If you ask a fifth grader what the key to being a good spy is, they would likely respond with some variation of being sneaky or concealing your identity. Well, on today’s episode of “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader”, we’re placing Russian Spies in the hot seat.

Since the start of the Ukraine War, Russian spies throughout Europe have been disappointing those 5th graders’ expectations. With most European nations collectively deciding to share information and expel Russian spies from their embassies, Russian intelligence operations in the West have been experiencing quite the disruption.

In places like Germany, the Russians are replacing their spies with bribes and payments to individuals for information. Obviously this isn’t a great strategy, but a little info is better than none. As for those spies who had their identities revealed, they’ll still be of use to Russian intelligence…just on domestic assignments from now on.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.


Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here, coming to you from Colorado. today we’re doing a little spy addition. the news is that Thomas, all the wearing of the very fast on Schultz. No, very fast on Schultz for forcing Schultz. That’s basically the, German equivalent of the FBI responsible for domestic security. Anyway, he has said that, most Russian attempts to achieve espionage operations within, Germany in the last few months have been basically the Russians just paying people. 

there’s at any number of ways that intelligence service can get at their information. And paying people has always been a classic, but it’s usually less effective because then you’re reliant on the people, being continuing to give you good stuff. And if you pay them, they will come up with stuff to give you, even if it’s not good stuff. 

And if you stop paying them, there is a chance that they will turn you in. So it’s generally pretty far down the list in terms of reliability. a better way is just to have your own assets in place and the way that the Russians have normally done this, the way most countries do this is by taking their intelligence assets and giving them diplomatic cover. 

So you basically say this person is a diplomat when really they’re trying to steal industrial secrets. the Russians have always, always, always excelled at this and used it heavily because they don’t have the technical skills to maybe do something like electronic eavesdropping, like the United States tends to prefer, and they can’t attack it from a mass approach like the Chinese can, because they just don’t have the people. 

So you focus on a handful of highly trained people that you put into every single embassy you possibly can. That strategy worked very well for the Soviets and worked even better for the post-Soviet Russians until the Ukraine war, when the Europeans collectively decided that the Russians were persona non grata in Europe. They took some steps. Now, normally there’s this ongoing cat and mouse game among, the Russians and the western states and everyone else when it comes to diplomatic espionage. 

Basically, you’re always try to keep track of the personalities that are involved, the potential spies. And every once in a while, you do a little bit of purge, but you don’t purge everyone that, you know, making the other side wonder if their agent was really exposed or not. And it’s a grand old game. but one of the problems you have with the strategy is you don’t necessarily share your list of spies that you’ve uncovered with everybody else, because maybe you don’t trust their information control systems. 

And if it got out, that, you had identified one and not the other, then all of a sudden your counterintelligence operations are a bit bonk. Well, with the Ukraine war, basically, the Europeans decided all at the same time that all spies in all embassies everywhere would not only be determined to be persona non grata and sent home the list of everyone who fell into that category would be shared not just with the Europeans, but with everyone across the world. 

So basically, you had 25, almost 35 years of Russian efforts to infiltrate Western institutions and governments, and everyone was exposed all at the same time. And then there was list of everyone who was exposed went global. So in the past, if you were to purge 3 or 4, they would end up at someone else’s embassy within a year. 

Doesn’t work like that anymore. I mean, the Brazilians might not have hostile relations with the Russians, but when the Europeans and the Americans come with this list of 5000 diplomatic personnel who were actually spies, and then all of a sudden they all end up in the Brazilian embassy, the Brazilians get a little cheesed off, too. So what we’ve seen is the most effective way the Russians have of hacking into society, has been gutted. 

It’s not that these people can’t do anything, but if you’re training someone for covert operations in diplomacy, you can’t just turn around and turn them into assassins or analysts. there’s an extensive period of retraining, and the Russians aren’t as young as they used to. And one of the big reasons for the Ukraine war is the demographic collapse. 

And all that good stuff is all very relevant. the most likely use for most of these people moving forward is to back up the Intel system within Russia. Russia has far more spies operating within the Russian Federation than beyond, because Russia isn’t a nation state. It’s a multi-ethnic empire. And the way it holds, it’s everything together is by basically shooting through its own population with spies to make sure that there are no rebellions forming. 

So it’s not that the Russians have no use for these people. It just has no use for these people abroad. 

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