The Economist’s Eastern Europe columnist, the indispensable Edward Lucas, has remarked that one difference between the Soviet Union and Putin’s Russia is that, in the 1970’s, the Kremlin’s fifth columnists in Western Europe were communist-controlled trade unions, while today it is businessmen tied to Russia. This is most true in Germany, which has cultivated deep business ties to Russia. As a result, there are many German businessmen with Russian interests that Vladimir Putin can count on to influence Angela Merkel.
I believe the best way to counter them is with the NSA. As a result of Snowdon’s leaks, everybody knows that the NSA spies extensively on Germany. Why would the US spy on Germany, when it is one of its closest allies? For reasons I am about to explain. If corrupt German businessmen are influencing German government policy in favour of the Kremlin’s aggression, then these people need to be neutralized. How can this be done?
Considering how corrupt and dirty Russian business environment is – Putin’s Russia is little more than a gangster state – I am willing to bet that there is a lot of dirt to be had on those German businessmen. And considering that the NSA effectively downloads the entire world every day, I am sure they can find many incriminating e-mails, faxes and phone calls. And I am equally sure that the German media would be happy to be spoon-fed this information so they can whip up newspaper-selling scandals at home.
The prime target of such an operation? None other than Gerhard Schröder, the former hard-left German Chancellor who not only pushed the Kremlin party line when he was in power, he also advocated for the Nord Stream pipeline that runs under the Baltic (without the permission of Finland or Estonia, through whose territorial waters it must pass). Interestingly enough, almost immediately after he resigned from the Chancellorship, he became head of Nord Stream AG. Gotta be a lot of dirty dealings there.
Start shining sunlight on these people, and the Kremlin will lose its fifth columnists in the most important country in Western Europe.
While I agree that Americans have every right to be squeamish over many of the revelations concerning the NSA’s domestic spying program, foreign espionage, directed against hostile governments, interests and individuals is what the NSA is there for. This is the NSA’s legitimate function. And it is time that this function to be put to good use.