How to catch a Russian spy?
It is actually very easy. Every time Kremlin creates international crisis, a damage control operation starts. Since those crises are usually very serious, Russia’s FSB and GRU are allowed what is called "to burn agents." Instructions are sent to all spies, agents, assets and sleepers to deal with the critical issue by all available means, even with the risk to open yourself to public and foreign intelligence agencies as a Russian spy.
There were several international crises created by Putin recently. Let us name them:
- Murder of Alexander Litvinenko, November 2006
- Invasion of Georgia, August 2008
- Invasion of Ukraine, March-April 2014
- Russian interference into US presidential elections of 2016
- Poisoning of Sergei and Julia Skripal, March 2018
- And the latest: poisoning of Alexei Navalny, happening now.
So, when you need to catch a suspected spy, all you need to do is to ask him (or her) a question: what does he (or she) think about these events.
If the person of interest is a Russian spy, asset or agent, their answers would be along the following lines:
- There is no proof that Litvinenko was poisoned by Putin. Indeed, Russians would never be so stupid to use radioactive poisoning. This was probably done by Putin’s enemies to damage Putin’s image abroad.
- It is not clear what actually happened in Georgia in 2008. It looks that Georgia started the war against its own republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Russia had no choice but to intervene to save people’s lives.
- Crimea always belonged to Russia. Russia has the rights to this territory. People of Crimea wanted to be united with Russia, which desire was confirmed by referendum. The conflict in Eastern Ukraine has nothing to do with Russia and there is no proof that Russia is involved there. We need Russia there to end this internal Ukrainian conflict peacefully.
- There is no proof that Russia interfered in US elections of 2016.
- We do not have any proof that Russia was behind the Skripals’ poisoning. Novichok is produced by some other countries, not just by Russia.
- We haven't had any proof yet; we do not know what exactly happened to Navalny.
But what if you do not have any suspects? How do you catch a spy in this case?
Actually, it is very easy using the Internet. You go on a fishing expedition. You look for those who were giving Russian damage control answers similar to the above. Take, for example, Navalny case and run "Navalny. We have not had any proof yet."
And the answer is: Oops… Bingo! We have a winner! We caught Putin’s spy and that is Donald Trump, the President of the United States of America.
Yuri Felshtinsky is the co-author of Blowing Up Russia with Alexander Litvinenko
And The Age of Assassins with Vladimir Pribylovsky