Friday, November 21, 2008
Worst Espionage Scandal Since End of Cold War
Herman Simm, 61, former chief of the Estonian Defense Ministry's security department, and his wife, Heete Simm, were arrested on 21 September 2008 on suspicion of communicating classified documents to Russia. Estonian press reports say that he may have been involved in selling secrets concerning information between the US, NATO, and the EU. Simm is currently being investigated by the NATO Office for Security under U.S. supervision. While NATO has yet to make a statement concerning the case, its implications as one of the most threatening security breaches to hit the military alliance, are alarming. In effect, because of Simm's former highranking position in Tallinn, he had access to every Top Seceret document passing between the EU and NATO.
Der Spiegel reports that Simm used an old converted radio to send the latest intelligence to his Russian contact in Moscow as early as the late 1980s. This information potentially sent to the SVR, Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, included the U.S. cyber-defense network and proposed missile shield in Eastern Europe, NATO analyses on the Kosovo crisis, and on the Russian-Georgian War. A counterintelligence case of this prodigious nature has not been seen since the likes of former CIA agent, Aldrich Ames, the highest paid KGB spy in US history.
Simm's motives have yet to be released to the public. However, some form of financial gratuity was given to him in the form of numerous expensive plots of property around Tallinn. If convicted, Simm faces three to fifteen years in prison under Estonian law.
Despite NATO's enlargement of the Baltic republics in 2004 (and the Westernization of many post-Soviet republics and satellites), Russia has sought to maintain its influence in the region by any means necessary. The economic influence over the West concerning natural gas and oil has put it in a strategic position for dominance. Nevertheless, Russia's furtive character must not be excluded from future analyses. The former and most likely counterintelligence state will continue to use past practices from its Soviet days to be cognizant of European affairs.