SVR harassment strategies and countermeasures
It is perhaps not surprising that a country so obsessed with government by intelligence institutions as Russia has one of her larger intelligence institutions devoted principally to two interrelated tasks:
harassing foreigners of significance, including foreign agents of other intelligence services, diplomats, politicians and busines people; and
encouraging persons in the same categories to defect to Russia and to become agents of the Russian Federation.
The way these two tasks are interrelated may be obvious but it is worth spelling it out. The SVR is in some ways highly methodical (and in other ways not very much so). The SVR identifies lists of foreign persons that it considers have the potential to defect and to act as agents for Russia. Their approximate list of categories is this:
Persons who speak Russian
Persons who have lived in Russia or have travelled to it a substantial amount
Persons who have Russian friends and colleagues
Persons who have or have had Russian girlfriends or wives
Persons who have family in Russia (or whose family have lived in Russia)
Persons who work for Russian companies or Russian clients
People who demonstrate an understanding of Russian culture
People with extreme political views at odds with the prevailing consensus in their country of residence
Persons exhibiting sympathies with the values symbols or political ideology of the Soviet Union
People compromised by their participation in corrupt Russian business practices
People embittered by their level of education, professional achievement, financial success or institutional acceptance
People embarrassed by their sexuality and existing or prior sexual activity
People with known Kompromat upon them about which they have shown significant embarrassment
Persons with extreme drug addictions such that their daily lives are in substantial part driven by the imperative to acquire money to spend on drugs
Persons engaged in prostitution or similar sexual cycles to those of prostitutes
The most sophisticated criminal gang managers
They are generally looking for people of high or very high professional classes. The SVR doesn't recruit foreign mercenaries. They recruit foreign intellectuals for the most part. However the SVR is serially incompetent. Only very rarely do they catch the biggest fish of all. That is because the very cleverest people see through it, after having read the briefest of manuals such as this one.
In all cases the recruitment strategy is the same: harass; pressurise; recruit; blackmail.
So you start by making the targets' lives unpleasant in various ways; this is the harassment stage. Typical harassment strategies are:
If they are believed that they may be homosexual, approaching them with homosexual proposals to obtain their participation in compromising acts of sex.
Securing recordings of their participation in sex acts, and then threatening to release these things go family members
Bugging toilets or bedrooms to record people masturbating
Sending images of their doing compromising things to their electronic equipment
Poisoning them with dangerous and unpleasant but non-lethal toxins
Trailing them overty
Applying light physical violence to them in their daily routines, in the hope of intimidating them or making them scared
Leaving traces of the person's financial transactions that they might be embarrassed about in a place where that person is likely to find them.
Circulating anonymous defamatory correspondence to a person's professional or personal acquaintances.
Honey trap sexual operations that are then rendered more complex by the introduction of a potentially aggressive or violent 'pimp' who demands money
Bugging lavatories in bars, restaurants and other places to create records of drug use
Creating bogus business meetings the purpose of which is to record the person saying something unlawful or otherwise improper (this may take place over several meetings or even over months)
After a person has become rattled by the harassment, they start being pressed into doing things that they would not ordinary do, typically by making payments that have become financially important to the victim conditional upon a sliding scale of increasingly illegitimate actions. This is the point at which the victim is likely to become quite rich: the incentive to do improper things may be lubricated by large amounts of money. (The Russians have huge budgets to spend on this stuff), and they are very capable profilers who will calculate a target's "price point" by reference to all sorts of things such as his expenditure, modesty, generosity, associates, family background and all sorts of other things. If they consider it necessary to pay big to get a big fish, they will do. But it is always a drip, whether big or small. Drip-act-drip-act-drip.
Then they recruit, either knowingly to the victim, unknowingly, or pretending it is something else altogether. And they settle into a stable regime of the target doing what they want him or her to do.
Then they start reducing the money, to make the target proverbially starve and be dependant upon them. Then when the target complains, they reduce the money and threaten them. Eventually one of the following things happens. (a) A top western Rusiia-expert counter-intelkigence operative intervenes more or less discreetly to terminate the relationship of exploitation. (b) The target finds the inner strength to walk away and expose themselves and the agents running him or her. (c) The target becomes a double agent, running Russian secrets back to his or own home country. (d) The target is caught by his own side, and flees to Moscow where he is given an apartment or a pension. (e) The target becomes sufficiently wiley and knowledgeable him or herself to turn the tables on the Russians, who when they find out they will abandon him. () The target dies through suicide or self-neglect).
