Brussels had replaced Vienna as the capital of European spies.
In spy novels or films, such as “the Third man” and “bridge of spies”, often featured such European cities as Vienna, Berlin and Brussels, which is where the base of the secret services. But these cities are famous not only for espionage atmosphere, but also for its stunning nature and high standard of living, the newspaper writes Sasapost (translation inosmi.ru).
It is worth noting that the spy conflicts have not ended with the end of the cold war. On the contrary, they intensified thanks to technological advances, globalization and dominance of large corporations such as Facebook and Google, which, among other things, possess these billions of people around the world.
According to Anna Chapman, in comparison with what is happening today, what happened during the “cold war” just a kindergarten. So, known Russian spy had described all the difficulties spyware conflicts in the modern world, comparing them to the twentieth century. But we will focus on one of the most magical regions of the world — the Alps.
Secret base — a mixture of magic and imagination
Cities-centers of espionage has always been associated with the stunning scenery, high standard of living and weak governmental control, like intelligence agencies purposely sought out the ideal working atmosphere for information gathering and planning covert operations.
Thus, Vienna, Brussels and Berlin that perfectly fits all the above criteria. Beautiful nature and a high standard of living attract foreign agents since the days of the cold war, which utilize the potential of European cities for the implementation of espionage. By the way, foreign intelligence agencies have recently begun to use a city in the French Alps, but not yet as a permanent “spy base”.
Brussels, watch out, Russians are listening
In August 2018, Brussels has hit the headlines after reports that the UK is spying on high-ranking officials of the European Union, trying to obtain information about the plans of the EU towards Brexit (British exit from the EU). Thus, the scandal recalled the image of the Belgian capital as a reference punctata of conducting espionage activities.
It is no secret that many foreign intelligence agencies are collecting the necessary information in Brussels as the Belgian capital is the headquarters of the EU and NATO. For example, intelligence services and security of the Middle East countries and African States gather in Brussels information on the many diasporas living in Europe and influence policy.
In June 2018, the head of Austrian intelligence Peter Gridling stated unequivocally: “Brussels had replaced Vienna as the capital of European spies.” In fact, in Brussels there was always a wide spy network, but increase the number of spies in the Belgian capital to do with stunning scenery and a high standard of living, but with the increased importance of the EU and NATO.
“The cold war is back. Today in Brussels works more spies than before the fall of the Berlin wall (before 1989),” — said a senior Belgian intelligence, who wished to remain anonymous.
A former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman said: “it is Impossible to prevent the penetration of spies in Brussels. You just always have to remember that Russians and Chinese are listening to what you say in this town. In my office in Brussels is constantly looking for any listening device. By the way, once before bed, I said Goodnight to those who is listening to me”.
It should be noted that not only Russian and Chinese spies are present in Brussels. In 2003, former special agent Edward Snowden gave the public information about how electronic surveillance of U.S. intelligence, including about the illegal wiretapping of European leaders and NATO officials.
Vienna is a city of 7,000 spies where allowed by law espionage!
According to a senior staff member of the Austrian intelligence, Vienna for a long time been a reliable base for foreign spies. It is curious that in a city with a population of 1.8 million people and employs more than 7,000 spies.
In July 2010 the US and Russia chose the Vienna airport, where for the first time since the cold war exchanged caught spies. Washington has given Moscow 10 Russian agents, led by Anna Chapman, in exchange for four American agents, who were in prison on charges of spying for the United States.
By the way, the exchange of spies was not, as during the cold war, when spies passed on dark nights under the guise of armed soldiers. It was rather similar to the usual exchange of prisoners, which took place at the airport in the Austrian city, known as the European capital of espionage.
Vienna has long had a reputation as the center of espionage activity. For example, the Nazis gathered most of the information about the regions of southern and Eastern Europe in the Austrian capital. With the beginning of the cold war the city became an ideal place for espionage activities due to the large number of refugees from neighbouring States. Incidentally, the capital of Austria appeared in the film “the Third man”, which is considered the most famous spy film made by the British in 1949.
