One of the largest and most complex intelligence operations in Soviet history occurred in the early 1980’s, when the Soviet KGB and Soviet military intelligence were entrusted with carrying out Operation Nuclear Missile Attack, also known as Operation RYAN.
The purpose of Operation RYAN was to collect intelligence on potential contingency plans of the Reagan administration to launch a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. The program was initiated in May, 1981, by Yuri Andropov, then head of the KGB.
The Soviet Union was worried about U.S. preparations for a nuclear strike against the USSR and they needed to develop a strategy to counter such an attack.
At the time, Soviet leadership fears drastically increased after anti-Communist Ronald Reagan came to power and toughened U.S. policy towards the USSR.
As part of the operation, Soviet intelligence agents living outside Warsaw Pact countries greatly increased their espionage activities in anticipation of an attack by the U.S. Soviet leadership set up surveillance to watch the people who had the authority to give orders to launch a nuclear missile attack or who were responsible for launching ballistic or cruise missiles.
In addition, the Soviets consistently spied on senior officials in the air force command of NATO countries.
The Soviet spying was so sophisticated that they set up a whole network of “sleeper” agents who were supposed to spring into action in the event of a nuclear war.
In 1984, the USSR pulled the plug on this costly operation following the deaths of those who had originally launched it.
The fact is, the Soviets were able to pull off a massive espionage operation that included agents in many different countries who were ready to act at a moments notice.
This operation is simply one example of the strength and magnitude of the Soviet Union to carry out sophisticated espionage operations. With that being said, here are the biggest reasons why Russia is successful at spying and why we need to keep our eye on them.
Smartly incompetent. Many of Russia’s recent intelligence “failures” actually haven’t been total failures. In fact, Russia is very good at propaganda, including letting the world know exactly what they want them to know.
For example, some espionage experts believe that the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and campaign manager Paul Manafort, deliberately left a “trail of bread crumbs… leading from Trump Tower to the Kremlin.”
In other words, the operation was meant to be discovered to achieve Vladimir Putin’s goal of creating turmoil within the American government.
Human intelligence. The Russians are extremely skilled when it comes to human intelligence. The reason is because they develop good sources within their target countries and they focus on targets who they can convince to share their ideological plans with.
What I mean is, most spies attempt to find a person’s vice, such as money, alcohol, or women. While the Russians do this as well, they also are very skilled in convincing people to “join their cause.”
Russian spies may tell their assets that they want world peace and that they are fighting for all mankind as a way to convince the person to work for them. These spies have a lot of patience.
Fake news. All countries lie or create what we now call fake news. The Russians are much better at doing this compared to other countries. When it comes to Russia, a good rule of thumb is they are always guilty of doing that which they accuse their opponent of doing.
In other words, if the Russian government says X, well they’re lying and they’re lying for a particular reason. They want us to be duped into thinking that X is the reality, when in fact, it’s Y.
There is no question that spying between the U.S. and Russia will always be on-going.
The good thing is, when it comes to technological intelligence, the U.S. is years ahead of them, however, Russia knows their strengths and will continue to recruit assets based on their in-person skills.