GRU is "unlucky" in Georgia
22/11/2010 12:42
Experts' Club

Thus, the most anticipated event of the beginning of November was left behind. The advancely-announced spy scandal has passed, leaving a wide field for speculation, assessments and opinions. The media has exhausted this issue and moved on to other important events. Fortunately nobody started to "warm up" the topic. It is now possible to tell with clarity: presence of Russian agents in Georgia has surprised no one. And why would it have done so? Two states that have broken diplomatic relations and are practically in a state of war with each other are simply obliged to spy on each other. It is quite clear that 15 detained individuals who worked for security services of Russia (two of them have concluded plea-bargain agreement, 13 were arrested) are only a small part of agents that Russia keeps here. And one can only guess how many agents are "under surveillance", how many are poured necessary information to, how many of them are double agents ... All of this is usual routine of security services, usually hidden from the public.

In the course of this routine a very important stage of the investigation is taking place now. It is to be accurately determined basis for recruitment of agents by Russian intelligence in each case. For example, it could be financial interest, blackmail, and fear of using compromising evidence, a combination of factors or ideological motives that is least likely. Specific areas of interest and direction of work of the Russian agents will be determined. Most importantly, specific persons who knowingly or unknowingly conveyed information to spy network are being established. Investigation materials will become preventive measures to persons who still maintain illusions regarding their contacts in Moscow. Results of the operation Enver and conclusions that were made as a result of it will enable Georgian security services to work more purposefully so that in the future enemy forces will feel that they are dealing with a serious opponent.

But illusions are no longer nourished in Moscow. Times when Russian security services felt at home in Georgia are long gone. They had a lot of covers and a solid base in the form of Tbilisi headquarters of group of Russian troops in Transcaucasus and military bases in Vaziani, Akhalkalaki and Batumi, as well as all associated infrastructure. Russian agents were used to get by with virtually no cover and were simply taken aback when first politely, and then not so much, were shown the door. Georgia had to teach Russia a few sensitive lessons. The latter snapped, started the entire espionage and subversive war in 2006, with centre in the Shida Kartli (that culminated in the terrorist attack near the district administration of the Interior Ministry in Gori). As a result, Russians were forced to calm down and, patching up gaps in its ranks, to start a new stage of subversive activities. However, for GRU that has always been distinguished by absence of flexibility and rigidity, apparently it has become quite a challenge not only to introduce any innovations into their actions, but even to comply with mandatory rules of secrecy for security services, which led to deplorable results of their activities.

A stage was new, but also new was a reaction of the Russian side on failures of their agents. It acquired predictably sluggish nature. If previously trade embargoes were imposed, persecution of Georgians living in Russia was carried out now the Foreign Ministry of Russia got off with routine rhetoric about "political farce" and "anti-Russian hysteria." Only Duma member Kosachev went further and quite directly threatened Georgians that "Russia does not abandon its citizens." Why else a member of the Duma has a tongue if not to voice what those in the power cannot. But in general, Moscow has not overstepped too much beyond the bounds of decency, or it would have looked even funnier against the background of humility which in the recent period it showed during capture and deportation of its people from the U.S. and several European countries.

It is this trend that is significant and not the single fact of another failure of Russian agents in Georgia. This last case is not remarkable. Georgian "specialists" were considered among the best in the Soviet Union. Having adopted their experience, as well as studying Western methods current Georgian security services have developed. Today, it is probably just data base they cannot compete with their Russian counterparts in. On the other hand a series of failures of the Russian agents abroad is very remarkable, and indicates complete collapse of processes started by Vladimir Putin during his presidency. A person for whom the collapse of the USSR was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the XX century, once in power began to strengthen intelligence services, of which he came out. He achieved some successes, but today whatever he achieved is collapsing like a sand castle. Reasons for this are plenty and even in Moscow they are well aware that only a change of entourage does not mean reform. But those who are understands this are not allowed close as those in power feel that in this case, first of all, they will have to abandon imperial ambitions and this will finally bury the Kremlin's policies.


