During the Cold War, West Berlin, Lisbon, and Rome were considered the favorite places in Europe for the secret services of various countries, but now Luxembourg has become a favorite place for spies for several years. There are several reasons for this. Chief among them – Luxembourg circulates valuable information between various offices, both on financial flows and on NATO affairs, while Luxembourg’s own secret services have insufficient capacity to track the activities of spies from various countries, and thus foreigners do not need to spend resources on espionage to guard against counterintelligence of the given country.
The West, of course, tries to limit, for example, the activities of the Russian intelligence services in Europe. There are now fears that NATO secrets may be leaked directly from Luxembourg. The West has previously feared that Luxembourg is the weakest link in intelligence sharing within NATO, according to euobserver.com.
During the Cold War, Luxembourg’s ambassador to NATO, Guy de Muiser, was stripped of his security credentials. One Russian spy reported to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that he was leaking Western secrets. Despite this, de Muiser continued his career in the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Jamie Shea, a former NATO official in Britain, told euobserver.com that he got along well with de Muiser. However, as the publication points out, the set of facts that came to light does not give a competent impression of the Luxembourg Intelligence Service (SRE). According to Shea, de Muiser was fired because of his trips to Moscow. “It was the CIA that informed the Luxembourg intelligence services about these trips. The SRE itself did not seem to know this,” Shea told euobserver.com.
Luxembourg’s intelligence service continues to struggle with similar problems, as it fails to adequately vet secretive officials and continues to hand over classified and secret material to them without vetting them, according to SRE’s public statement. SRE has only 80 employees on its payroll.
In 2016, SRE lost access to Luxembourg police data, and SRE later reported this to NATO headquarters. NATO responded that Luxembourg must comply with the mandatory standards set by the 1997 INFOSEC.
A Western official told the publication that Russian special services take advantage of the fact that the EU and NATO often do not take the threat of information leakage seriously. Brussels is home to EU institutions and is also home to NATO headquarters. Therefore, the Belgian intelligence agency VSSE is partially responsible for NATO and EU security. The Agency is aware of the problems related to Luxembourg. However, VSSE confirmed that the agency has confidence in SRE’s actions.
According to the former head of VSSE, 10 years ago Brussels was the center of international espionage. In 2022, Belgium expelled almost 40 Russian diplomats. However, you can quickly get to Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands from Luxembourg. After 2022, Luxembourg has expelled only one Russian diplomat from the country. According to euobserver.com, the West suspected that the diplomat was a Russian intelligence officer.
“A Russian intelligence officer in Luxembourg can drive across the border, meet his source. No one understands what source he met,” said one Western intelligence source.
Questions are also often raised about the system and principles by which candidacies for the highest positions in Luxembourg’s state structures are selected. In 2020, the former ambassador of Luxembourg to Russia went to work for the Kremlin-owned “Gazprombank”. The former defense minister of Luxembourg went to work for the Russian investment company “Sistema” in the same year.
They have not been accused of leaking any information, but both had access to NATO secrets. Although they have done nothing wrong, this further undermines the Allies’ confidence in Luxembourg.
A Western intelligence official said Russian special services are using state-owned companies to lure Western officials. “What difference does it make how they share information? If I did it (the leak) verbally, there would be no trace,” the official told euobserver.com.