The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency (BfV) warned on Thursday that espionage has risen to Cold War levels, possibly even higher, as tensions between the West and Russia hit historic heights amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Associated Press reported.
“Today, we assess the level of espionage against Germany at least at the level of the Cold War if not significantly higher,” BfV chief Thomas Haldenwang said at an event in the German capital.
“In a world of open hostilities and drastic sanctions, the inhibition threshold for espionage, sabotage, and illegitimate influence will continue to fall,” Haldenwang warned.
Tensions between Russia and Western countries have been on the rise for years due to issues ranging from Russian election interference to Russia’s unilateral annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision in February to launch an unprovoked, large-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine poured gasoline on the fire, prompting the US and Europe to rapidly rally behind Kyiv. Indeed, in just a few months the war has prompted dramatic, unprecedented changes and decisions across the West.
The US and its European allies have slapped crippling economic sanctions on Russia over the war, and the EU is moving toward ending its dependence on Russian energy. Countries that previously refused to send lethal aid to Ukraine for fear of provoking Russia, such as Germany, have shifted their policies since the invasion and sent weapons to Kyiv. And Finland and Sweden, two Nordic countries that have historically remained neutral or militarily non-aligned, have applied to join NATO.
Some foreign policy experts have said that the state of affairs between Russia and the West has effectively marked the start of a new Cold War.