A new book by the German author and Russia expert Boris Reitschuster, scheduled for release on April 15, reveals activities by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to train small military units throughout Western Europe. The book, Putins Verdeckter Krieg (Putin’s Secret War), relies on extensive interviews with Western intelligence sources to draw a picture of an operation designed to cause trouble in the West.
Britain’s Daily Mail published a story on April 11 that alerted the public to this new book, and news sources in Eastern Europe quickly picked it up. Understandably, Poland, Ukraine and other former communist countries are particularly sensitive to military moves by Russia. The secret battle groups are trained in Russian martial arts, as are Russia’s special forces units. According to the Daily Mail’s story, which in turn drew on an advance story in the German daily Bild, Mr. Putin wants to stir up civil unrest and distort democratic processes. Mr. Reitschuster says that intelligence reveals that Russia had at least 300 such agents active in Germany last year. These Russian-trained groups, according to the author, hold maneuvers in the mountains in Switzerland and are also strong in the Czech Republic.
After the deadly attacks in Brussels in late March, reports circulated of the failure of Western intelligence sources in Europe to share precious information about the Islamic State’s foreign operations. The revelations about Mr. Putin’s secret agents show that the agencies do have valuable information. It is crucial that here, too, they share that information so as to prevent the Russian leader from sabotaging and destabilizing Western governments.