Espionage in Germany: Is the Cold War coming back?

Espionage in Germany: Is the Cold War coming back?

Eavesdropping attacks, sabotage plans, spying attempts: Germany believes itself to be in the sights of foreign powers. Why the Federal Republic is apparently being spied on and spied on on a large scale.

What a week, and it’s only Tuesday. Germany’s judiciary and secret services are confronted with several suspected cases of espionage. Bad Homburg, Bayreuth and now Dresden. The next attack took place this Tuesday morning in the Saxon state capital: the Federal Prosecutor General had an assistant of the top AfD politician Maximilian Krah arrested. He is accused of acting as a secret service agent for China.

Espionage incidents are increasing. What’s going on there? Why is Germany apparently being spied on and spied on on a large scale? And how do the methods of the foreign services differ?

A quick look back: On Monday, investigators arrested three suspected spies in Bad Homburg and Düsseldorf who are said to have passed on information about military technology to the Chinese secret service. Last week, two suspected spies were arrested in Bayreuth who are said to have spied on US bases on behalf of Russia and planned acts of sabotage on military transport routes. The eavesdropping on Bundeswehr officers was not too long ago. A case is currently underway against suspected defectors from the Federal Intelligence Service who are said to have lent themselves to Russia, and now the suspected case in the AfD milieu.

The incidents did not remain hidden, that is the good news. German counterintelligence worked here. The bad news: According to experts, Germany has been in the sights of foreign powers for a long time – and they are unlikely to scale back their activities.

The changed world situation in general, Russia’s war of aggression and China’s rise in particular would be reflected in Germany like a magnifying glass. That’s what Markus Ogorek, constitutional lawyer at the University of Cologne, says star. His research areas include intelligence services. Only recently did he write a remarkable plea as to why the “turning point” must reach there too: Germany is not doing enough to counteract foreign espionage.

“Along with Vienna, Berlin is one of the world’s leading locations for foreign agents, and thousands of actors from foreign powers move in the Federal Republic every day,” says Ogorek, “even if this perception has not yet reached the general public.”

How Russia and China act in Germany

These days, the secret service power play of Russia and China is particularly clear in this country. Although the superpowers would pursue different approaches, says the expert. Ogorek analyzes that Russia’s services have long since given up on all proportionality and are acting with conscious demonstrations of power (“show of force”), including targeted killing operations such as the Tiergarten murder. In addition, the investigation of Western military facilities and material deliveries to Ukraine is becoming increasingly important for Russia, as recent cases have shown.

China is active in Germany with far more agents, but they operate much more quietly. Their goal: above all, business and science. “However, the People’s Republic is increasingly focusing on penetrating politics and wants to influence Western decision-making processes – much more subtly than Russia,” says Ogorek. The arrest of AfD man Krah’s personal employee fits in with this.

The case is now causing further excitement in politics. “The AfD is sinking into the chaos of allegations of betrayal of secrets and criminal activities,” says SPD parliamentary group deputy Dirk Wiese star. “The betrayal of sensitive information to authoritarian states like Russia and China is not only shabby and morally reprehensible, but above all it massively harms our country.”

There had previously been increasing evidence that AfD member of the Bundestag Petr Bystron could have received money as part of a Russian influence operation. The Czech domestic secret service is said to have audio recordings of the “sleazy money payments from the Kremlin” (SPD domestic politician Wiese). The public prosecutor’s office in Munich has now initiated so-called preliminary investigations.

A hint of the Cold War

Various authorities are responsible for counter-espionage in Germany, including the Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) and the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), with the Office for the Protection of the Constitution taking the lead. “The level of espionage activities against Germany is in no way inferior to that during the East-West conflict up to 1990,” warned Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution Thomas Haldenwang recently. “We are dealing with clear system competition!”

Is Germany sufficiently equipped for this?

The fact that it is increasingly possible to uncover agent activities in this country is due to the improved counter-espionage capabilities of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, says constitutional lawyer Ogorek. The corresponding work units were initially significantly reduced in size in the 1990s and now have to be painstakingly rebuilt. But: “Even if the Office for the Protection of the Constitution continues to rely on information from foreign partner services, its ability to detect foreign influence has improved significantly in the last three or four years,” praises Ogorek.

SPD domestic politician Wiese also emphasizes the good work of the German services, which has been shown in the renewed exposure of spies. “This is particularly thanks to the intensive cooperation of Western secret services,” says Wiese, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Control Committee (PKGr) in the Bundestag, which controls the intelligence services. “But a turning point also means more powers and capacities.”

Double agents are particularly effective at exposing foreign spies. Counter-espionage is the key word and is the responsibility of the Federal Intelligence Service. “This area of ​​work was also dissolved – by Putin’s friend Gerhard Schröder, of all people – and is currently only in the early stages of reconstruction,” says constitutional lawyer Ogorek.

Counter-espionage in particular must therefore be massively strengthened in terms of personnel so that Germany is in a position to “carry out serious reconnaissance at the headquarters of Russian or Chinese services.” If this succeeds, says Ogorek, foreign activities could be fended off much more accurately – even without more powerful partners like the USA.

Source: Stern

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