American intelligence agencies by Russian spies. Here the Snowden Operation forms a portion of a much bigger espionage story which must be unraveled to understand how 2016 happened.
Last, you need a deep understanding of how Russian intelligence disseminates propaganda, what the Kremlin calls Active Measures, against their foes. Particularly important is the use of disinformation, which the KGB and its successors have perfected over decades, and they now can disseminate it quickly and easily online. Above all, what’s required to get to the bottom of the Trump mystery is a well-honed ability to unravel the full scope of interlocking Russian spy-games in their strategic — not just tactical — complexity.
The good news for the White House is that the number of people in the West who can grasp all that is rather small. Even in our Intelligence Community, this specialization is rare and customarily considered somewhat odd. You need to understand the Russian mindset, which means you should speak their language and comprehend how they think. You need extensive knowledge of Kremlin spy-cum-propaganda operations going back many decades. That expertise is hardly ever achieved by scholars, so we’re talking about people with a lot of education but also practical experience in high-level counterespionage against the Russians.
To say nothing of the fact that the Russians routinely use provocateurs and fake opposition to muddy the waters whenever questions arise about nefarious Kremlin activities. Vociferous haters of Moscow and all its works have an odd habit of turning out to be secretly on the payroll of Russian spy services, while the Kremlin has employed provocation on an industrial scale for more than a century to confuse the West in its efforts to understand what the Russians are really up to. Chekists like Vladimir Putin take enormous pride in their seasoned ability to run rings around confused foreigners until they get lost in the vaunted “wilderness of mirrors.” [Continue reading…]