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03/01/2023 | Germany is prepared for projected increase in Russian spy activity, says BfV director

Joseph Fitsanakis

RUSSIAN FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES in Germany have increased exponentially since the start of the war in Ukraine, and are projected to further-increase in 2023, according to the head of German counterintelligence.

 

In an interview on Monday with the German Press Agency (DPA), Thomas Haldenwang, director of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), also warned that China, Iran and Turkey are intensifying their intelligence activities inside Germany.

In April of last year, the German government expelled 40 members of the diplomatic staff from Russia’s embassy in Berlin. It is believed that the majority of those expelled were intelligence officers operating under official cover. According to Haldenwang, the Kremlin has taken steps to compensate for the loss of its intelligence presence in Germany. This is largely being done in two ways: first, with “traveling operatives”, i.e. intelligence officers who are stationed in third countries and travel to Germany to carry out specific operations; second, with non-official-cover officers, i.e. intelligence operatives who have no overt relations with the Russian government. Moreover, Russia has been mounting its cyber-attacks and foreign-influence operations against Germany, according to Haldenwang.

In response to the Kremlin’s actions, German counterintelligence is making “great efforts to prevent […] people who may be connected to Russian intelligence from entering Germany” with valid visas, Haldenwang said. The BfV has hired more personnel and has “organizationally redesigned” its defensive and offensive counterintelligence capabilities, as well as cyber-defense expertise. As a result, the BfV “feels sufficiently prepared for the current challenges”, Haldenwang said. He also disputed allegations in Western media that the BfV had been relatively passive in countering Russian intelligence operations prior to the war in Ukraine.

Finally, Haldenwang cautioned that Iran and Turkey maintained a significant intelligence presence in Germany, and that the stormy domestic politics in those countries would “have an impact in Germany”, as “internal political conflicts [in those countries] are fought here”. This also applies to China, whose intelligence collection targets are no longer primarily economic, but are moving into the political domain. According to Haldenwang, a “pan-European solution is needed to reverse this trend, at least for the European [Union] states”.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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