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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Official: Former KGB Targets Germany

The head of Germany's counterintelligence service has accused Russia of espionage of Cold War proportions, and of targeting Germany because of its key role in NATO.


Hansjoerg Geiger, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said in an interview published Monday in Germany's weekly news magazine Der Spiegel that Russia's intelligence services are competing with each other to infiltrate the German economic and political establishment.


"Competition invigorates business but in this case that can't be what we want," he said. "If Germany strongly supports the Russians financially, it can expect not to be spied on."


Geiger said Russian spies in Germany were disproportionately active, referring to a December speech by Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, then head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, in which he said NATO was a prime target for spying, due to Moscow's opposition to its Eastern Europe expansion.


"The important thing is to alert certain people, particularly companies trading with Russian firms or engaged in joint ventures," Geiger said. "One mustn't be naive; rather one should know that former KGB officers are active in many of these firms."


After more than three years of low funding and relative impotence, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service has been struggling to find a purpose that the government will recognize, said Mark Galeotti, a Russian security specialist at the University of Keele in England.


"Foreign intelligence is increasingly driven not by security issues but by institutionalized politics," Galeotti said. "The growth area is whatever interests and excites those who are paying the budget."


Galeotti said that with private and state interests frequently overlapping, economic espionage is increasingly carried out in the name of security.


"The foreign intelligence forces are saying, 'we're being bought off so that all our secrets are flowing westward and we can't fight back on economic terms, but we can fight back with information,'" Galeotti said. "They see this as an edge that's in the interests of the state."


While Europe was by no means a threat to Russian security, part of the Intelligence Service's attachment to it, according to Galeotti, was simply habit.


"The Foreign Intelligence Service was designed to combat Western Europe. It sounds a crass point to make but people prefer to do what they're used to," he said.


"And where would your average agent prefer to be posted? Paris or Dakar?"