Remember Mikhail Fradkov? The quietly loyal and possibly inept former prime minister who was shuffled aside in a startling move last year by Putin to appoint Victor Zubkov – throwing everybody “off the trail” to protect his preferred successor (acting within a Russian tradition, as it were…). His principle advantage was that he is not a silovik and is not a member of any of the clans, which Lilia Shevtsova says was the reason he was nominated so quickly as premier. We reported a while back on his interesting new post with the Foreign Intelligence Service – essentially making him Russia’s spy czar. Now people are starting to worry about Fradkov’s position – wondering why on earth someone with no security background, but rather economic and business experience, would be made head of foreign intelligence (see FT article after the cut). As Marshall Goldman pointed out in his podcast with Bloomberg the other day, Russia is increasingly under the thumb of former spies with immense personal business ownership – something unprecedented in world history. It therefore would not seem to be a stretch that the very nature of spying undergo a change in Russia – shifting from a focus on security and defense toward industry and corporation. Two observations: this has got to be the first time that someone actually would prefer a silovik to run foreign intelligence, and it seems that the famous Viktor Cherkesov’s prophecy is coming true: “We must not allow warriors to turn into traders.”
From the Financial Times:
Berlin sees spy threat to businessBy Hugh Williamson in BerlinGermany accused Russian and Chinese spies on Thursday of increasing their efforts to steal technical secrets from companies.German business faces a growing threat from foreign spies using illegal means to get information on high-technology products, Heinz Fromm, head of the BfV intelligence agency, said.Russia’s SWR foreign spy agency poses a specific threat, according to the BfV annual report, published on Thursday. Intelligence officials told the Financial Times they were alarmed by the appointment last October of Mikhail Fradkov as head of the SWR. He is a business specialist with an economics degree rather than a security expert, the officials said. The SWR has a “legal obligation to actively support Russian business”, the BfV says.Wolfgang Schäuble, interior minister, said the authorities in Beijing were the main agents behind so-called “electronic attacks” via the internet and e-mail on computer systems of companies and government offices in Germany. Companies in Germany and other European countries have suffered a string of such attacks that have been sourced to China.China’s emphasis on internet-based espionage contrasts with Russia’s focus on traditional methods involving secret agents and other infiltrators. Students, visiting experts and foreign trainees from many countries are active in Germany in gathering business intelligence, the BfV report said.The German government is usually cautious about accusing the two countries of posing a danger to national or business security, as part of Berlin’s efforts to foster close relations with them. Both countries have denied targeting German companies.