How Russia trains and deploys spies in the United States and how effective they are
June marks the 11th anniversary of the largest spy scandal in the history of Russia and the United States. As a result of the betrayal of the former colonel of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) of Russia, Alexander Poteyev, the FBI uncovered a network of deeply conspiratorial illegal spies. Many of them lived under false names for decades, successfully passed themselves off as foreigners, and their own children had no idea who their parents really were.
Are the costs of illegal immigrants justified?
The story of two illegal immigrants from the exposed network, Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova, who for a long time lived in the United States under the names of Donald Heathfield and Tracy Lee Ann Foley, formed the basis of the cult series The Americans. Elena Vavilova herself in an interview with ForumDaily described in detail the process of training illegal immigrants: provocative tasks of the KGB, testing the resilience of candidates and at the same time the ability to flexibly adapt to the new environment; long months of studying foreign languages; hone the skills of detecting surveillance, composing ciphers and other techniques useful for espionage.
The same period included numerous checks. For example, they tried to flirt with Elena, testing her "moral strength", and Andrey was instructed to transport an allegedly smuggled cargo from one city to another, then simulating an attack by the recipients of the smuggling. The purpose of such a provocation was to test resilience: whether the candidate will withstand the stress of an extreme situation and whether he can not admit his belonging to intelligence.
Such training takes on average 3-4 years, and no one can reliably say how much it costs the state to train one illegal immigrant. It is only known that scout candidates are selected a separate apartment in Moscow, and instructors work individually with each pair (or with a lone scout). The main emphasis is on learning at least two foreign languages - they study it for many hours every day. Part of the training in Soviet times took place at a special facility - the "dacha", furnished entirely in Western style, with an abundance of American and European household appliances. In a word, an entire industry was involved in the training of illegal immigrants.
At the same time, many experts believe that the benefits that illegal immigrants can bring are disproportionate to the time and resources spent on their preparation. In particular, this is the opinion of the former CIA officer, American cybersecurity specialist Paul Zalaki.
“It's like a lottery: you never know for sure if these people will succeed in taking a serious position or getting close to important sources of information or influence. It is impossible to predict what kind of information they will receive, and whether they will receive it at all. Unlike Soviet intelligence, we tried to focus on specific goals and directed all efforts to achieve them, ”says the former intelligence officer.
In contrast, another CIA veteran, Michael Davidson, believes that the illegal intelligence system should not be underestimated, either during the Cold War, or even today.
“The use of illegal immigrants for decades has brought a lot of benefits to the Soviet and Russian special services. In turn, the openness of Western societies provides significant opportunities for such operations. That is just the strategic damage caused by the "Cambridge Five" and spies among scientists like Klaus Fuchs. Consider how vulnerable our nuclear submarine fleet has become as a result of Walker's spy network. In addition, since the 1930s, there was strong sympathy for the left in the West, and this created excellent conditions for Soviet intelligence to work, ”he recalls.
For two families
Jack Barsky, a former Soviet illegal from East Germany, also estimates the efficiency of illegal immigrants not too high. Born Albrecht Dittrich, at the height of the Cold War, he went to the West under the name of the American Jack Barsky, who died as a child, on the instructions of the KGB. Albrecht-Jack's story unique in that he became the first Soviet illegal defector who refused to return, and at the same time managed to avoid both the revenge of the KGB and the arrest of the FBI. For almost 20 years he lived in the United States under an assumed name and led a double life, torn into two countries and two families, unaware of each other's existence.
“KGB defector Vasily Mitrokhin in his book does not mention a single case when illegal immigrants would have achieved impressive results. The successes of Soviet intelligence are not explained by them, but by the fact that the KGB has valuable sources in the United States from among the real Americans. They were the ones who stole the atomic secrets and handed them over to the Soviet Union, ”Barsky explains.
At the same time, Jack assures: for him personally, life under someone else's disguise was not such a difficult task as it might seem from the outside.
“Firstly, I had a strong ideological motivation. In addition, in many ways I remained myself, slowly integrating into American society. My first job as a bicycle courier, on which I spent two years, was very helpful in adaptation, since the people with whom I had to deal were mostly ordinary people who did not pose a danger to me. However, communicating with them, I understood what it means to be American, ”he says. Realizing that it was impossible to obtain valuable information in this way, the Soviet spy went to college, and then to the university. He became a programmer, achieved the "American Dream", but never got into serious political circles.
According to Jack, the psychological characteristics of a candidate for the role of an intelligence officer, primary in the selection of the KGB, are the ability to concentrate, courage, ingenuity, curiosity and the ability to work with people. At the same time, espionage also requires very "tough" qualities, for example, coldness and the ability to cope with simple human affections.
“As for the impossibility of living my real life, to be honest - at that time I was not so sensitive. I was able to leave the woman I truly loved in Germany and managed to hide my feelings so deeply that I didn't really think about her while working in the USA. In fact, there is nothing to be proud of here. Maybe this ability was due to the fact that as a child I did not receive unconditional love from my parents. Of course, now I have changed, and I allow myself to feel and be in harmony with my feelings. But I am still very sorry that at one time I left my wife and son in Germany, ”the former illegal admits.
The price of a double life
In this case, psychologist Olga Podolskaya believesthat the ability to suppress one's true feelings, even if at first glance it is easily perceived by intelligence officers, is actually very expensive for the psyche.
“The situation in which people say one thing and feel differently causes cognitive dissonance. The only thing that is available to a person in such a state is, perhaps, the intellectual joy of victory, but even it is not felt throughout the body. Therefore, even if a person's psyche copes with such a state (and such people, as a rule, have a very high-resource psyche), sooner or later their body cannot withstand, and what is called a "somatic collapse" begins: a stream of physical diseases one after another ... Constant life in cognitive dissonance requires very large resources, and the body begins to take them out of the body, ”says Olga Podolskaya.
The fact is that the most reliable way to restrain feelings is to breathe less deeply, which inevitably affects health.
“The person seems to want to breathe, but he holds his breath. When we inhale, the intercostal muscles and diaphragm relax, the inner space of the chest expands, the lungs expand and fill with air. When a person holds his breath, the intercostal muscles contract, respectively, neuralgia and muscle spasms occur. Internal organs that are in contact with the diaphragm are also pinched, including the stomach, gallbladder and duodenum, which often causes gastritis and other diseases of internal organs, ”the psychologist warns.
In addition, according to Olga, the constant stress of cognitive dissonance leads to a deterioration in the blood supply to internal organs, and primarily affects the digestive system. In a word, the price of espionage "romance" is sometimes prohibitively high.
By the way, CIA veterans suspect that illegal intelligence can be used today. Be that as it may, the romance of this topic makes it invariably attractive to writers and filmmakers as well as to ordinary people.
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