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Former Russian spy Col. Stanislav Lunevís reaction to FBI agentís arrest for spying

February 20, 2001
Web posted at: 7:00 p.m. EST (0000 GMT)

(CNN) Ė Veteran FBI agent Robert Philip Hanssen was charged February 20 with passing classified documents to Russia and with identifying three KGB agents who were working for the United States as double agents. He spent most of his career in counterintelligence operations designed to catch spies, most recently at the State Department. Hanssen even kept his identity a secret from his Russian controllers.

Colonel Stanislav Lunev is a former Russian spy. He is currently a consultant for the FBI and the CIA and writes a column for NewsMax.com. The highest-ranking military officer ever to defect from Russia to the United States, Lunev defected when Yeltsin came to power in 1992.

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CNN Moderator: Welcome to CNN.com, Colonel Stanislav Lunev.

Col. Stanislav Lunev: Hello and thank you for inviting me.

CNN Moderator: Have Russian spy activities in the U.S. increased or decreased since the end of the Cold War?

Col. Stanislav Lunev: From the end of the Cold War, Russian spy activity against the West and the U.S. has decreased until the middle of the 90's, when it increased dramatically. Now, it would be comparable to the coldest days of the Cold War.

CNN Moderator: Why was the spy activity increased during the mid-1990s?

Col. Stanislav Lunev: It was connected to the Moscowís politics, which were oriented to military preparations and the restoration of Russian military power and international position and influence. In this case, intelligence -- as one of the arms of the strategic military arsenal of Moscow -- was requested to increase its level of penetration through American secrets and friends of Americans on the Right, such as members of NATO.

Additionally, in the beginning of 1996, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin authorized the Russian intelligence to take part in industrial espionage against the West and the United States.

Question from chat room: Should the U.S. be concerned about spies from "friendly" countries like Israel?

Col. Stanislav Lunev: Unfortunately, during the last several years, Americaís system of national security has been in some kind of decline. American special services -- I mean intelligence and counterintelligence -- did not have a chance to protect everything in this country. In this situation, American foes, and sometimes friends, began to use breaks and holes in the American national security protection shield for their penetration to American secrets.

Question from chat room: Does Russia still see the U.S. as an enemy?

Col. Stanislav Lunev: Unfortunately, the Russian government considers the United States as its main potential military adversary. The increase in Russian intelligence activity against America is directly connected to this point of view, and this view is much more popular than it was in the beginning of the '90s.

Question from chat room: How can Russia continue with what I consider deceptive spying and still ask the USA to support it financially?

Col. Stanislav Lunev: It's not Russia itself that is hostile to the United States. The Russian people like America and consider America an example for their democratic reforms and creation of a free market economy. Itís the Russian government that is hostile. This is a government which actually spends all the billions of dollars it receives from the United States on its corrupt Russian elite that have private accounts in Western banks.

The Russian government tries to explain to the Russian people that Russians are living so badly, not because of a corrupted Russian government, but because an enemy would like to destroy Russia like it's already destroyed the former Soviet Union, destroyed Yugoslavia and would like to destroy Mother Russia, too.

Question from chat room: I was wondering why they didn't "flip" this FBI spy and use him for counterintelligence to feed phony stuff to the Russians. Have you ever seen that done or done that yourself?

Col. Stanislav Lunev: Thatís a very professional question. If I were handling this case, I might like to use this guy as a double agent. If damage from the information Mr. Hanssen sent to his Russian handlers is overrated, it may not be profitable to use him as a double agent. This could be the reason he was arrested rather than used in double agent operations. I donít know.

"I think just now, what has happened with Mr. Hanssen is a very good reminder for all of us that danger from Russian intelligence activity against America is real, very high, and needs to be taken care of -- not in the future, not tomorrow, but today."
— Col. Stanislav Lunev

Question from chat room: Does Russia see the former republics as adversaries?

Col. Stanislav Lunev: I havenít heard anything about this possible situation because Russia has very good relations with former Soviet Central Asian republics. It has a military presence in Georgia and Armenia. However, the Russian government has a more openly hostile relationship with the former Baltic Soviet republics such as Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, and it is having problems with Azerbaijan. Only one, the newly independent state of Transcaucasia, does not have some kind of Russian military presence. As far as military relations with the other republics, some are good and some are not so good.

Question from chat room: What about Cuban intelligence and the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in terms of operations here in the U.S.?

Col. Stanislav Lunev: I am not especially knowledgeable in Cuban intelligence but I know that Russian intelligence is operating against American and Latin American countries.

Question from chat room: How much damage do you think he has done to the U.S.?

Col. Stanislav Lunev: I am not familiar with his case and I do not have enough information to make my own conclusion.

CNN Moderator: What should America be most concerned about at this point?

Col. Stanislav Lunev: I think just now, what has happened with Mr. Hanssen is a very good reminder for all of us that danger from Russian intelligence activity against America is real, very high, and needs to be taken care of -- not in the future, not tomorrow, but today.

CNN Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Colonel Stanislav Lunev.

Col. Stanislav Lunev: Thank you very much for inviting me.

Colonel Stanislav Lunev joined the chat via telephone from Frederick, Maryland. CNN.com provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview, which took place on Tuesday, February 20, 2001 at 4 p.m. EST.



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