Hitmen gunning down victims in parks in broad daylight. Deaths resulting from acute exposure to weapons-grade nerve agents. Election interference. Covert online influence operations. And sleeper cell intelligence officers. If that list sounds like something out of a movie or thriller novel, it isn’t. Welcome to the new age of Russia’s efforts to influence or otherwise inform Putin’s ongoing battle against the “Main Enemy” — the West.
Gordon Corera’s newly released book, “Russians Among Us“, offers a comprehensive and damning account of Russian intelligence efforts against the West from the Cold War to the present. Using the infamous 2010 sleeper cell “Illegals” program as the backdrop, Corera diligently shines light on the extensive efforts by Russian security services to infiltrate and influence the world around them using clandestine and covert means.
While by no means alarmist, this book presents the “urgent story” of Russian espionage efforts and makes several things abundantly clear: Deep-cover Russian intelligence officers operate and live in the West and Russian “active measures” are alive and well. And it’s only getting more difficult to mitigate the risk posed from these measures, let alone clearly identify them when employed.
The advent of big data, technology, and the rapid exchange of information may have affected the landscape in which more traditional deep-cover intelligence operations are conducted (e.g. complicating the ability to use more traditional alias cover identification documents). They have also made it slightly more difficult to rely on Cold War-era spycraft alone. However, Russian espionage efforts have evolved to fit the modern environment, and Western services are struggling to keep up.