Continuing with yesterday’s story about Sergei Naryshkin’s appointment as Head of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, as we work our way through this long analytical piece by Evgeny Krutikov.
Where we left off yesterday, Evgeny was about to explain to us how the Optimism/Pessimism thing was handled back in the day, by Soviet spy agencies.
“In Soviet times,” Krutikov writes, “there existed this entity called the State Committee For Science and Technology [Государственный комитет по науке и технике – ГКНТ] – which was a monster, accumulating within its bowels requsts [for analysis] flowing in from all the ministeries and agencies, then digesting them with the help of councils of experts. Into these councils were recruited academic scholars and former spies. The resulting product was squeezed out for the use of the KGB and sometimes the GRU. This was also phrased as a formulaic technical assignment: Go out there and bring us back, by such-and-such a deadline, the key to the twelve such-and-such specifications and/or measurements for the submarine named Washington. And people went out there, and they did what they had to do — deceived, bribed, lied, stole — and they brought back what they had been assigned to do. For which they received acclaim, respect, and rewards. At times the assignments were more vague, sometimes more detailed (up to and including exact formulas which had to be memorized), but the essence remains.”
Nowadays, Krutikov continues, the planned economy is no more. And the ГКНТ is no more. Its old building on Tverskaya Street is now occupied by the Ministry of Education and Science. Nowadays there are a multitude of State-owned corporations and also private companies whose interests are aligned with the state-owned ones. Intelligence gatherers have to service the needs of these clients too, in addition to those of the President and the government. These clients, which the Russian spies call “electives” use up the time, resources, and emotions of the intelligence agents. In this profession, emotions are extremely important. And the worthiness of these “electives” is not always understood, especially to those men and women who entered this (Intelligence) profession during the “patriotic wave” of the last 10-15 years and who are motivated by a desire to be of use to their country.
Who And What Are These “Electives”?
This point about the so-called “electives” is important in Krutikov’s analysis, so I shall spend some time working through this part of the story. The word itself, translated into English as “electives” (факультативы) is the same as the word used by university students picking non-required or optional courses, to fill out their semester plan. Krutikov links this other piece which he wrote back in March; it was a case of a Russian spy named Evgeny Buryakov who was nabbed in New York by the American FBI. Krutikov’s earlier piece was critical of the training and professional level of certain foreign intelligence agents; but is also used to illustrate his point about endemic problems plaguing the Russian secret service. In which patriotic spies who thirst for military glory, are forced to waste their time on “electives” such as petty industrial espionage.
Here is the story how the FBI managed to nick Buryakov. An amusing sidebar is how the FBI determined that the sinister name “Zhenya” was an aka or alias of the accused Evgeny Buryakov! [Smart people know that “Zhenya” is actually the usual Russian nickname for Evgeny, like “Jimmy” is for “James”, and the illiterate FBI could have found that out easily enough if they had made google their friend.]
Buryakov was a banker, not a diplomat. He had no diplomatic immunity. By day he worked in the Russian-owned VneshEkonomBank , or “Development Bank” in lower Manhattan. By night, he led a double life, but without the benefit of a cover story.
So, in the summer of 2014 a man walks into the bank. He pretends to be a big gangster-investor wanting to open a series of casinos in Russia. In reality this is an FBI agent (of course), posing as a Mafioso. Buryakov asks him some leading questions. Each thinks he is playing the other. The “Mafioso” suddenly whips some papers out of his briefcase, says they are top-secret government documents regarding the economic sanctions against Russia. Buryakov takes the bait. Krutikov mentions in passing that his own (Krutikov’s) father, who was a spy, was played exactly the same in an incident in Geneva in 1954.
The FBI surveilles Buryakov, along with two Russian diplomats named Igor Sporyshev (Trade Representative of the Russian Federation to New York), and Victor Podobny (Attaché to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN). Surveillance notes that a single telephone call precedes every meeting between Buryakov and the other two. The phone calls are recorded, but the men speak in code. For example, they buy baseball tickets. Or they say, like, “Do you have something to trade?” or words like “books” or “key”. Sometimes “umbrella”, or “hat”. Which is ludicrous, because nobody in Manhattan in the summertime carries an umbrella or wears a hat.
Buryakov himself never actually fumbled, and never gave the FBI enough ammunition to get himself arrested. The fault lay with the two other spies, Sporyshev and Podobny. It was they, in fact, who had first led the FBI dogs on the scent of Buryakov.
[to be continued]