The Security Service of the Czech Republic has just published its annual counter-intelligence report, and it contains some enlightening paragraphs on Russia’s intelligence activities in Prague, as well as insights into the Kremlin’s strategy to influence global public opinion by creating an international network of useful idiots, nearly identical to the “Comunist International” strategy implemented by the Soviet Union in the 1930’s. I will re-publish some of the key insights here. (the full report is available in English here, in German here, and in French here).
Emphasis in bold is mine, and so are [parenthesized comments in italic].
In 2014, based on the international and domestic political situation and threat level posed to the interests of the Czech Republic and its citizens the BIS [the Czech counter-intelligence service] focused mainly on Russian, Chinese and Ukrainian activities in the Czech Republic. [in previous annual reports, BIS had only spoken of intensive activity by Russian and Chinese spies, so Ukraine apparently has stepped up its international intelligence & counter-intelligence activity after the Russian intervention began. As can be seen in the last paragraph below, none of Ukraine’s secret activities were aimed at the Czech Republic or the EU]
As in previous years, the BIS concentrated on the high number of Russian intelligence officers living or engaging in activities in the Czech Republic. [In previous reports, BIS has referred to “an extremely high number of spies working permanently at the Russian embassy, complemented by “commuting” spies under the guise of journalists and business travelers]. Given the high numbers of Russian intelligence officers travelling to the Czech Republic and to the Czech Republic’s responsibility to secure not only its own security but also the security of its allies in the Schengen Area, the BIS aimed to decrease the number of Russian intelligence officers entering the Schengen Area via the Czech Republic.
In 2014, Russian intelligence services focused on Czech power engineering, on issues related to its further development, and on the scientific and technical sector. Russia continued in its attempts to exert influence over the Russian community in the Czech Republic, or more specifically to establish pro-Kremlin organizations and individuals as representatives of the Russian community responsible for the communication with Czech state institutions and bodies.
Intelligence has confirmed that Russia does not consider its ongoing interest in Czech nuclear power engineering as fighting a losing battle. This interest has only become less conspicuous. In 2014, Russian interests in the Czech Republic have broadened (the Temelín and Dukovany nuclear power plants, supplies of nuclear fuel) and include also the State Energy Concept and all entities even indirectly involved in fulfilling the goals of Czech energy policies. Russia started perceiving Czech nuclear power engineering in a broader Central European context aiming to make good use of investments and efforts devoted to creating, managing, stabilizing and future exploitation of networks expanding Russian influence in Central Europe. [In this context see also Russia’s €1 bn lawsuit against Bulgaria over the cancellation of Russia’s contract to build the Belene nuclear plant]
Activities of Russian intelligence officers and their associates in the Czech Republic are in direct contradiction to “expert and knowledgeable” comments claiming the Czech Republic does not have anything of interest to Russian espionage. However, Russia is greatly interested in Czech Republic’s participation in international scientific and technical projects linked to obtaining access to funds from Czech and European grants. This access could be provided by Czech middlemen working with Russia. Russia not only aims to gain competitive advantage over the Czech Republic and the EU but also strives to secure funding for its activities from the Czech Republic and the EU.
In relation to the Ukraine crisis Russia and its sympathizers engaged in white, grey and black propaganda.
Russian methods of exerting influence and spreading propaganda were based on time-tested Soviet practices, i.e. concealing or covering up own (Russian/Soviet) steps and highlighting or demonizing Western reactions1.
Russia has been creating influence and propaganda structures in the Czech Republic over a long period of time. The role of these structures is to promote and protect Russian economic and political interest to the detriment of the interests of the Czech Republic, the NATO and the EU. Russia was able to draw on these structures after the situation in Ukraine deteriorated and did not need to start creating influence structures from scratch.
Russian propaganda in the Czech Republic makes use of a number of tools: from ideologically manipulated citizens supporting Russian propaganda unknowingly, to professionals intentionally working with the Russians.
Unveiling the memorial commemorating Internationalists (March 2014) demonstrated that the Czech public is highly perceptive to [wary of] direct Russian (or other foreign) involvement in the Czech Republic. Russia is well aware of this fact; therefore, Russian-language propaganda related to the Ukraine crisis spread by Russian (state and non-state) actors did not play a major role in the Czech Republic. However, the Czech public was and is greatly influenced by Czech pro-Russian organizations and individuals using websites to present their interpretations of Russian stances. The arguments are put forward in a way leading Czech citizens to believe they are recipients of opinions held by fellow citizens, not of Russian propaganda. On the one hand, a part of the Czech public is willing to protest a memorial commemorating Soviet occupants – internationalists from 1968, but on the other hand it defends the Russian occupation of Crimea and the presence of Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine.
