Western intelligence must focus on early detection of Russia’s influence operations - ex-chief of CIA station in Moscow

Western intelligence must focus on early detection of Russia’s influence operations - ex-chief of CIA station in Moscow

Failing to detect Russia’s malign influence operations in the making increases the risk of Russian President Vladimir Putin succeeding.

That’s according to Dan Hoffman, the Former CIA senior officer and station chief in Moscow and Baghdad, who gave a comment to an Ukrinform correspondent.

Answering an Ukrinform correspondent question on his vision of Russia’s further actions to undermine Western democracies, Hoffman said he believes Russia “will run influence operations to try to influence the way the public thinks and recruit spies.”

Read also: Russian intelligence could be involved in blockade of border crossings with Ukraine in Poland - investigation

“Vladimir Putin, because he ran the FSB and because Russia has GDP the size of Italy and they are overwhelmingly focused on spilling their blood and treasure in Ukraine, there's limits to what they can do around the world,” Hoffman said, speaking at a webinar organized by the American University Kyiv.

He believes Russia will continue to engaged in “cheap and fairly valuable to them asymmetric cloak and dagger espionage”.

The ex-CIA officer says this is precisely why quality intelligence matters: “Because we've got to detect what Vladimir Putin is doing to us worldwide. So, we can warn our allies and partners and then do something about it and stop it, otherwise, you face the increased risk of Vladimir Putin succeeding in these operations.”

Read also: Russian propagandists create mirror sites to dodge EU sanctions - media

At the same time, he believes Vladimir Putin's priority task is “regime security”. This is about making sure he “wakes up the next day in the Kremlin”.

“That means that if somebody betrays him, he's going to go find them and kill them. Look at the targeted assassination of Boris Nemtsov in 2015. Why? He had two percent of the vote in Russia at most but Putin did it because he wanted his own guys to know: ‘If you betray me, I'm going to kill you.’ That's why he tried to kill Sergei Skripal with novichok, he killed Litvinenko, turning him into a human dirty bomb. They could have killed Litvinenko or Skripal with a hammer to the head and it could have been non-attributable, but he did it that way on purpose so that his own guys would know,” the ex-chief of the CIA station in Moscow.

As Ukrinform reported earlier, Volodymyr Zelensky recently said Russia might try to foment another armed conflict, this time in Europe’s Western Balkans.

NATO Secretary General recently made a trip across the region. He said he saw no imminent threat from Russia against NATO member states but admitted that the Alliance remains on guard.

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