Moscow Rules of Espionage Go Global

As Russian spies play rough, ignoring Putin’s war against the West will only make it nastier.

Espionage is widely reputed to be mankind’s second-oldest profession. Spying on each other has been around as long as people have been aggregating in anything like societies. The Old Testament is replete with examples, including Moses sending spies out ahead of the Israelites to reconnoiter the Promised Land as they made their way out of bondage in Egypt

From the outset there have been rules about what’s permissible in espionage. Not everyone went so far as German spymasters of a hundred years ago, who insisted spying is gentleman’s work, but physical violence has generally been considered out of bounds. Stealing secrets is the point of the business, not roughing each other up unnecessarily.

Moscow was always at the rougher end of the espionage spectrum, and it gave the Cold War a famous ruleset that inspired a generation of spies. Although the Moscow Rules were never definitively codified, they explained how difficult it was to conduct intelligence operations inside the Soviet Union, where the KGB owned the turf and could cover any suspected Western spy non-stop with physical and technical surveillance. This made conducting any espionage operations difficult and dangerous.

Key to the Moscow Rules was an understanding that coincidences rarely are: “Once is accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action,” per hoary counterintelligence wisdom. In other words, if you think it’s the KGB, it probably is.

Read the rest at The Observer …