Claude Moniquet is president of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center in Brussels.
euronews asked him what he thinks of this latest spy affair.
CM: First of all, I’m not surprised that the Russians may be continuing to spy, some 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the Americans probably do the same. What is surprising however, is the length of this affair – it’s lasted nearly 20 years, well at least 15. The American surveillance of this alleged network itself has been going on for at least 7 years…and during this period they’ve been following and recording, they’ve bugged and monitored their homes and meeting places. They even put a tracking device in their cars. Step-by-step they’ve watched them and that’s really fascinating. When you read the US charges that have been made public, you could easily think you’re reading the synopsis of a Cold War spy thriller.
EN: What precisely is in this document?
CM: Over dozens of pages it’s the concentrated result of six or seven years of a solid investigation. There’ve been secret searches of people’s homes, approved by judges. They’ve searched, installed listening devices, bugged their telephones and taken copies of computer hard drives. Sometimes, US agents have even gone undercover to meet them. All these has given them a massive amount of intelligence. This investigation was huge, with dozens of agents, millions of dollars must’ve been spent. This is the type of information that’s been boiled down to some fifty pages which makes up the accusations.
EN: What do you believe are the consequences of this spu scandal on relations between Washington and Moscow?
CM: As a general rule, history has taught us that this kind of incident triggers a certain chill in relations. There will certainly be ripostes, at least in the short term. There will probably be some expulsions of Russian diplomats in the United States because some have been identified as having had links with the spy suspects. At the same time, we can expect some US diplomats to be sent home from Moscow. But this exchange of hostilities will be short lived and then it’ll be business as usual because history has shown that every country uses spies and every country accepts it. But being caught red-handed isn’t very comfortable… the moment will, however, pass as politics always moves on.
EN: What’s a bit curious, awkward or embarrassing is that this affair has erupted just a few days after the seemingly warm and cordial appearances between the Russian and American presidents. And then a few days later – wham! Multiple arrests in a spy scandal….
CM: Absolutely! But that said, it’s just a coincidence. Clearly the FBI feared some of the suspects might leave the country and escape the long arm of US justice. they decided to move after the US-Russian summit and not before, fortunately. But I think that’s it’s just a coincidence. However, the Russians are very pragmatic. There was a similar case a few years ago and they made it clear they would put to one side the legitimate intelligence concerns and keep them apart from political and public relations.