Interview with Andor Shandor, former head of Czech military intelligence
Rzeczpospolita: General Czeslav Kiszak (Czesław Kiszczak), Minister of the Interior during the era of the Polish People's Republic, once said that “the task of agents of influence is the processing of public opinion or certain circles in a given country. Processing in different directions. There are more complex combinations, for example, creating an atmosphere of hatred around a person or phenomenon. ” Is today's Russia?
Andor Šándor: The Soviet Union has used similar methods and has gained a great deal of experience in this area, which Russia is now turning to. Russians know how to influence public opinion - this is the main occupation of their intelligence. AT stories There were quite a few episodes confirming this; it is enough to look closely at the organizations that in 80s protested against the deployment of American missiles in the UK.
- Have you noticed signs of such activity of Russians in the Czech Republic after the collapse of the USSR?
- Three years ago, the Czech Republic was close to agreeing to host an American radar - an element of the American missile defense system. However, the public reacted to this idea remarkably critical. We have organizations that were called, for example, "Bazam - no" or "League of elders against the radar." Their activity turned out to be very effective: at a certain moment, politicians (first of all, leftists) picked up their slogans, and our country did not agree to construction. The topic of the radar in the Czech Republic was closed by Barack Obama, who said that the United States would abandon its previous plans and transfer the radar to another place. Obama can understand: what is the point of putting so much effort on this project, since it will not pass in our parliament?
- That is, the Russians manipulated Czech public opinion?
- Of course. This is done in the following way: for example, information is disseminated that shale gas is dangerous — if it is extracted, contamination of underground water sources may occur. I am far from underestimating environmental problems, however, if such information is spread in environmental organizations, then the same words will be repeated by the media. After that, everything is simple: the public will know that irreparable harm will be inflicted on nature, water will be poisoned, and the consequences of shale gas extraction are unknown to anyone. As a result, people oppose this gas.
- However, the final decision is made by the government, which is aware of the possibility of such manipulations.
- Now there are no statesmen of the scale of Churchill or Thatcher. There are just politicians who see nothing further than the next election. Most of all they are afraid of losing and therefore do not make unpopular decisions. Hearing from everywhere that shale gas is evil, and the majority of citizens are against it, they say the same thing with fear.
- If, as you say, the mechanism of the formation of influences is so well known, why is it so difficult to fight it?
- Foreign intelligence services conduct their activities in each country. The worst thing you can do when you notice that the political decision-making process is influenced from outside is to accept this state of affairs. We must do everything possible to prevent the Russians (and not only them) from interfering in the actions of our politicians. However, do not succumb to anti-Russian phobias. Only a stupid person multiplies his enemies. It should, on the contrary, increase the number of friends.
- In Russia, we, perhaps, will not find many of them ...
- Russia has its own interests, and it will implement them. We need to look at this country soberly and without unnecessary emotions. I know that this is not easy, especially in the context of Polish-Soviet history. Czech-Soviet history was also not easy, especially after the 1968 year. But such is the reality. It is necessary to see what Russians are doing in Europe, how they realize their geopolitical goals. If we do not notice this, we will make erroneous political decisions and will eventually fail.
“But will it turn into mania and the search for all kinds of conspiracies?”
“The James Bond novels are fun to read, but they have little to do with reality.” And here we are talking about the interests of states and geopolitics. Gazprom is interested in selling gas. What do Russians think when they hear that the Poles have found more gas fields and are going to develop them? Does this fact please them? Of course not, because it hurts their interests. Whether they will succeed in stopping gas exploration is another question, but they will surely do everything possible to prevent you. And they will try to influence public opinion.
- Maybe the EU will help us cope with the problems?
- We are entering the Russian sphere of influence. The fact that the Soviet empire collapsed does not mean that Russia has no interests in this part of the world. In general, the European future largely depends on the development of the situation in two countries: Russia and Turkey.
