November 30, 2019

Intelligence History Conference “Need to Know IX” Offered Surprising Parallels and Lessons on Hybrid Warfare Nowadays

Thomas Wegener Friis, University of Southern Denmark

Did the attack on Pearl Harbor take place due to an intelligence failure? How Communist Polish spies and the Dutch counterintelligence played cat and mouse? Austria’s general strike in 1950: was it a Soviet attempt to seize power? What happens to the intelligence service when a dictatorship becomes a democracy? How Poland on its way to becoming a democracy inspired Chinese protesters and was a threat to the Chinese authorities? Why did the KGB miss the wrack of the Soviet regime in Lithuania?

These were just some of the questions and topics at the “Need to Know IX: Intelligence and Major Political Change” conference on 28-29 November, 2019 in Tallinn that brought together around 40 leading scientists from 17 countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Estonia, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, UK and US) and an international audience of more than 150 people interested in the history of intelligence services.

For the first time were discussed in one panel the Soviet subversive activities in Estonia (by Ivo Juurvee, International Centre for Defence and Security, Estonian lead in the Need to Know IX conference), in Poland (by Tomasz Gajownik, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn) and Bessarabia (by Igor Cașu, State University of Moldova). Although there was a lack of information exchange by these countries 95 years ago, looking back now the similarities are striking and one can see also similarities with so called hybrid warfare activities conducted by Russian Federation during last decade.

Many similarities between East European countries can also be seen during the collapse of the iron curtain 30 years ago. The Communist security services in Bulgaria (covered by Nadia Boyadjieva, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences), Czech Republic (by Daniel Běloušek, Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic) and Lithuania (by Kristina Burinskaitė, Genocide and Resistance Research of Lithuania) were incapable to foresee the magnitude of changes in these countries.

At the conference, Ivo Juurvee and Lavly Perling, then Attorney General of Estonia, presented for the first time an analysis of Russian intelligence activities and criminal convictions in Estonia. The analysis shows that, according to public data, Estonia has convicted more Russian spies in the last decade than any other NATO or European Union country.

The conference was hosted by the International Centre for Defence and Security together with the King’s College London, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, the University of Southern Denmark and the National Norwegian Aviation Museum.

The event was supported by the Polish, Danish, Norwegian and UK embassies in Tallinn and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications of Estonia.

Visit the conference website to find out more about the event.

Click here to view the entire photo gallery

Videos from the conference (video of the second day you’ll see at once, for the video of first day scroll down to the bottom of the webpage).

Download and read the analysis “Russia’s Espionage in Estonia“.


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