What is the FSB and what are Russia's methods of recruiting spies according to the FBI?
Tensions between Russia and the West have reached levels not seen since the Cold War and President Putin will likely rely on his intelligence agencies to secure his position.
Multiple European sources report that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered two senior officials in the Federal Security Service (FSB) be detained under house arrest, charged with “providing flawed intelligence about Ukraine”.
Colonel-General Sergei Beseda, head of the FSB’s Operational Information Department, and his deputy, Anatoly Bolyuk, appear to have been cast as villains in Putin’s attempts to justify the need for expansion in Europe.
They are not the only ones to have come under pressure as the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine falters. Ukraine’s national security council chief Oleksiy Danilov has claimed that several Russian military generals have been fired in recent weeks.
What is the Russian Federal Security Service?
The FSB, known as the Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti in Russian, was one of a number of intelligence agencies formed after the break-up of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The Soviet-era KGB was responsible for counterintelligence, antiterrorism and military surveillance and the FSB is housed in the KGB’s former headquarters in Moscow.
The FSB was founded in 1995 by then-President Boris Yeltsin, who actually expanded the agency’s powers. Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin as FSB Director in 1998 and he used its wide remit to tackle organised crime in Russia and brutally suppress Chechen separatists.
The FSB is the largest security service in Europe and is a key tool in Putin’s arsenal as he looks to maintain a tight grip on Russian society.
Douglas London, a lecturer in intelligence studies at Georgetown University and former officer in the CIA’s Clandestine Service, describes the FSB as Putin’s “principal source of power and protection, not merely at home, but also across the former Soviet states.”
He adds: “His reorganization of the FSB from the KGB’s ashes should have told us precisely the direction he planned to take.”
How does Russia recruit spies in the United States?
The process of recruiting spies is extremely time-intensive and the methods used are shrouded in secrecy. However a 2015 US court case involving the FBI outlined the tactics used by three Russian intelligence agents to recruit spies.
The court case centred around efforts purportedly made by Russian operatives to recruit Carter Page, a former foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump during his successful presidential election campaign. Page was never confirmed by the agency to have been the focus of the approach, but he has acknowledged that the documents in question relate to him as the target of recruitment.
CNN has obtained documents submitted by the FBI during the course of the trial and outlined three stages to the recruitment process.
Step One: Building a Relationship – Agents assess whether the individual is a potential target based on personality, occupation and connections, and attempt to initiate a casual relationship.
Step Two: Suitability Test – The target’s enthusiasm for further communication is gauged by those in contact and potential methods for enticing the target to sharing information are considered
Step Three: The Outcome – The recruiter then makes the pitch to the target, using all information gathered about the target, their background and means of persuasion to get cooperation.