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SVR Operations

Speaking at a 21 December 1995 Moscow celebration of the 75th anniversary of the formation of the VChK-KGB-SVR, Primakov declared that NATO expansion would create a "security threat" for Russia. Primakov said that trying to understand the "true motives" of those who advocate NATO enlargement is a key task of the SVR, and added his agency would seek to block the alliance's expansion while trying to establish good relations with former Cold War adversaries. Primakov said Russian policy should seek to prevent the emergence of a "global hegemony" by the United States. Primakov also stressed the importance of combating the threats of ethno-national conflicts and terrorism to Russian territorial integrity and national security.

Important areas of SVR intelligence activity include possible scientific breakthroughs which might radically change the Russian security situation, as well as determining those areas in which the actions of foreign states' special services and organizations might damage Russian interests.

The SVR contacts with various intelligence and counterintelligence services of foreign states is one of the agency's fastest growing areas of activity. The Foreign Intelligence Service maintains working contacts and collaborates with several dozen special services in other countries. This includes work on nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and combating terrorism, the drugs trade, organized crime and money laundering, illicit arms trade, and the search for and release of hostages as well as citizens of Russia and CIS countries who are reported missing. Collaboration includes the exchange of intelligence information, assistance in training of personnel and material and technical assistance. The SVR also has reportedly concluded formal cooperation agreements with the intelligence services of several former Soviet republics, including Azerbaijan and Belarus, which cover gathering and sharing intelligence.

An agreement on intelligence cooperation between Russia and China was signed in Beijing at the end of the summer of 1992. It envisaged the restoration of the cooperation in the area of intelligence which had been cut off in 1959. This secret treaty covered the activities of Russian Military Strategic Intelligence (GRU) and the Foreign Intelligence Service, which are cooperating with the Chinese People's Liberation Army's Military Intelligence Directorate.

Although the SVR [along with other agencies] is involved in industrial espionage, there are signes that the data being collected by Russian intelligence agencies are not being used effectively. In a 7 February 1996 Security Council meeting [which included FSB Director Mikhail Barsukov and SVR Director Vyacheslav Trubnikov] President Yeltsin ordered top state officials to close the technology gap with the West by more efficiently using industrial intelligence. Yeltsin complained that less than 25 percent of the information collected by Russian spies abroad was used in Russia, even though he claimed information was derived directly from foreign blueprints and manuals.

SVR economic intelligence activities includes the identification of both threats to Russian interests [attempts to pressure Russia in world markets for arms or space technology) as well as emerging opportunities such as advantageous market trends for particular types of commodities and raw materials. Priority is attached to ensuring balanced development of relations with foreign countries in such spheres as currency and finance, export and import transactions for strategic raw materials, and in the high technology sphere. The SVR is frequently commissioned to ascertain the business reputation and real potential of foreign firms and individual dealers who intend to establish business relations with Russian state organizations. It also seeks to identify foreign firms attempting to persuade certain Russian partners to conclude illegal export deals, and to track of Russian capital going abroad.

In addition to the economic, scientific, and technical focus of collections efforts noted above, human intelligence (HUMINT) collection against American intelligence agencies also has been ongoing, as exemplified by the 1996 arrests of a Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agent (Earl Edwin Pitts) and CIA operations officer (Harold James Nicholson). The end of 1996 was also marked by the the case of former SVR Colonel Vladimir Galkin, provoking a noisy scandal that added tension to Russian-American relations and relations between the SVR and the CIA.

Sources and Resources

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Updated Wednesday, November 26, 1997 5:56:23 PM