Revelations of an alleged Russian intelligence operation to murder opponents and spread chaos across the European Union were met with a mix of wonder and derision in the intelligence community. Russia's decision to return to formalized violent operations in the West has "proven they can get to anyone," a source told Insider. But in many cases, the Russians' sloppy tradecraft has meant their "secret" operations are almost immediately noticed.
Two current European intelligence officials described the scoop by the New York Times about a unit of Russian military intelligence, commonly called the GRU, tasked with murdering Russia's enemies in Europe and helping sow political and military chaos, as "credible." It's "confirmation of something we have long suspected: There is a plan," one told Insider.
The New York Times piece, which ran Tuesday, used a mix of open-source documentation and intelligence gathered across Europe in the wake of half a dozen killings to determine that many of the international incidents involving Russia involve "Unit 29155" of the GRU, a previously unknown unit. It appears to be specifically tasked with irregular operations directed at Europe, including a failed coup in Montenegro and the attempted poisonings of an arms dealer in Bulgaria and a GRU defector in Salisbury, England.
A fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces, SDF, stands inside a post where U.S. troops were based, in Tel Abyad town, at the Syrian-Turkish border, Syria, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. (Associated Press / Ahmad Baderkhan)
A long awaited Turkish operation to push back against Kurdish militias, once aligned with the US in the fight against ISIS, from its border with Syria threatens to destabilize a fragile region, and raises fears that thousands of captured ISIS fighters could escape Kurdish-run jails amid the confusion.
By Monday at least 150 US special operations troops in three key outposts near the Turkish border had already started to withdraw towards a US military base in northern Iraq, SDF officials and local residents told Business Insider.
Recent Iranian success at striking military and civilian infrastructure targets in the Persian Gulf region have led the American military to practice switching operational control of military operations from bases located within range of Iranian missiles to bases in the United States that are out of harm's way.