In Vienna there is everything that facilitates the work of the security services and the life of spies: amazing nature, delicious food, reasonable prices and very comfortable conditions for conducting espionage activities. In Austria you can spy on anyone, unless it threatens national security in accordance with the law, which has not changed since the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed in 1918. By the way, there is another thing that increases the value of the Austrian capital is the presence of embassies of almost all countries of the world, the headquarters of the UN and 40 other international organizations.
In 2018 in Vienna burst into a huge spy scandal. The Austrian authorities said that the conduct of the investigation against retired Colonel of the Austrian army, the suspect in the transfer of Russian military intelligence of the state secrets of the country. This suggests that Moscow has a wide spy network in Austria.
The Austrian retired Colonel twenty years of spying for Moscow, especially during the period when held a senior position at the foreign Ministry in Vienna. It every two weeks been in touch with his contact in the Russian intelligence, “Yuri” and passed him secret documents. This situation is a usual phenomenon in the capital, swarming with foreign agents.
Alpes — temporary or permanent base?
In December, the French newspaper Le Monde reported on the basis of GRU spies in the French Alps. According to the newspaper, at least 15 GRU officers used the Upper Savoy as a base for operations across Europe, in particular, for the attempted murder of a former double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK.
British, French and Swiss intelligence services had initiated an “unprecedented” operation to search for Russian spies, which managed to establish the names of 15 Russian agents belonging to the division 29155 of the training center of intelligence, the GRU.
Russian GRU unit used Upper Savoy as a base from 2014 to 2018, due to the proximity to the Swiss and Italian borders. The Russian spy network covering Chamonix, Evian and Annemasse. It is also noted that Russian agents were acting in Bulgaria, Moldova, Montenegro and other countries.
According to the French edition, these 15 Russian spies came to France, — some once, some regularly — in the period from 2014 to 2018. They used the reputation of the famous ski resort, to conceal his espionage activities.
According to Le Monde, the Russians Alexander Petrov, Ruslan Bashirov, Sergei Fedotov , and Sergey Pavlovwho is suspected of attempted murder Skripal, has repeatedly called for the Upper Savoy. Western intelligence agencies have been unable to find any traces of the work of these agents in France. According to them, the above-mentioned persons performed activities like shopping, trips to restaurants and walks in the fresh air.
According to French officials, the Russians used Upper Savoy as a base for covert operations division 29155 in Europe. After the publication of the article in Le Monde, Western intelligence agencies have initiated a new investigation into the case of poisoning Skripal, which occurred in the British city of Salisbury in March 2018. Recall that Britain and its allies have accused the Kremlin of attempted murder of a former employee of the GRU with the help of nerve agents, but Russia strongly denied any involvement in the poisoning Skripal.
For its part, the expert of the analytical center of Prague Europeam Martin Michelot said: “In the coming days, the French authorities will actively to oppose Russia, and even can expel Russian diplomats. Clearly, French intelligence leaked the information about the Russian spy network newspaper Le Monde, thus sending a message to the Kremlin that the movement of Russian agents watch closely. In addition, I think that the publication of this article were part of a deliberate strategy of the French”.
However, the use of the French Alps as a “home base” for espionage activities cannot be considered as an attempt to replace the native spy the city — Vienna, and Brussels — French ski resorts, so that the presence of Russian spies in this region in 2014-2018 served to divert attention of Western intelligence agencies. By the way, after the publication of the article in Le Monde, the Russians are unlikely to continue to use this region.
Good geographical position, proximity to the headquarters of international organizations and ease of movement always played a major role in choosing a “home base” for any foreign intelligence services, therefore, the French Alps is a good choice for a spy base, as well as Vienna, Brussels and Berlin.
We must recognize that espionage will only increase in light of the growing differences in opinion between Russia and the West. Technological progress will contribute to the emergence of modern spy technology and the emergence of new “rear bases”, as in the case of the French Alps, and perhaps in the future suddenly appear spy base in other regions. In other words, the escalation of tensions between Russia and the West will force the Russians to actively engage in espionage.