Evidence of the massive size and broad scope of Russia’s spying efforts in Europe continues to mount. Due to the way Europe’s borders work, life on the continent seems to be very easy for Moscow’s operatives. The Daily Mail reports on a prime example:
Swedish security service SAPO on Wednesday accused Russia of using as many as one-third of its diplomatic staff in the Scandinavian country for clandestine intelligence gathering.Offering an unusual glimpse into the hush-hush world of counter-espionage, SAPO chief analyst Wilhelm Unge described the Russian spies as “highly educated and often younger than during the Soviet era. They are driven, goal-oriented and socially competent.”Naming Russia as “the biggest intelligence threat against Sweden, followed by Iran and China,” he said SAPO last year stopped several attempts by Russia to obtain Swedish technology for military purposes, but declined to give specifics.SAPO warned last year that Russia had stepped up its political, economic and military espionage in Sweden — which isn’t a NATO member but cooperates closely with the alliance — amid deteriorating relations with the West over the Ukraine crisis.“There are hundreds of Russian intelligence officers around Europe and the West. They violate our territory every day,” Unge told reporters at SAPO headquarters in Solna, just outside Stockholm, at the launch of the agency’s annual report.
That’s just one of the big stories from this week. In another, Belgium is apparently chasing down a Russian couple, who are now supposedly operating in Italy and still have active Belgian passports.In the extended post-Cold War moment, it may have seemed like a safe idea for Europe to drop its guard. Yet these data-points, among many others, underscore the problem that Russian spying presents for Europe, with its lax border and visa policies. For a thorough look at how serious the threat of Russian espionage is, as well as the underlying issues that have allowed things to get so bad, we recommend this AI piece by Edward Lucas.