A top Russian intelligence officer charged in a newspaper interview published yesterday that foreign intelligence agencies are stepping up their activities in Russia as part of a broader effort to exploit the country’s current economic and political weakness. Lt. Gen. Valery Pechenkin, the head of the Russian Federal Security Service’s (FSB) counterintelligence operations, told the newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta that Western intelligence services have been acting "pointedly, harshly, and aggressively" to recruit Russian citizens in order to obtain confidential information about Russia’s army and its military technology. Pechenkin provided few details, but did repeat earlier claims by the FSB that, since the beginning of 1996, it has uncovered and halted the espionage activities of some 30 foreign intelligence professionals and more than 60 Russians recruited by them. (AP, Interfax, May 8) The FSB is Russia’s domestic counterintelligence service and the main successor to the Soviet KGB.
Ironically, only two days prior to Pechenkin’s interview the Clinton Administration’s nominee to head the CIA said that the U.S. may have shifted too much of its espionage activity away from Russia. George Tenet, testifying on May 6 before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that he favors a review of the agency’s policy in that regard. According to Tenet, the U.S. "cannot afford complacency" with regard to Russia and China so long as there is uncertainty about their future political development or about the "fate of the nuclear weapons they control." Tenet, 44 years-old and the CIA’s deputy director for the past two years, seems set to face clear sailing in his confirmation process, something that was not true of the Clinton Administration’s first nominee for the CIA post, former national security adviser Anthony Lake. (Reuter, May 6; The Washington Post, May 7)
Ukraine Looks to Iron Out Differences with NATO.