FRA intelligence on Russia and the Baltics

Sweden knew about the Russia-Georgia war before the US: report

Georgien
Russian-Ossetian soldiers defend the city of Gori during the Russia-Georgian war. Photo: Linda Forsell/Svenska Dagbladet

Sweden's National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) predicted that the 2008 war between Russia and George would break out before the US did, sources with insight into Swedish intelligence told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

Published söndag 8 december 2013 kl 10:55

The war in Georgia broke out in August 2008 after a period of sharp rhetoric and military buildup. "We could see how the Russians moved military units and how things then became silent. That meant everything was in place and that the final preparations for a strike were underway," one source said.

The source continued: "We knew that Russia would likely enter Georgia. At the same time, the US drew a different conclusion: that there would be no war."

According to Svenska Dagbladet's sources, the FRA - Sweden's national authority for signals intelligence - spies on Russia's political and military leadership as well as on Russian intelligence and counterintelligence. The sources also claimed that the FRA follows other Russian actions that are "of great significance to Swedish interests and politics".

The so-called FRA law of 2009 opened up the opportunity for Sweden to intercept all Russian telecommunications that pass through Swedish cables.

"Unlike  many other western countries, the Swedes did not quit spying in 1990. That meant the Swedes had a 10-year advance on major powers like the US and the UK when they started to get interested in Russia from the year 2000 and onwards," a source said.

Swedish Television also obtained leaked documents from the US National Security Agency (NSA) through whistleblower Edward Snowden which suggest that Swedish intelligence is of high quality. Ahead of a meeting with FRA officials, NSA managers were told to praise the Swedes for their assistance. The document says: "Thank Sweden for its continued work on the Russian target and underscore the primary role that the FRA plays as a leading partner in the work on the Russian target."

On Saturday, Swedish Television revealed that the FRA also spies on civilian targets in Russia, including the energy sector, as well as on the Baltic nations, in order to share the information with the US

"When the Baltic countries became free, the FRA played a role in seeing where they were heading. Now, the authority has found a new niche," a source told reporters from Swedish Television's investigative programme Uppdrag Granskning, referring to the FRA's interception of cable traffic from the Baltics and Russia, which to a large extent runs via Sweden.

Nowadays, many Russian companies operate in the Baltics, as well as Russian intelligence services. Lithuania's minister of defence, Artis Pabriks, was not upset to learn about the FRA's operations, but rather seemed grateful for it.

"It is important to us that our allies within the EU and Nato know about conditions here," Pabriks told Swedish Television.

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