Accessibility links

Germany's Intelligence Warns of Continuing Russian Espionage

  • Roland Eggleston

Munich, April 30 (RFE/RL) - Germany's counter-espionage service warns that, despite improved East-West relations, some former states of the USSR continue to spy on Germany.

A paper issued by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Cologne points the finger not only at Russia but also at Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine. The paper also identifies Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria as being active in espionage in Germany.

"There has been no de-mobilisation as far as espionage is concerned," says the security service, whose paper has been publicised in Germany. Reported excerpts of the paper, and editorial analysis is cited today by an RFE/RL correspondent in Munich.

The head of the Counter-Espionage Service is Hansjoerg Geiger, who publicly complained in January about continuing Russian espionage, despite the good relations between the two governments and Germany's massive financial assistance to Russia. He said then that Germany expected Russia to reduce its espionage activities to zero. Instead, he said, Moscow had intensified spying on Germany as a possible opening to spying on NATO.

The new document has been published at a time when Geiger is being considered as the next head of Germany's Foreign Intelligence Service, the BND. The previous chief resigned at the end of February. Political analysts said the document indicated that Geiger would take a hard line if he takes over the foreign intelligence service.

A similar warning against growing Russian intelligence was given in Britain last month. The British counter-intelligence service, MI-5, issued a booklet similar in tone to the paper now produced by the German service. The MI-5 director, Mrs. Stella Rimington, said in the booklet that Russia was renewing efforts to post intelligence officers to London. March 28, the British parliamentary intelligence and security committee issued a report warning of Russian intelligence activities. Its chairman, Tom King, was quoted as saying: "Russian intelligence is back in business having retrenched after the collapse of the Soviet Union."

In the new politucal atmosphere, the expulsion of diplomats accused of espionage is rarely publicised. But earlier this month, Switzerland announced it was expelling a Russian embassy first secretary, who had been caught trying to obtain information. Switzerland also expelled a Russian diplomat in December on similar charges.

The new paper produced by German counter-intelligence names several Russian intelligence services. It says the new Civil Intelligence Service, the SWR, is practically a carry-over from the KGB and the military service, the GRU, is virtually unchanged. A new Russian Federation intelligence agency, known by its initials as FAPSI, is said to be in charge of electronic espionage world-wide. The Germans say the Russian internal agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB) combined the duties of counter-espionage with economic espionage abroad.

In a report on the paper today, the Munich newspaper "Suddeutsche Zeitung" notes that in February, Russian President Boris Yeltsin told the Russian national security council that economic espionage would continue to help Russia overcome its economic disadvantges in relation to the West.

The newspaper quotes an unidentified high security official as saying about one third of the 500 Russian diplomats in Germany are connected with intelligence activities in some way. Another security expert is quoted as saying that intelligence officers are also on the staff of some of the Russian businesses operating in Germany. According to the "Suddeutsche Zeitung" there are around 2,500 German-Russian firms in Germany.

The Suddeutsche Zeitung also quotes security experts as saying Russian intelligence continues traditional practices in cultivating contacts. Agents make friends with the individual, invite him or her to various functions, creates a relationship of trust "until there comes a situation which is no longer legal." An unidentified security man was quoted as saying: "At some time the target must give something in return and then one slips easily over the border between a legal exchange of ideas and an illegal provision of information, and often, when one realizes what has happened he believes he cannot go back."

Similar comments were made by the chief of the counter-intelligence service, Geiger, in his complaints in January about continuing Russian espionage.

The Suddeutsche Zeitung also quoted members of the German counter-espionage service as saying their own methods have changed. In the past, they would keep watch on someone in contact with a known foreign intelligence agent until they had concrete evidence and then arrest him. Today, they said, they contact the individual and inform him that he is dealing with a foreign intelligence agent, and could eventually find himself in trouble.