A large number of agents in such a small but important section as military aviation of Georgia probably gave analysts much to think about. Such number of agents is not justified either in classic sense of conspiracy, or in terms of operational appropriateness, either on the basis of material and financial considerations. This question will be easy to answer for those who are deeply familiar with the nature of Soviet security services "worthy" successors of which are Russian security services, where the number of recruited agents has traditionally been decisive in assessing outcome of operative worker or operational unit.

Intelligence information, acquiring of which was distributed between pilots is pretty solid and give rise to fair questions: whether the detainees accused of espionage had access to classified information? Maybe they used also other methods for acquiring this information? All this will be determined by the investigation. In addition, if we continue in this direction, with high probability we can assume that GRU senior officials that are sunk in a swamp of corruption did not care about either operational suitability, or expenses of the state. The main and most important thing for them was personal financial interests that are taken into account "at the expense of financial provision of agents embedded on enemy territory in a major structure of the defence ministry. If one considers the fact that funds "written off" as activities of agents will be much more than was spent in reality, it is easy to imagine in what mood are now these gentlemen not only in respect of past, but also future "losses" if the Georgian counter-intelligence will continue to be active.

But, no matter how some pseudo-experts who have seen a live agent, except that in the movie laugh, the fact remains that, a difficult period started for Russian secret services that have been actively operating in Georgia. The process of identifying their agents continues and it acquired irreversible nature. This process is, of course, cannot be done without mistakes but it should not become a cause for ridicule. It is much easier to lie in wait and give out "wise" opinions than actually to things.

After 2006, when the captured GRU officers were expelled from Georgia with much fanfare, Tbilisi refrained from such demonstrations. But work did not stop even for a minute and life of security services hidden from the public eye was quite eventful. The current episode again has a demonstrative character. But this time we see not a lot of fanfare and flash of cameras, but subtle mockery. And if journalists easily managed to connect the date of the briefing at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia with the day of Russian military intelligence officer, not many bothered to find coincidence with another date. But "leak" of information about neutralization of spies and announcing the briefing on November 5th occurred a week earlier, on October 29th - birthday of Primakov, the former head of foreign intelligence service who until now remains the curator of "Georgian direction" of foreign intelligence. The time of the "leak" was chosen so that when the news agencies broke the story, Primakov must have been sitting at the dinner table surrounded by his friends. Apart from the birthday boy our other countrymen could have been present at the birthday celebrations.

It should be noted that it is not extremely difficult for Russia to send spies to Georgia, or to recruit agents here. Georgia is open to all its guests. This year, a record number of Russian tourists were noted here. Also the largest tourist group in Georgia are citizens of neighbouring Armenia, where Russia feels very at home. Therefore it is not surprising that representatives of Russian intelligence work in Georgia under a different guise in different time. It is something else that surprises. That too many Georgians are willing to work against their country for the benefit of an enemy state. However, this can be explained by two centuries of being the part of an empire. This background cannot not leave a lot of contacts and relationships that are easily manipulated by skilful people. The problem will be solved with a final change of generations and then only unscrupulous lovers of money will remain. In the meantime, one has to get used to the idea that too many people experience too much nostalgia for the Soviet motherland and cannot view Russia as an enemy. But what's really striking is nihilism of so-called "agents of influence" who do not even consider it necessary to hide their ties with Moscow under the guise of sham, sometimes hastily registered political parties or social organizations taking advantage of protection of democratic norms.

It is clear that these "comrades" must have relationship with Russia from old times. We can assume that they really did something that Moscow can use for blackmail, recruitment and coercion. They could have been offered too much money or prospects and people are weak ... That's why in 2006 the Georgian government called for all those who had any connection with foreign intelligence services, to give themselves up. They are guaranteed incognito and amnesty in exchange for cooperation. Now they once again have a chance to start life anew through recognition of their sins. But will these people have sense and force enough to put an end their betrayal? If not then in the future we should expect new documentaries like "Enver".

In the near future the Club of Experts will present another scandalous "failure" of a GRU officer, when the latter charged with espionage was detained in 1993 during the war in Abkhazia. Unlike today, it was a time when the Kremlin vowed brotherhood with Eduard Shevardnadze, but in reality, armed with a mandate to the UN peacemaker covertly or openly collaborated with the separatist regime of Ardzinba.

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