Let's look at the Americans: they produce shale gas. Prices for it have decreased, so this gas has become possible to export. Russians are watching this. They have their own deposits (still large), but in order to survive, they need to retain buyers. They are pursuing a clever policy, for example, by building gas pipelines that bypass Poland and the Baltic countries — this is a foreign policy tool. This is the tool that Nord Stream serves. The actions of the Russians do not surprise me: if I were in their place, I would do the same.
- In Poland, when the word “ecologist” is concerned, people imagine a young man in mint-colored clothes, with a backpack, dreadlocks on his head, and certainly an empty wallet. Meanwhile, environmental organizations are increasingly occupying beautiful offices in the center of Warsaw, where lawyers and secretaries sit.
- And who pays for it?
- Exactly who?
- Someone pays, but this does not automatically mean that it is Russian intelligence. There may be involved some business structure: coal mining, supplying energy from alternative sources. They are not interested in gas. Do not forget that Poland, independent of the supply of foreign gas, is a disaster for your suppliers.
- For a senior intelligence officer, you are quite open about Russian influences in Central Europe.
- I stopped working in military intelligence, which I headed, in 2002. Since then I am a private person, I work as a business consultant. And when people ask me what I think, I try to answer the truth. I am sure that Russians are ready to use all the tools available to them to achieve their goals. And influence on public opinion is an essential part of intelligence and foreign policy. The Russians began this activity between the First and Second World War and have not left it until now. The only difference is that now we are dealing not with the KGB, but with the FSB, but the name does not matter.
- Where in Poland can there be centers of Russian influence?
- That's a very difficult question. I once publicly stated that the Russians did not support the organization “No to the radar”, and they answered me: “Show the invoice to which the money was transferred”. But the Russians are not fools, they will not do that.
Among the staff of any embassy, not only Russian, there are intelligence officers working under the guise of diplomats or attendants. There are those who officially appear as intelligence officials, so the opposite side knows that Mr. N came from the FSB. This is the first group. But there are also a number of ordinary companies. For example, Polish-Russian or simply Russian, who can easily send people somewhere. At first glance, they are doing business as usual, but at the same time they are engaged in something else, that is, they use their business as a cover. Often journalists work directly or indirectly for intelligence. I hope that this does not surprise you: among the representatives of literally every profession, you can find someone who doesn’t do what it seems.
“Poland and the Czech Republic are blocking Russia from entering Europe.” How do we reflect attempts to restore the Russian sphere of influence in Central Europe?
- Look at what NATO is now: this is not at all the organization that was intended to protect Europe from Russia, and not the one that Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary joined. It remains a strong military alliance, I’m a big supporter of the Alliance, but I don’t have 100% certainty that the 5 article of the Washington Treaty will be respected by all its members always and under any conditions.
If you look at the discussions on the topic of European defensive strategy or a joint European security policy, they look smooth only on paper. In practice, there are no such general strategies. What should we rely on today? Countries such as Poland or the Czech Republic need real partners who, for strategic reasons, will choose to defend them for good reason or for other reasons. The ABM radar was a symbol of the American presence on Czech territory, but we missed this opportunity. Half of the Czechs said: “we shall drive the Americans away,” and politicians could not convince them.
You ask whether we are already in the sphere of Russian influence. I think we have already lost or look ahead and lose. This will happen within five years, possibly 20-30 years. Europe has lived 70 peaceful years, but there are no guarantees that the next 70 years will be the same. Unfortunately, many people think that everything is in order, and in the next 1000 there will be no war.
- As Marshal Jozef Pilsudski said, “war is always ahead, never behind.”
- How important are close relations with the United States for the security of the Czech Republic and Poland?
- This is a key question. Someone could say that this is a blind faith in America, but do not pay attention to it. I know what restrictions Americans have, but this is the country that came to the aid of Europe in two world wars. We must maintain their interest in Europe. Russia would like to oust Americans from our continent, because here it is not afraid of anyone. There is only one country that Russians take with all seriousness, maximum two ...