Russian Spies and European Energy Security

by Roman Kupchinsky

The head of Germany’s counterintelligence organization, the BfV, Burkhard Even told the newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag on June 21, 2009 that the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR, has been actively conducting espionage operations against the German energy sector. “The Russian intelligence services, keeping up with their government’s changing information needs, have intensified efforts in recent years to investigate German firms illegally,” Even said.

The SVR effort is targeting the acquisition of information on alternative and renewable energy and efforts to increase efficiency. European energy interests, diversification plans and Germany’s economic situation are also on the SVR’s shopping list.

The chief of the BfV considers that the Russian secret services have also supported attempts by Russian enterprises to obtain a foothold in the German power sector. Since 1990, natural gas’ share of the German electricity market has more than doubled, from 7 percent to 16 percent and much of this gas is from Russia.

Two years ago, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble presented his ministries 2007 security report in which it states that Russia and China were stepping up espionage efforts and Internet attacks on German companies.

Intelligence and security services are under orders to actively support Russian industry,” said the report, adding that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had renewed that as a goal when he was president.

“The greed of foreign intelligence services … is directed not only at big companies but also at a number of innovative small and mid-sized firms,” the report claimed.

The BfV assertions that the Russian SVR, under the command of former prime minister Mikhail Fradkov is engaged in gathering confidential information about energy diversification plans in Europe should disturb not only the German counterintelligence community, but the EU Commission as well as policy makers in European capitals.

Particularly vulnerable to Russian spying are the new EU member states such as Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania.

The Polish newspaper Fakt reported on October 19, 2004 that:
“They (Russian intelligence services) are implementing the strategy adopted after the collapse of the Soviet Union aimed at making Poland and other countries dependent on Russian energy resources. Their activity has intensified since Putin became Russian president,” says Marek Biernacki. The former Interior Minister points out to another threat: “Polish companies employ former secret service officers as experts. There are no guarantees that these experts are loyal to Poland.”

“Gas, oil, and — most recently — electric energy are the number one target of Russian agents. Russia is seeking to make Poland dependent on its supplies. This would enable it to blackmail any Polish government. The meeting between Vladimir Alganov (accused by Polish authorities of spying for Russia) and [the wealthiest Polish businessman] Jan Kulczyk clearly shows this: the two men discussed not only oil, but also mysterious electricity deals. The Russians earlier did everything they could to control a fiber optic cable that was to connect Russia with the West via Poland.”