In general, Russian and pro-Russian propaganda in the Czech Republic and other EU member states is aimed not only against the integrity of the EU and NATO.
It is assessed that Russia is creating a structure in Europe drawing on the concept of the Comintern (the Communist International; the Third International) founded by the Soviet Union.
This structure is ideologically based on Dugin’s expansionist Neo-Eurasianism2 (which is in a way acceptable to all European political parties, from left-wing extremists and populists to right-wing extremists).
The Comintern was founded in Moscow in 1919 with the goal of protecting the Soviet Union by exporting the revolution to neighboring states, i.e. weakening potential enemies by internal disputes and creating a buffer zone of befriended (or more precisely subordinated) states around the Soviet Union. The Comintern became a tool used for promoting Soviet influence and interests beyond the borders of the Soviet Union by controlling communist parties abroad (in 1928 the Comintern had 580 000 foreign members), spreading propaganda3, covertly financing communist parties abroad4, and by serving as an important and successful espionage platform. The Comintern employed skillful Soviet intelligence officers (e.g. acting under cover as academics or journalists) [see story on prof. Georgy Gavrish in Greece] who recruited young people (especially students with the potential of pursuing a career as civil servants or politicians) helping Soviet espionage activities. The recruiters exploited the ideological naivety, zeal or activism of the young people they targeted. The recruits were not requested to spy against their country, but asked to help in the fight against Fascism (Nazism, Imperialism, etc.) – a relevant issue even today with Fascism, Nazism and Imperialism joined by anti-American, anti-NATO and anti-EU sentiments.
The current international, political and societal climate is very close to that of the 1930’s – the golden era of the Comintern5.
It is assessed that the functioning and administration of the new reincarnation of the Comintern (NRI) is not as strict (almost military-like) as in the case of the original Comintern. However, this does not mean the NRI has lesser propaganda and espionage capabilities than the Comintern. The NRI being a more liberal and activist platform is attractive for today’s Western activists (with pro-Russian stances or fighting against the system – USA, NATO, EU, globalization, multiculturalism, liberalism, capitalism, etc.). [see “Anti-fascist support center” for Ukraine, promoted by Workers’ World] Even though the NRI does not have the capability of creating a traditional espionage network (agent – handler – the center) as was the case of the Comintern, it has great potential for recruiting active informants.
In 2014, the BIS did not detect any activities of Ukrainian intelligence services aimed against the Czech Republic and its interests or with a harmful effect on the international status and good name of the Czech Republic. Furthermore, there are no indications of Ukrainian intelligence services engaging in activities aiming to destabilize political, societal and ethnic relations in the Czech Republic.
In 2014, Chinese intelligence services focused on gaining influence in Czech political and state structures and on political intelligence. These activities were actively aided by several Czech citizens, including politicians and civil servants.
1 An example from history: Step: the basing of Soviet SS-20 missiles – Reaction: the basing of American Pershing II missiles.
2 Expansionists believe that Russian interests are to be promoted by expanding beyond Russia’s western and eastern borders. They advocate a radical foreign policy aiming to secure the safety and dominance of the Russian Federation. Russia is perceived as a culturally anti-Western state aiming for constant expansion.
Russia’s geopolitical and strategic goals are not only regaining control over the near abroad and re-establishing alliances with Eastern and some Western European states (France, Germany), but also creating a new global geopolitical system based on alliances with those willing to stand up to U.S. hegemony.
3 Radio-telegram, illegal Communist Party in the Protectorate (September 8, 1939): “The current war is imperialistic and unjust. The fault lies with the bourgeoisie of all the countries at war. The working class and communist parties must never support this war /…/ of two groups of capitalist countries fighting for world rule. The Communist Party must emphasize the imperialist character of this war and speak against the traitorous politics of the Social Democrats.”
President Gottwald’s radio-telegram sent to the I. illegal leadership of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (September 14, 1939): “We call on the communists and the working class to engage in the national liberation fight, and to oppose the resistance movement supporting Benes’ exile group which is in the service of imperialism and enemies of the Soviets.”
4 E.g. Osip Piatnitsky organized the covert financing of the Communist Party USA via straw companies.