I lived and worked in Russia from 1992 – 1996 – perhaps the most promising time
for a real ‘reset’ and from everything I’ve read since then (which is a ton), the situation has devolved steadily.
Even then, however, just about everyone was a spy of some sort. Nothing of the ‘James Bond’ caliber, of course, but I can tell you (this was in FarEast Russia – bordering Siberia) that KGB officers were directly involved in the mafia. In fact, I met one at a client’s office who was literally waiting for his extortion money.
A charming individual who spoke perfect English (not easy for a Russian), he invited me to dinner and gave me his card: Colonel XXXXX, CEO, XXX ‘Security Services’. I was astounded. He was obviously very well connected and in the ‘know’.
So, no, it is not possible for an ambassador of Russia to NOT be an intelligence gatherer. Everyone with any power is expected to report to the powers-that-be.
‘Former US diplomats say Kislyak’s forte was arms control — a specialism he pursued after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was Russia’s ambassador to NATO between 1998 and 2003. As Deputy Foreign Minister a decade ago, he led the Russian side in talks with the US on extending and amending arms control agreements, and showed a detailed grasp of the technicalities, according to experts in the field.’
No one in Russia could understand the complexities of arms control agreements without access to intelligence agencies.
CNN continues: ‘Kislyak has been Ambassador in Washington for nine years — an unusually long spell.’
Translation: He works for Putin and I wouldn’t want to be him if he does NOT provide intelligence.