EspionageWhether or not Trump claims are true, Russia is still using sex for spying

By Dan Lomas

Published 16 January 2017

Plenty of observers have justifiably questioned the accuracy of the story about the dossier the Russian intelligence services are supposed to be holding, a dossier allegedly containing compromising personal and business information about Donald Trump. The story’s claims are, after all, both remarkably lurid and conveniently topical, and it is notably light on specific sources. Whatever the truth regarding allegations against Trump, sexual entrapment was, and is, a tool frequently used by the Soviet intelligence services and their modern-day Russian descendants. The claims in the dossier are lurid and unproven, but they draw on very real precedents.

Just a week before his inauguration as US president, Donald Trump became deeply embroiled in a bizarre story about unverified claims that the Russian government holds compromising information on his private life. The claims were made in a series of reports said to have been written by Christopher Steele, an ex-MI6 officer turned private intelligence consultant, who it is claimed was commissioned by groups opposed to Trump to dig up discrediting material.

The dossier makes claims personal claims regarding Trump, based on information provided by officials of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). Trump has furiously rejected the dossier as fake.

Plenty of observers have questioned the dossier’s accuracy; its claims are, after all, both remarkably lurid and conveniently topical, and it is notably light on specific sources.

But the story refocuses the spotlight on Russia’s extensive use of so-called “honeytraps.” This is one of its most reliable tools for generating Kompromat, embarrassing information gathered for use against individuals, which it can then use to extract secret information – and throughout the Cold War, the FSB’s Soviet predecessors, the NKVD and KGB, famously used it to great effect.

Defenses down
William Luers, a former U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia, assumed he was always watched as a young diplomat in 1960s Moscow: “What they would do, I’m sure, is listen to my wife and me to find out if we had any problems financially, was I given to promiscuity, and just listen to our apartment and wherever I was.” Sir Brian Crowe, once a junior Foreign Office official in Moscow, remembered the “restrictions, self imposed, on us … no romantic/sexual relations with Russians for fear of blackmail.”

Western officials are routinely warned about the risks of being compromised in sexual acts or illegal activity, yet Russia’s intelligence agencies have enjoyed much success, both past and present. Major Ivan D Yeaton, U.S. military attaché to Moscow from 1939 to 1941, described regular parties with girls “generously provided” by the NKVD.

In the 1950s, at least a dozen U.S. diplomats were recalled to Washington after admitting sexual liaisons with KGB partners, and, in 1981, the US assistant military attaché to Moscow – “the best Russian-speaker in the American Embassy” – returned to the U.S. following “a party stage-managed by the KGB.”