GRU

(Glavnoe Razvedivatelnoe Upravleniye)
   The GRU, the Chief Intelligence Directorate, oversees military intelligence. Russian military intelligence was always formidable in providing human source intelligence on the tsar’s adversaries. Russian military intelligence can trace its heritage to 1810, when Tsar Aleksandr I mandated an intelligence bureau within the general staff. In the wars against France (1812–1814), military intelligence provided information on the French adversary and on the country where the Russian army was operating. Many of the intelligence officers had extensive engineering experience, which allowed them to translate information from sources on roads, cities, and fortresses into material for a general staff moving hundreds of thousands of military personnel across central Europe.
   Before World War I, Russian military attachés were the key players in military intelligence. They also worked with military intelligence officers in Warsaw, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. A major success for military intelligence was the recruitment of Colonel Alfred Redl, an Austrian officer who was a promiscuous homosexual. Redl was blackmailed into providing detailed information on Austrian military planning for war against Russia and its ally Serbia, as well as counterintelligence information about Austrian agents. Soviet military intelligence was founded on 5 November 1918 by Commissar of War Leon Trotsky, who appointed Semyon Aralov its first chief. While the name changed repeatedly, it is known in Soviet history usually as either the Fourth Department of the General Staff or the Chief Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the General Staff. The GRU and its predecessors were not political services like the Cheka or the KGB. Chiefs of military intelligence almost never served on the Communist Party Central Committee, and its officers did not have the role of protectors of the party—a role assumed by the Cheka. In its first two decades of Soviet history, military intelligence’s most striking success came from the use of illegal officers and agents, who were directed by Yan Berzin, the service chief for more than a decade. Illegals began operating in Western Europe and Asia in the early 1920s, and in the United States in 1923. Illegal agents, including Maria Polyakova, Richard Sorge, and Leopold Trepper, organized intelligence rings in China, Japan, Nazi Germany, France, and Switzerland. GRU illegals in Great Britain and the United States, including Ruth Werner and Arthur Adams, recruited and ran important sources in the nuclear weapons program, as well as in the military and defense industries.
   In the late 1930s, over half the cadre of the GRU was arrested and shot during the Yezhovshchina, including Berzin and several of his senior colleagues. Following Berzin’s arrest, four other GRU chiefs were purged and shot in the next three years. The NKVD especially targeted foreigners who had been GRU illegals. Leopold Trepper wrote in his memoirs: “As a Polish citizen, as a Jew who had lived in Palestine, as an expatriate, and as a journalist on a Jewish paper, I was ten times suspect in the eyes of the NKVD.”
   The contribution of the GRU during the Great Patriotic War was impressive. Sorge, Trepper, and other illegals produced detailed information on German military planning. During this period, GRU rezidenturas produced military, scientific, and industrial intelligence from a score of countries. In Canada, Nikolai Zabotin and his staff of 13 ran agents in the Canadian parliament, the British High Commission, and the Anglo-American nuclear weapons program. GRU officers also collected thousands of pieces of unclassified information for the Soviet war effort. According to a study by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the GRU rezidentura in Washington acquired 41,800 American patents.
   Following World War II, the GRU expanded its network of military attachés and reduced its dependency on illegals. One of the service’s greatest successes was the recruitment and running of Stig Wennerstrom, a Swedish military intelligence officer. The GRU suffered a massive loss of prestige in the 1950s and 1960s, however, due to the decision of two officers, Petr Popov and Oleg Penkovskiy, to spy for the United States. As a result of the latter’s defection, the chief of the GRU, General Ivan Serov, was fired and reduced in rank by three grades. He was replaced by General Petr Ivashutin, a KGB veteran who remained as head of the GRU for the next 23 years. Un-106 GRU ( GLAVNOE RAZVEDIVATELNOE UPRAVLENIYE) der Ivashutin, the GRU became a sophisticated, all-source intelligence service, conducting signals intelligence, space reconnaissance, and human intelligence operations. The GRU prepared daily briefings on military and political issues for the chief of the general staff and the Ministry of Defense, and it controlled several Spetznaz units to conduct long-range military reconnaissance.
   GRU headquarters are located in a nine-story building on the Central Military Airfield (also known as Khodinka Field). GRU officers usually have a combat arms background. They are trained at the Military Diplomatic Academy in Moscow, where they receive a postgraduate education in languages and intelligence tradecraft. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the GRU continued its operations abroad and from Russian territory. In July 2003, the GRU chief, Valentin Korabelnikov, noted that the GRU continued to have a worldwide mission and both an analytical and operational mission. Korabelnikov noted that GRU units had suffered approximately 300 casualties in the ongoing war in Chechnya.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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