- Industrial espionage
- Both the OGPU and the GRU began to collect proprietary and classified industrial information in the late 1920s. As part of Joseph Stalin’s plan to modernize the Soviet Union through a series of Five Year Plans, the intelligence service began to recruit agents with access to industrial and technical information. Among the first important agents recruited solely to collect industrial information was Harry Gold, an American chemist with access to sugar refining secrets. He was initially recruited by the OGPU to obtain proprietary information for Soviet industry. During World War II, he later became a critical agent in the Soviet nuclear intelligence program.One of the most famous industrial intelligence rings was one run by Julius Rosenberg. Rosenberg, a staunch communist, recruited a number of young left-wing scientists during World War II and passed secrets they gleaned from American industries to the NKVD rezidentura in New York. Rosenberg and several other American agents were also used to provide information on the Anglo-American program nuclear weapons program, which the Soviets codenamed Enormoz.The GRU was also a collector of industrial, scientific, and technical intelligence during the Cold War. Within KGB rezidenturas, Line X officers were responsible for the collection of industrial information. Scientific secrets were passed to Directorate T of the First Chief Directorate, which in turn passed information to the responsible Soviet ministry. The KGB’s commitment to industrial intelligence was tremendous. In the early 1980s the French government expelled more than 40 Soviet intelligence officers engaged in industrial and scientific intelligence collection.The Soviet services also enlisted the assistance of allied Warsaw Pact services to collect industrial secrets. In East Germany, the KGB worked closely with the Stasi to collect industrial secrets from Western business people. Other services contributed as well. For example, in the 1970s and 1980s Marian Zacharski, a Polish intelligence officer operating as a businessperson in California’s Silicon Valley, collected classified information about U.S. defense industries. After his arrest and trial, he was exchanged for more than 20 Soviet bloc political prisoners.Industrial information saved Soviet industry billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours in research, but it also forced some Soviet industries into copying foreign developments without doing the expensive research necessary for innovations. Industrial espionage contributed to the robust Soviet military industrial complex from the late 1930s to the end of the Cold War. However, the reliance on industrial espionage may have robbed Soviet industry of the initiative to pursue original research. By the late 1980s, Soviet science lagged behind the West in all the important scientific components of the second industrial revolution.The SVR continues to collect industrial technology. Former SVR boss Yevgeny Primakov reported in his memoirs that the SVR “has never hesitated in regards to industrial espionage. Whether we like it or not, it will go on as long as there are military or industrial secrets to be learned.” Primakov went on to say that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, most of the Russian service’s work in industrial espionage was “analytical.” The GRU presumably is also continuing to pursue industrial intelligence.
Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. Robert W. Pringle. 2014.
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