Russia’s rulers, from Ivan to Terrible to Vladimir Putin, have relied extensively on the use of Russia’s Intelligence and Security Services (RISS) to maintain their autocratic control over domestic politics and target opposition figures and critics living abroad. With the arrival of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and the Bolshevik leadership’s plans to spread their revolution worldwide, including throughout Europe and the U.S., Moscow has expanded its use of RISS beyond spying on its own citizens and hunting down the regime’s enemies overseas, to collecting foreign intelligence and foreign counterintelligence on Moscow’s enemies and competitors and conducting “active measures” designed to influence the domestic and foreign policies of other countries. Prior to World War II, Moscow directed most of its intelligence activities against countries along its borders and European rivals like Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. But following the end of the Second World War and the start of the Cold War, the U.S., otherwise known as the “Main Enemy,” became the priority target for Moscow’s intelligence activities. Soviet efforts both to steal secrets and undermine U.S. interests from 1945 to 1991 were extensive. These efforts declined to some degree in the early and mid-1990s, but in the late 1990s, Washington was once again the focus of the main thrust of Moscow’s intelligence activities.
Vladimir Putin, a former officer of the Soviet-era Committee for State Security (KGB), and former Director of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in the late 1990s, has come to symbolize the domination of Russia’s domestic and foreign policies by RISS. And it should not be surprising that under Putin’s rule, Russia has once again entered into a Cold War with the U.S., with the Kremlin relying heavily on RISS activities both to target and undermine the U.S., domestically and internationally. While several U.S. administrations failed to recognize the significant threat posed by RISS to U.S. interests in the first 15 years of the 21st century, by 2016, Washington was forced to accept that Russia once again presented a significant strategic threat to the U.S. and its closest allies.
This course will examine the history, traditions, and key personalities of the Russian/Soviet Intelligence and Security Services. We will attempt to understand how history and Russia’s own realities have formed the operational philosophy and thinking of Russian Intelligence officials, and also attempt to identify future trends and threats presented by the Russians to the U.S. and its allies.
The course emphasizes evaluating the effectiveness of Soviet and Russian intelligence and counterintelligence operations and assessing the impact of those operations on Soviet and Russian Government policy and military affairs, as well as on the affected foreign countries.