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Update on Poland’s New Espionage Scandal

October 21, 2014

The other day I explained what we knew so far about the major espionage scandal that emerged last week with the arrests of a Polish army officer and a dual-national attorney in Warsaw who are suspected of spying for Russian military intelligence (GRU). As usual, case details are starting to emerge, and here they are.

New information from inside sources close to the counterintelligence investigation indicates that the officer in question, Zbigniew J., is a lieutenant colonel serving in the Ministry of Defense (you can see a blurred photo of him here). He has been working for GRU for several years, and has been on the radar of Polish military counterintelligence since 2011, and his motivations were financial as well as vague “personal problems.” That said, he came cheap, as the total compensation package for his espionage came to less than 100,000 zlotys — about USD 30,000 — presumably because his information was not assessed as particularly valuable by the Kremlin.

His job in the education-morale affairs office of the MoD allowed him to visit military units across the country and report to GRU what he found. While such information — about unit morale and movements — would not be without value to Moscow, neither should it be confused with high-priority intelligence. Based on current information, it appears that there is no significant threat to NATO based on Zbigniew J.’s case. He met with his handler, a GRU officer serving at Russia’s Warsaw embassy under diplomatic cover, every few months, exchanging information for relatively small sums of cash. There is no doubt his actions were witting: “J. knew full well what he was doing. He was aware of his involvement in foreign intelligence,” stated a Polish investigator.

I already profiled the other suspected spy, Stanisław Szypowski, in some detail. The lawyer-lobbyist, unlike the colonel, did not spy for money, rather out of patriotic (i.e. pro-Russian) motives. He, too, met regularly with GRU “diplomats” in Warsaw; only in this sense do these two cases appear to be connected. Szypowski was considered reasonably effective by Moscow at getting access to influence in Polish governmental circles, and he aspired to getting a job in the economics ministry. Indeed, it was his pushiness about getting such a job that seems to have caused Polish counterintelligence to take action to shut Szypowski down, as he knew what he was doing: “He operated with full awareness. He provided the Russians with information concerning the Polish energy sector. He was cautious. For example, he would go to meet with GRU residents without his telephone, so as not to be traced,” explained a Polish spy-hunter working the case.

Since both suspects were known to Polish counterintelligence for some time, the question to be asked is why Warsaw decided to arrest them publicly now. The answer is not difficult to determine. In the aftermath of Russia’s war on Ukraine, which was spearheaded by GRU and its “little green men,” the Poles are deeply worried about espionage and covert action. As well they should be, as GRU is assessed to have at least a dozen officers serving at Russia’s Warsaw embassy, plus others undetected. Russian espionage against Poland has been rising in recent months, to include drone flights over Polish territory, and with these arrests Warsaw is letting the Kremlin know that it does not have a free hand to engage in Special War against Poland. While neither of these men is exactly James Bond, there is a message here that will not be missed in Moscow.

It has been reported that Warsaw now plans to declare several GRU “diplomats” persona non grata and expel them from Poland. Such would be the logical step in the aftermath of the arrests, and a standard part of the spywar, and it will cause GRU some trouble, as it will have to rebuild damaged networks. But nobody in Warsaw expects that the expulsion will buy more than a bit of time to improve their counterintelligence methods against the rising Russian espionage threat. All of NATO should be doing the same.

 

15 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on mrmeangenes.

  2. Heide permalink

    Why does Russia want to cause so much trouble?

    • Seems to be in their DNA.

    • Blackshoe permalink

      They are a country perpetually afraid of land invasion (a realistic fear given their history and geopgraphy) and can only feel safe if they have a series of marches on their borders. Unfortunately, they are incapable of realizing that their actions are causing them as much problems as they are squashing.

    • califax permalink

      There’s a good deal of science about germany between the great wars that can serve as food for thought. The current situation is about national humiliation, fear of chaos, hunt for national scapegoats, hope for a strong leader that returns the nation to a new golden age.

      For Putin it’s about playing his cards, getting rich, solidifying his power, defeating everyone he has a problem with.

  3. starsaredestinationnotdestiny permalink

    ‘declare several GRU “diplomats” persona non grata and expel them from Poland.’

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

  4. Airwalk permalink

    I think my wife is right about the Russians: it’s all about jealousy. The Russians are doing so bad in every sense i.e. economy, social and even military (oh yes) that they compensate that with trouble making. The Ruskies are simply devastated that they “the grand nation” of the east are surpassed my their neighbors like Poland and others around. And now even Ukraine wants on a EU prosperity path? Now that’s too much even for Putin. 🙂

    • starsaredestinationnotdestiny permalink

      Yeah, it’s not totalitarian and nationalistic indoctrination that is going on for the last decade in Russia, it’s simply jealousy. I mean, they look at Greece, Spain, Portugal or Italy and they just can’t handle the success of other nations in EU.

      “even military (oh yes)”

      Military power is not absolute. So are Russians doing bad comparing to US? Of course, anyone does, including China. Although look at the data from 2013: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures.

      Who do you see next to China?

      And if we’re talking about relative power to Baltic States and Poland? There are ca. 25k troops ready for deployment in Poland at this moment and there are no real actions conducted to increase this number. And on the other hand there is Russia which reformed it’s army and waged 4 wars in the last 20 years (2 Chechen, Georgia and Ukraine) – recently invested, desperate and with time running out.

      So is there anything to justify this “oh yes” except your blooming defence mechanism?

      For the record, it’s not a good thing that indoctrinated Russia is doing bad. Hungry and poor people are more prone to call to arms and insane theories. Vladimir Putin shut down the trade not because he’s just a crazy – or 5 y.o. jealous – person, he wanted to prepare the system for a real shutdown that may come during the war.

      All in all, I think you underestimate the threat just as Polish government did in the last 7 years leaving my nation in the face of a war that could be prepared for and by that maybe even evaded.

  5. Airwalk permalink

    @ starsaredestinationnotdestiny

    Please go back to school, learn english, and then return to this blog. I am having serious issues following your argumentation because of your weak language skills. (Ogarnij najpierw język angielski a potem się wypowiadaj bo mi głupio że mój niby rodak nie jest w stanie sie logicznie wypowiedzieć)

    Regarding: “All in all, I think you underestimate the threat just as Polish government did in the last 7 years leaving my nation in the face of a war that could be prepared for and by that maybe even evaded.”

    What are you talking about? Do you seriously believe that Poland could prepare itself for a war against Russia? Poland is a nobody internationally and regionally (to my regret). We are in no position to fight Russia. Poland’s strength is with NATO and the EU. We can’t go to war just like that.

    • starsaredestinationnotdestiny permalink

      Oh, that’s a very insightful analysis. It’s some kind of progress though: now it’s the inferiority complex speaking not the inflated ego like the last time. 😀

      But there’s a bright side, you’ve got the exact psychological features as a majority of government officials, so I’d say there are no limits for you in Poland. Dream big.

      ‘Poland’s strength is with NATO and the EU.’

      That’s partly true but in the context you’ve put it – it sounds inconsiderate. So, buddy, I think you’re more naive than my Bayesian classifiers.

      One more thing, I may be speaking Bantu, but I think for myself and that’s a thing you can’t learn that easily. And the word ‘English’ is spelled with a capital, Kimosabi. 🙂

      • Airwalk permalink

        @starsaredestinationnotdestiny

        I feel sorry for you.

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