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Germany grapples with wave of spying threats from Russia and China

Image source, Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Legend, Four of six people arrested are suspected of spying for China

Six suspected spies were arrested in Germany alone this month, in what has become a torrent of allegations of Russian and Chinese spying.

For the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, this proved particularly embarrassing, as its two main candidates in June’s European elections found themselves in the crosshairs.

A collaborator of MEP Maximilian Krah, head of the party list, was arrested on suspicion of espionage for China. Jian G is accused of being an “employee of the Chinese secret service”.

Prosecutors have also opened preliminary investigations into the politician himself for alleged payments from pro-Russian and Chinese sources. Mr. Krah denies any wrongdoing.

Days earlier, Petr Bystron, the second name on the AfD list, denied allegations that he had received money from the Voice of Europe website, which European intelligence services accuse of serving cover for Russian intelligence services.

But the allegations go far beyond the AfD.

Two German nationals of Russian origin have been arrested on suspicion of plotting to sabotage German military aid to Ukraine, while three Germans were arrested for allegedly planning to pass advanced engine designs to Chinese intelligence services .

Image source, Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Legend, MEP Maximilian Krah denied any wrongdoing and said he would fire his assistant if Jian G was found to be spying.

“It is really unusual to have arrests of three networks (allegedly) engaged in some kind of espionage for Russia and China almost at the same time,” said Noura Chalati, a researcher at the Leibniz Center for the Modern Orient.

In all three espionage cases, the efforts of Germany’s domestic intelligence service BfV appear to have been crucial.

“Our security authorities… have massively stepped up their counterintelligence efforts,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said.

The arrests took place just after Chancellor Olaf Scholz returned from a wide-ranging meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

“Stopping is always a political decision”

Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russian security services, believes that the case of the Russian-German couple could reflect a desire by the Kremlin to intensify its attacks against aid to Ukraine.

“This is just a whole new level of escalation,” Mr Soldatov told the BBC. “These people (allegedly) collected information to help organize sabotage operations against military installations on German soil.”

Meanwhile, Roderich Kiesewetter, a former German army officer turned opposition lawmaker, claimed that China was seeking access to advanced research that could be useful for military or other purposes.

“China sees opportunities to exploit Germany’s openness to access our knowledge and technology,” he told the BBC.

Andrei Soldatov nevertheless believes that Berlin sets a milestone.

“An arrest is always a political decision,” he says.

“Counterintelligence agencies in all countries prefer not to arrest people because it is better to follow them and monitor their activities in order to learn more about their networks and activities.”

Image source, Bundeskanzler/Instagram

Legend, The arrests of suspected spies in Germany came days after Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

One of the reasons this political decision may have been made is that Germany’s adversaries – particularly Russia – seem increasingly willing to publicly humiliate Berlin as Berlin becomes more assertive in its external relations.

A particularly low point was the leak in March by Russian sources of a phone call between top generals discussing the supply of long-range Taurus missiles to Ukraine.

A few months earlier, a senior official in Germany’s BND foreign intelligence service, Carsten L, went on trial, accused of leaking classified information to the Russians in exchange for payments of around €400,000 (£343,000).

Former British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace expressed the frustration of many allies when he said Germany was “quite penetrated by Russian intelligence” and “neither secure nor reliable.”

Roderich Kiesewetter says he is worried that the allies view Germany as untrustworthy. “We must be a privileged partner,” he told the BBC. “We cannot afford secret service cooperation without Germany.”

The very public crackdown on suspected spies could be a way to send a signal to friend and foe alike that Berlin takes security seriously.

The BND and BfV said they do not comment on ongoing operations. The Interior Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Legacy of history

German intelligence agencies have long been frustrated by broader restrictions on how they can act than many of their counterparts in other Western countries.

This is partly a legacy of communist rule in the former East Germany – widely considered one of the most policed ​​societies in history. An estimated 1 in 6.5 East Germans were informants for the secret police, known as the Stasi.

When the extent of Stasi spying was revealed after the fall of the Berlin Wall, strict legal limits were placed on the intelligence services.

Image source, Thierry Monassé/Getty Images

Legend, Revelers at the Brandenburg Gate celebrate the first New Year in a unified Berlin since World War II

These restrictions essentially remain, although some have since been relaxed.

Human rights advocates view these limitations as a good thing that protects citizens’ rights to privacy. But intelligence services have long complained of their inability to act effectively because of controls on their behavior.

Last year, two former BND leaders wrote: “German intelligence services, particularly the BND, now suffer from excessive surveillance.”

Some in the intelligence services see the recent high-profile arrests as a way to highlight the scale of hostile foreign infiltration in Germany – and as an opportunity to strengthen their argument for more powers.

The extent of this infiltration, Mr. Kiesewetter says, is partly a legacy of the political “naiveté” that followed the end of the Cold War.

“Since 1990 there was the idea that Germany was surrounded by friends.”

Leaders were focused on trade deals, particularly with autocratic countries like Russia, and took their eyes off national security, he said.

“I do not sleep anymore”

Rafael Loss of the European Council on Foreign Relations is more specific about what went wrong.

German intelligence completely disbanded a unit dedicated to counterespionage in 2002 under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

“It’s remarkable that this entire unit of about 60 people was completely disbanded,” Mr. Loss says.

But things are changing. The BfV’s workforce has doubled over the past ten years. The recent wave of arrests shows that the intelligence services are increasingly asserting themselves in a country whose political culture has traditionally been suspicious of them.

“All the arrests send a good signal to the nations that spy on us,” said Felix Neumann of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

“Germany is awake and no longer sleeping.”

News Source :
Gn world

jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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