Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 165

A spokesman for Russia’s Federal Security Service (SVR) on September 4 confirmed media reports that Russia had expelled a 32-year-old Swede in February of this year for serving as a courier in the passing of classified information. The courier, who was identified as Hans Peter Nordstroem, was said to have been working for Swedish military intelligence and was reportedly caught red-handed as he paid a Russian contact $2,000 for a film of secret documents hidden in a Russian matryoshka doll. In a statement that was repeated by Russia’s Foreign Ministry yesterday, the SVR spokesman also said that Moscow had decided not to press charges against Nordstroem out of respect for the friendly relations that exist between Sweden and Russia. (AP, NTV, Interfax, September 4) Contacted by a Swedish radio station while in London, Nordstroem denied having been involved in any espionage operation in Russia. Other Swedish sources reported on September 4 that Nordstroem is employed by a Swedish defense firm. Swedish diplomats yesterday declined to comment on the case. (BBC, September 4)

The SVR spokesman, who had provided no information as to the identity or the fate of the Russian contact, had also said on September 4 that an unnamed top-ranking Swedish diplomat was subsequently expelled from Russia, presumably for his connection to the Nordstroem case. The SVR, in fact, identified him as the coordinator of Swedish intelligence operations in Russia and throughout the CIS. But Russia’s Foreign Ministry yesterday cast some doubt on that portion of the SVR story. A ministry spokesman said that "not a single Swedish diplomat has been announced persona non grata in Russia in recent years." (Itar-Tass, September 5)

The revelations of the past two days were only the latest in a series of recent spy scandals, made public by Russian intelligence authorities, that seem aimed at burnishing the SVR’s image while bolstering its contention that post-Soviet Russia is awash in foreign spies. Indeed, in a long interview published late last month, Russia’s SVR chief claimed that the number of foreign intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover in Moscow and St. Petersburg "has soared." Col. Gen. Nikolai Kovalev pointed to indications that "similar networks are also being organized in other Russian regional centers." In 1995 alone, Kovalev claimed, the SVR uncovered 39 "moles" and prevented over 100 attempts to pass classified information to foreign intelligence services. He also suggested that the SVR would soon make public several other "sensational" cases, including at least one involving the CIA.

During the interview Kovalev also praised the former Soviet KGB and frankly advocated a restoration of its "best traditions." (Vek, No. 34, 1996) His remarks appear to reflect a growing confidence among intelligence professionals that their place in the new Russia is being firmly reestablished. They also reflect a potentially destructive penchant–evident among a seemingly expanding spectrum of Russian elites and nurtured carefully by the intelligence community itself — to blame Russia’s internal problems on the purported machinations of foreign powers.

Balts Circumspect on Talbott Plan.