Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube LinkedIn Telegram

Analyses

NATO, besieged by Russian spies. The Biot case, merely a scene from a longer movie

Spionaj
©  |  
Cursuri gratuite

The latest espionage scandal in Italy, whereby an Italian officer with access to confidential NATO information was caught red-handed while selling secret documents to a Russian military attaché, once again highlights hostile Russian actions against NATO. The resurgence of such activities occurred especially after the Euromaidan and the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014.

Worthy of John Le Carre's novels, the arrest of the Russian spy and of the Italian officer was made after a long period in which the two had been kept under surveillance. In the morning of that day, the Russian military attaché took the subway, wearing a blue hat, to meet the Italian frigate captain Walter Biot in a parking lot next to a supermarket in Rome.

The latter handed the Russian a memory stick with confidential NATO information, including 181 photos of classified documents, nine of which identified as highly sensitive, and another 47 secret NATO documents on the Alliance's operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The United States and Russia already have disputes over intelligence that the Russians allegedly offered the Taliban bounties for the killing of US soldiers in Afghanistan.

Biot made no statement after the incident. Instead, his wife claimed that a mortgage of 286,000 euros and raising four children on a salary of only 3,000 euros per month pushed the Italian captain to such an action that could lead to a sentence of 15 years behind bars.

Italy quickly expelled two Russian diplomats. "On the occasion of the summoning of the Russian ambassador [Sergei Razov] to Italy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, we sent the latter the firm protest of the Italian government and notified it of the immediate expulsion of the two Russian officials involved in this very serious matter", the head of Italian diplomacy Luigi di Maio wrote on his Twitter account.

The same Di Maia also said, at a joint meeting of the foreign affairs committees of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies in Rome, that “it is unacceptable for our naval personnel to be paid for information about NATO. This threatens not only our security, but also the security of the entire Alliance. "

Caught in the act, the only think that the Kremlin said was that it hoped the incident would not ruin the bilateral relations between the two countries.

Accusations: the pandemic, the best cover-up for the Russian intelligence

A year ago, Italy was the European country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Russia then sent 100 military doctors along with a humanitarian convoy of trucks that crossed part of Italy carrying the Russian flag, in a PR demonstration that should have shown the effectiveness of Moscow and the inefficiency of NATO and the EU, accused of being incapable to help its members in crisis situations. Russian propaganda broadcast images of Italians setting fire to the EU flag and hoisting the Russian one. Russian military doctors were less than 50 kilometers away from a NATO base.

Moscow diligently exploited the Italians’ despair and the Brussels’ bewilderment in the face of a new medical and humanitarian crisis of unprecedented magnitude. But even then, however, British political analysts were of the opinion that Russia was, in fact, intensifying its espionage activities in Italy, a theory that was quickly dismissed by the Kremlin propaganda. The allegations came after another scandal, from back in 2018, when the former Russian agent Sergei Skripal was poisoned in a GRU (Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency) operation on British soil that had the West and Russia face new confrontations and a full-fledged diplomatic war. Returning to the present, the recent espionage scandal in Italy could even nullify the agreement between Russia and Italy on the production of the Russian anti-coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V. In early March, an Italian official announced that the Russian vaccine would be produced in Italy, which triggered a new smoldering dispute in the "vaccine war" between Europe and Russia. Everything was planned for June and Russia was already announcing that it was ready to deliver 50 million doses of vaccine to Europe (while only 3.5 million Russians had received two doses of vaccine, accounting for some 2.3% of the 145 million people that Russia has).

However, the Russian experts quoted by the daily Izvestia believe that the incident in Italy will not damage bilateral relations.

"We have already had cases of mutual expulsion of Russian and Western diplomats, but this does not affect Russian-Italian ties in any way," Tatiana Zonova, a professor in the Diplomacy Department at MGIMO University and Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science, told Izvestia

“Of course, such episodes do not help improve the relations, but fundamentally the current situation will not affect anything”, she claims.

A war on the invisible front

In recent years, the confrontation between the West and the East on the special services’ turf has reached levels worthy of the Cold War. Spies are not only active in the Mediterranean Sea, but also in the Black Sea or further north and west. In late March 2021, Bulgarian prosecutors claimed that members of an alleged spy network, which included former and current military intelligence officers, transmitted classified information about Bulgaria, NATO and the EU to an official at the Russian Embassy in Sofia. As a result, the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov called on Russia to cease hostile actions against Bulgaria. "Friendship is friendship, we have always shown it," he added.

Bulgaria was one of the Soviet Union's closest allies during the communist era. Sofia maintains close cultural, historical and economic ties with Russia, which remains the country's main energy partner, but is also a country on which NATO relies to maintain a balance of power in the Black Sea. Bulgaria has expelled six Russian diplomats in the past year and a half, including a military attaché, on suspicion of espionage, which has led to the cooling of traditionally close diplomatic relations between the NATO and EU member country and Moscow. In early 2019, Belgium too was in a similar situation to that of Italy. At the time, the head of the counterintelligence service, Clement Vanderborre, was suspended on charges of spying for Russia via his relationship with a Serbian woman who was working for the Russians.

