Spies will convict Putin - WSJ

I spent 34 years in the underground service of the Central Intelligence Agency and watched Vladimir Poutine Ukraine’s brutal war on...


I spent 34 years in the underground service of the Central Intelligence Agency and watched

Vladimir PoutineUkraine’s brutal war on the fringe fills me with both sadness and a sense of opportunity. Espionage is a predatory business, and there’s blood in the water. Mr. Putin’s self-inflicted damage has done more to turn his own people against him than anything the West could have done.

Mr. Putin’s disastrous choices are causing military strategists to reconsider the tactics that could be used against the overrated and underperforming Russian armed forces. Policy experts and economists are rethinking the tools to punish malicious behavior. Other potential aggressors, namely China, must take this into account. If your job is to cultivate spies, I suspect recruiting must be good.

The Russian mystic has disappeared. Mr. Putin has proven that his country is the declining power that the best-informed Russian observers claimed it was. Fewer experts will be poetic about the cunning and strategic genius of Mr. Putin. He could have been a competent operations officer during his KGB career, but he clearly failed the courses in self-awareness and counter-intelligence. The more he tightens the security screws and covers Russia’s window to the world, the more likely those on whom he depends will turn against him.

Resurrecting the Soviet Empire, as Mr. Putin wants to do, brings with it the same forces that drove most of the best CIA Warsaw Pact operatives to turn against the Kremlin. Agents of the Soviet bloc often shared the same desire: to inflict all the harm they could. They fought not for money, but to undermine a toxic system that has enriched a corrupt elite, sown suffering and economic stagnation, and sometimes brought the world to the brink.

Some of the Russian CIA operatives were so dedicated that despite years of service and risk, they refused to give up the fight and leave their homeland even when in grave danger. One of the most famous was Adolf Georgievich Tolkachev. Known as “The Billion Dollar Spy”, Tolkachev was a Soviet electronics engineer. Angered by how dissident family members had suffered under Stalin and by the corruption of the Kremlin, Tolkachev provided the CIA documents on Soviet missile systems, avionics and radar that undermined Soviet air capabilities – information that continues to provide value today.

Another was Major General Dmitry Fyodorovich Polyakov of the Soviet Main Intelligence Directorate. He believed corruption had deprived his son of vital medical care, resulting in the boy’s death. Polyakov helped the United States keep the Cold War from escalating by providing key intelligence on the split between Moscow and Beijing that helped persuade President Richard Nixon to undertake the overture with China.

In December 1980, the United States used intelligence from Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, a senior Polish General Staff officer and CIA agent, to expose Soviet plans to invade Poland. Kuklinski’s decision to turn against his government’s Kremlin masters came after Soviet tanks entered Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring of 1968.

If the truth could penetrate the Iron Curtain and reach people like Tolkachev, who never left the country and had no access to the outside world apart from shortwave radio, Mr. Putin cannot turn off the truth in the digital age. The Russians watched the puppet show and can see the strings.

Mr. Putin gave a big gift to a rival intelligence officer: a precipitated crisis. The desire to take control of their own destiny in the midst of crisis drives people to spy. Intelligence officers capitalize on this desire to gain an agent’s cooperation through inspiration, trust, and the means to make a difference. Mr. Putin’s blunders provided the crisis, Ukrainian courage the inspiration, and the response of the United States and its allies the confidence and the tools for the Russians to fight back.

Some of the best CIA agents are volunteers who are finally driven to the limit by a shocking event and offer their services to an intelligence service. Tolkachev, Polyakov and Kuklinski were volunteers. Thanks to the deplorable behavior of Mr Putin, I expect an increase in the number of Russian volunteers who have toyed with the idea of ​​doing something to improve Russia’s future and who might now be receptive to a encouraging thumb.

Mr. Putin will use intimidation, violence, repression and corruption to combat the risk of counterintelligence and reward the blind loyalty of the incompetent and opportunistic sycophants who dominate his system. But these measures will only create incentives for the brave to take action – and it only takes a few to make an extraordinary difference.

It undermined in weeks what took Russia almost 30 years to achieve. The country survived the perils of near bankruptcy and a crumbling national defense and used oil-fueled economic leverage to increase its national prosperity and international influence. Russia’s armed forces have projected power far from home and the country’s intelligence services have acted with impunity, carrying out sabotage, assassinations, cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns that have wreaked economic havoc and polarized liberal democracies. .

Only a few weeks ago, Russians were going on vacation to distant destinations and buying imported cars and other luxury items. Today, Russians are lucky if they can have their own money (what’s left after the collapse of the rouble) and keep a job. Soon they might be struggling to put food on the table. A few weeks ago, the world trembled before Russian power. Mr. Putin is no longer the master chess player; it is the great and powerful wizard of Oz who hides behind a curtain.

He could still bring the world to an apocalyptic end. But its Cold War predecessors also had that power. It didn’t make Russia great in the eyes of its own people then, and neither does it now.

The Soviet state destroyed rather than built indiscriminately, while Russian elites immersed themselves in luxury as workers toiled and suffered. It prompted some of Russia’s greatest patriots to step back in time. Mr. Putin can resurrect the Soviet Empire, but he will have to face a new generation of patriots who will fight for Russia’s freedom and bring about its downfall.

Mr. London, a former CIA operations officer, is the author of “The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence.” He teaches intelligence studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and is a nonresident fellow at the Middle East Institute.

Wonder Land: Virtually the entire world has pledged to repel Vladimir Putin’s invasion in some sort of spontaneous, crowd-funded alternative to the Armageddon tripwire. Images: AP/AFP/Getty Images Composition: Mark Kelly

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Newsrust - US Top News: Spies will convict Putin - WSJ
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