Finally we should observe that Russian commercial structures are run on very similar lines, including interactions with foreign professionals such as lawyers and bankers. This might explain that, hydrocarbons aside, Russian capitalism is such a rotten failure. All you need to break the Russian system of government is to keep oil and gas prices low enough for long enough, and the Russian state will go bankrupt becauze insufficient other genuine economic activity in the country. Unfortunately, with the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has managed to engineer an outcome that entails that the Russian state will be solvent indefinitely.
The core counter-measures points are the following.
Fighting a concerted harassment strategy is very time consuming but it must be done or one's own agents will get the sense that they are being abandoned and one's own intelligence structures will start to fall apart.
Keep lists of vulnerable people and keep tabs on them to make sure they are okay and they are not intervacying with the SVR. If they are doing so, often unwittingly, warn them and offer them support. Most people do not know how to respond to blackmail. Skilled counter-intelligence agents do. Convey their knowledge to the target.
Don't be afraid to spend money to extract a target. A high value target is being funded by the Russians precisely because they are very valuable to them. This means the extraction price is worth paying. You don't want your own good people being run by the Russians.
Remember that the other Russian intelligence agencies don't like the SVR. They consider them ill-disciplined, profligate money wasters and not true to Russian intelligence values. Therefore use intelligence contacts in other Russian agencies to undermine SVR work.
Devise plans to make different SVR agents work against one-another; develop competing goals.
Expose the individual SVR agents, as this nullifies the efforts of that cell and the SVR has to go back to Stage 1 and recruit a new cell.
Relentlessly pursue cash flows, blocking accounts where Russian financing appears to be coming from.
Harass them back, but don't make it easy for them to find out who is doing it. Russians are more paranoid about each other than they are about foreigners, and they may start eating themselves.
One important point to note about SVR structures - if it is not by now already obvious - is that they are giant Ponzi schemes of illegitimate pressure, bribery and discipline by withdrawal. Each person in the chain has a number of other people he or she is doing the same thing to; and on it goes. That is why SVR structures can run so deep with just a handful of visible people at the top (visible if you know what you are looking for). People who fall for Ponzi schemes are generally stupid, however; only the ones at the top are (relatively) smart. Therefore you can close down a massive operation - and some of them are massive -.just by publicly executing (we mean proverbially) a handful of people at the top. The rest will then scatter for their lives, afraid of receiving the same fate. Rebuilding the Ponzi triangle once you have taken out the handful of snakes at the top will prove very time consuming and expensive for the SVR, and it may not be possible at all in light of all the exposure.
The pleasure and professional satisfaction in destroying an entire SVR cell or unit is considerable, as you release lots of people; ruin the perpetrator's; and clean up an entire area of society by disrupting Russian influence
The SVR have no mandate to murder foreigners or to cause them physical violence, but they do have a licence to poison people non-lethally or to get them addicted to drugs. They are also authorised to threaten targets and their families. Often they try to get you to beat them up, to obtain Kompromat on you as a violent person! Or they do things aimed at disrupting relations between the target and his or her loved ones, with a view to creating cycles of misery.
After you have dealt with your first few dozen SVR agents, they become dreadfully plain vanilla. They all do the same things. When you find that trusted friends or loved ones are SVR agents, that is very disappointing. Don't try to save them or extract them yourself; you're too engaged. Get another professional to do it.
We at the PALADINS Organization have no respect for the SVR. They are indeed petty amateurs without discipline or principles, and most of their agents are pretty nasty people as a result.
We have substantially more respect for other branches of the Russian intelligence services, even though we loathe the goals and methods they are pursuing. We can work with other Russian intelligence agents. With the SVR we can never genuinely work with them; our actions are only aimed at disrupting their often deep networks.
The SVR are not evil geniuses in the style of Professor Moriarty, presiding over vast criminal networks. They are a self-perpetuatinf bunch of tasteless roughs, that thrive upon being unpleasant to people in order to boost their numbers. Nevertheless in some countries their tentacles do grow deep, and SVR cells may be full of people who don't even know what the SVR is. That is why educational bulletins such as this one are so important.
Let the battle continue. This sort of ugly, sinister human intelligence at the sharp end is an integral part of winning the Second Cold War. It must be clear that if the Russians are trying to run an intelligence operation upon the principles set out in this essay, then they are entirely morally bankrupt as a nation of institutions based upon values, and a rreorehensible actor in international relations.
President Putin, whatever other interests and values you imagine that you stand for, dismantle the SVR. Otherwise we will do it for you