So begins the SBU class of 2016 – Ukraine

September 4, 2016

3rd September witnessed the current head of the Security Services of Ukraine (SBU), Vasyl Hrycak, attend the oath swearing ceremony at the National Academy of the SBU.  165 would-be counterintelligence officers, interpreters, analysts et al begin a journey that not all will finish – or want to finish.


CI it has to be said is very difficult to do well.

It is far easier to engage in espionage, subversion etc., than it is to defend against it – especially in Ukraine where infiltration by those hostile to the State interests within its institutions remain – and will remain – despite several reported sweeps through the ranks, and yet more sweeps that will inevitably come.

It is important to recognise the probability that those who survive numerous sweeps for infiltrators are normally the ones that matter – not those easily/relatively easily identified.  Indeed if necessary why not theatrically sacrifice a few lesser spooks to divert attention from those that really matter?

That said, despite the reactive perception the CI label projects, not all CI work is reactive or defensive.

The point of the entry however is not to dwell upon counterintelligence and the underestimated difficulties thereof, but to consider the SBU and its personnel limitations compared to the task with which it is faced.

Starting from the premise that historically any “known” Ukrainian secret services personnel numbers were inaccurate – there being those on the payroll that didn’t exist but whose wages were pocketed, plus the long-term sick, lame and lazy and the unfilled vacancies where the “paper strength” failed to match the real numbers.  Then there are the administrative and logistical staff that were/are otherwise not operational, and sadly it is required to minus those souls KIA and WIA since the events of 2014 to the present day.

Then it is necessary to take into account those that betrayed their oath and are now overtly on the other side.

The class of 2016, all 165 of them (and not all will come out the other end) may still be filling paper gaps rather than actually increasing the number of counterintelligence personnel.  This despite the formidable efforts of The Kremlin that would stretch even the most expansive counterintelligence agencies on the planet – and those considerable Kremlin efforts are not going to end in the next decade or two.

The question therefore is whether there should be more intakes per year at the SBU Academy, obviously producing more trained (if inexperienced) officers – and a continuance of such a policy until the SBU is in a far better position to do what it is currently asked, and perhaps unreasonably expected of it when considering its personnel limitations.

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