Russia’s Shadow War: The Kremlin’s Covert Campaign Against the West


Russian intelligence agencies are waging a clandestine war on multiple fronts, emulating the tactics of the Soviet Union’s Cold War era. Under President Vladimir Putin’s leadership, Russia’s spies are using undercover agents, sabotage, assassinations, and coups to exert influence over Western countries.

Putin’s KGB training has had a profound impact on his foreign policy, and Russia’s strategy has long focused on the “grey zone” of warfare, which involves diplomacy and espionage. Despite the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Russia’s infiltration efforts in the West have continued, often going unnoticed amid the focus on Ukraine’s conventional war.

A recent example of Russian sabotage in the West included a group of British men hired by the Russian GRU military intelligence service setting fire to a factory in London. German authorities also arrested two men accused of conducting pre-attack surveillance of sensitive sites, including a US military base.

Direct deadly action has also occurred, such as the assassination of Russian defector Maksim Kuzminov in Spain and the attack on Leonid Volkov, an ally of late Putin opponent Alexei Navalny, with a hammer in Lithuania.

Russia’s covert operations have extended beyond sabotage and individual assassinations, as the country has twice attempted to launch a coup in Moldova. Initially, Russia planned to occupy the country after invading Ukraine, but instead focused on destabilizing the government through protests.

These operations are not limited to Europe, as Russian disinformation operatives have worked to deepen American political divisions. The open southern border has also contributed to an increase in illegal immigration by Russian nationals, with 467 such cases in 2020 and 30,500 in March 2023.

It is crucial to recognize that the Russian threat to the United States and its European allies extends beyond the battlefields of Ukraine and includes covert operations at home that are destabilizing the West and should be a prominent national security concern.

Joseph Nepomuceno
Joseph Nepomuceno
Joseph Nepomuceno is a Truth Voices Summer 2024 Fellow.

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