Russia’s secret services have shown they are willing and able to operate anywhere in Europe. John Sawers, a former director of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence service, estimates that only about 10% of covert Russian operations are detected. However, we should not allow ourselves to be blinded by this show of strength because, at the same time, it is also a clear sign of weakness.
This is not only because of the services’ many failures and negligence. The fact that, for example, the same officers are deployed again and again is also evidence that resources are limited. Attempts to gain information about US and NATO plans via third countries, at considerable expense and great risk to personnel, show the same. Moreover, the resulting enormous political loss of prestige and sanctions are hardly a sign of a successful outcome.