Interview with Vitaly Shlykov

Colonel Vitaly Shlykov, a former Military Intelligence officer, commented on the recent statement by the Russian President on strengthening Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service.

Russia Today: Did President Putin's words mean what the New York Times interpreted them to be: is Russia increasing its “spying abroad?”

V.S.: What is meant by “spying abroad”? I wouldn’t interpret it like this. Spying is a broad term. Usually it means some guy caught red-handed with stolen documents in his pockets or something like that. I’m an admirer of Kim Philby, and I remember in his last interview – I think it was in January 1988 to the Sunday Times, to Phillip Knightley – and he said: “An ideal intelligence officer is the man who sits at home, reads, and thinks all the time, and analyses.”

Of what I see in Putin’s words, there is nothing about increasing the network of spies. It’s very difficult to increase an intelligence network overnight. It’s a long process – and a rather visible one in the present state of counter-intelligence services in the world. What he says is “primarily in the field of information and analytical support for the country’s leadership”. And this, I am sure, is badly needed.

RT: Is this a typical reaction of the western media to anything connected with Russian intelligence?

V.S.: It’s rather typical, I’m afraid.

RT: What do you think is the reason for this prejudice towards Russia?

V.S.: It’s the same as the Russian media prejudice towards the West. It’s superficial. A thorough analyst of the intelligence community wouldn’t interpret Putin’s words  this way. They would interpret them more as intelligence through spectacles – analytical research, scientific research, technical intelligence – there are a lot of things. Although technical intelligence in not a strong point of the Foreign Intelligence Services. From what I see regarding the FIS, Putin was speaking about strengthening its work against terrorism.

RT: In that respect then – is it that the strengthening of intelligence can help protect Russia’s national security concerning terrorism?

V.S.: Well, there are great cultural differences in the world between different countries, especially between the West and the Muslim world, and a counter-intelligence service is more inquisitive than the rest of the society about such aspects. This comes in handy for the national security of every country, not just Russia’s.

RT: Just very briefly, is this an overreaction from the Western countries?

V.S.: It certainly is. What I see is that Putin tried to be polite to the intelligence officers and somehow beef up their enthusiasm which is a natural thing to do for a head of state.