The German daily Die Welt wrote that, in 2019, the Internal Security Service of the European External Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels urgently warned European diplomats and military against the espionage activities carried out by the Russian and Chinese secret services. According to the security service, quoted by the German publication, there are "about 250 Chinese and 200 Russian spies in the European capital." A similar case occurred in 2016, when the Russian citizen Sergei Pozdnyakov bought classified documents from a former Portuguese special services employee, Frederico Carvalhau Zhila, who was accused of espionage and disclosure of Portugal’s state secrets, another NATO member. Now, against this background of mistrust and suspicion generated by espionage scandals, we also have a worrying repositioning of Russian forces near the Ukrainian borders, but also the deterioration of relations between Washington and Moscow. All this could lead to a new episode of smoldering confrontation between West and East, with the peculiarity that it would overlap with a global pandemic crisis which is far from over.

Also read How Russia’s spy ring only made Bulgaria go in circles

 

 

 

Tags: Russia , USA , spying , EU , NATO
Propaganda de Razboi - Razboi in UCRAINA
Other articles
Narratives of Russian propaganda: from fighting Nazis who use people for human shields, to the war designed to stop the gay parades in Donbas

Narratives of Russian propaganda: from fighting Nazis who use people for human shields, to the war designed to stop the gay parades in Donbas

Among those, the obsession for imaginary “Nazis”, labeling anyone opposing Kremlin policy “traitors”, and criticism against the so-called LGBTQ “ideology”

The Russian independent media about Russia’s significant losses in the war and the changes the conflict has produced in independent and state media

The Russian independent media about Russia’s significant losses in the war and the changes the conflict has produced in independent and state media

Russian experts and the independent media have analyzed the state of the Russian Federation’s army, which is sustaining heavy losses in the war launched against Ukraine. They also write about the obsolete Soviet weapons used by the Russians, which produce casualties among both the civilian population and among the attackers themselves. They also discuss how the war has changed the media landscape in Russia.

From Sofia With Love: Bulgaria-Russia relations are challenged after espionage claims

From Sofia With Love: Bulgaria-Russia relations are challenged after espionage claims

Once Moscow’s most reliable satellite in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria expelled six Russian diplomats for spying since October 2019. Is Sofia trying to step out of Moscow’s shadow, or merely creating a smoke screen for affairs on a different level?

Mădălin Necșuțu

06 Apr 2021
Mădălin Necșuțu

Follow us on Google News

5 minutes read
  • The latest espionage scandal in Italy, whereby an Italian officer with access to confidential NATO information was caught red-handed while selling secret documents to a Russian military attaché, once again highlights hostile Russian actions against NATO. The resurgence of such activities occurred especially after the Euromaidan and the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014.
  • In recent years, the confrontation between the West and the East on the special services’ turf has reached levels worthy of the Cold War. Spies are not only active in the Mediterranean Sea, but also in the Black Sea or further north and west.
  • Now, against this background of mistrust and suspicion generated by espionage scandals, we also have a worrying repositioning of Russian forces near the Ukrainian borders, but also the deterioration of relations between Washington and Moscow. All this could lead to a new episode of smoldering confrontation between West and East, with the peculiarity that it would overlap with a global pandemic crisis which is far from over.
Russian independent media: the Kremlin is willing to sustain heavy losses if that’s what it takes to continue the war in Ukraine
Russian independent media: the Kremlin is willing to sustain heavy losses if that’s what it takes to continue the war in Ukraine

The Russian independent media writes that losses among the ranks of the recently mobilized will soon reach 100 thousand people, but that’s not going to stop Putin. On the contrary, the Russian president will send every young recruit to the frontline as well. Independent journalists also tell the story of a couple recently arrested in Sweden, tied to the Russian military intelligence and the people who poisoned Sergey and Yulia Skripal.

Mariana Vasilache
Mariana Vasilache
01 Dec 2022
Russian independent media: Prigozhin’s sends inmates to war, FSO plans to defend Putin with hypnotists and psychics
Russian independent media: Prigozhin’s sends inmates to war, FSO plans to defend Putin with hypnotists and psychics

The Russian independent media writes that a record-high number of inmates has disappeared from Russian prisons, after having been enrolled by Putin’s friend in the war against Ukraine. On the other hand, focus groups commissioned by the Kremlin reveal that the population opposes the war, contrary to the Kremlin’s wishes. Russian journalists also describe how generals guarding Putin want to use priests, hypnotists and psychics to bolster his protection.

Mariana Vasilache
Mariana Vasilache
25 Nov 2022
Drone wars: from Afghanistan to Ukraine
Drone wars: from Afghanistan to Ukraine

Originally developed as surveillance aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – commonly known as drones – underwent a number of transformations, from aircraft used to carry out tactical airstrikes to weapons included in the arsenal of modern warfare, the same as artillery and aviation. Drones play a key role in the war in Ukraine as well, where in recent weeks they have been primarily used as instruments of terror.

Ionuț Iamandi
Ionuț Iamandi
24 Nov 2022
Russian independent media: Russian emigrants promote Kremlin, Moscow tries to conceal war casualties
Russian independent media: Russian emigrants promote Kremlin, Moscow tries to conceal war casualties

The Russian independent media revealed how Russian emigrants in the United States are being used to promote the Kremlin’s agenda, particularly after the annexation of Crimea and in the context of the war in Ukraine. Independent journalists also noticed that official webpages of Russian authorities did not publish the map of territories annexed in this war, as well as the fact that information on budget spending is now unavailable, preventing the media from estimating war casualties.

Mariana Vasilache
Mariana Vasilache
18 Nov 2022