Hungarian secret agent on the Russian threat

A real bombshell exploded yesterday when Index published both in English and in Hungarian a lengthy interview with Ferenc Katrein, who worked in the civilian counter-intelligence agency for 13 years. His highest position at the agency was “executive head of operations.” He dealt with such sensitive issues as the country’s defense against the Russian secret service. In 2013 he left the agency because he “no longer could identify with the leadership,” which was following the decidedly pro-Russian policies of the Orbán government.

Katrein considers the Russian threat in Europe very serious, “the highest level” in recent years. The Russians are putting a great deal of work into “aggravating the migration crisis and especially in using it for propaganda and gaining influence.” A few months ago Ferenc Gyurcsány estimated the number of Russian agents in Hungary to be somewhere between 600 and 800, which, according to Katrein, might not be an exaggeration. If one includes “the complete web of connections employed by Russian intelligence to serve Russian interests, including dark intelligence, this number looks … realistic.”

In general, Katrein complains about the passivity of the agency. He realized at the time of the 2006 disturbances that “we are a sleeping agency,” that the agency was overlooking threats from extremist elements. It took some time to become more or less proactive.

We know that Fidesz, while in opposition, had close relations with former agents who had been booted out of the service but who still had friends in the agency who were passing information about government members and others to Fidesz. It is quite possible that some of these agents were sympathetic to extremist groups that could serve the interests of Viktor Orbán.

Ferenc Katrein / Index / Photo: István Huszti

After the 2010 change of government, when the agency became subordinated to the ministry of interior headed by Sándor Pintér, a former police chief, “the philosophy of the police” triumphed over “the philosophy of the secret service. …Something has to happen, a crime, a murder for the mechanism to start.” A good example of this mindset was the agency’s unwillingness to interfere in the activities of the Hungarian National Front (Magyar Nemzet Arcvonal/MNA) and GRU, the Russian military secret service. You may recall that István Győrkös’s group was playing war games with officers attached to the Russian Embassy in Budapest. By the time officers of the agency were sent out to confront the head of MNA, it was too late. One of them was killed by Győrkös.

In Katrein’s opinion, cooperation between an extremist group and the Russian military secret service is something that must be reported to the government by the head of the agency. Moreover, such a piece of vital information must be sent to partner agencies in NATO because “everybody’s fighting its own far-right organizations in Europe.” Katrein expressed his hope that the information was sent to Hungary’s partners. I wouldn’t be at all certain about that.

In the interview Katrein said that Russia placed a large number of agents in the former Soviet satellites in the late 1980s because it was becoming clear that the socialist order’s days were numbered. But this generation of “deep cover agents is close to retirement, which means that the Russians are looking for opportunities to refresh the personnel.” Apparently the Hungarian residency bond program is such an opportunity. Thousands of Russians can be placed in Hungary this way.

Moreover, if one looks at the media or among the so-called advisers and national security experts, it is apparent that the Russians have already deeply penetrated that vital sector for propaganda purposes. The personnel of the Hungarian state television and radio wittingly or unwittingly work as Russian agents. The same is true of government mouthpieces like Magyar Idők, Pesti Srácok, and 888.hu. National security experts talk about the failure of the West, the uselessness of the European Union, and the sins of the United States. They portray the refugees marching toward Europe as a controlled invasion. Lately, these “experts” have begun attacking NATO while remaining silent about Russia. In fact, some of them even deny Russian interference in the U.S. election on the side of Donald Trump. These “experts” surely couldn’t spread their falsified information without the authorization and support of the Hungarian government. Katrein’s opinion of these people “who consider themselves experts while they panic and talk about war and invasion are not experts but something else.” He didn’t spell it out, but I will. They are likely Russian agents.

When the conversation turned to the relations of NATO’s partner agencies with their Hungarian counterparts, Katrein described the situation this way: “You are in the international bloodstream if you have joint issues with other agencies, not only in counter-espionage but in counter-terrorism as well. If these are there, you are in the club. If these are not there, you are on the periphery.”

Although Magyar Idők, at least in one of the editorials published after the interview, tried to portray the conversation with the former counter-intelligence officer as a condemnation of the national security services before 2010, Katrein’s main critique was reserved for the situation created as a result of the Orbán government’s so-called “Eastern Opening” and the pro-Russian course that followed. Prior to the merging of the military intelligence services into the Military National Security Service, Hungarian military intelligence was completely pro-NATO. Now, it is very heavily pro-Russian. This was the reason for Katrein’s resignation.

It seems that the Orbán government was unprepared for Katrein’s revelations. Although Viktor Orbán felt he had to say something, his comments were inadequate given the harsh criticism of his pro-Russian policies. The only thing he managed to mutter was that although Hungary is not the largest country on earth, it is situated in an important part of it. Both to the East and to the West there are countries for which Hungary is important. Hungary cannot be isolated. It can only be defended. And, Orbán continued, the country has been well defended ever since 2010.

Orbán left the job of discrediting Katrein to the hacks of his media empire, but the result was confusion. Since the appearance of the interview Magyar Idők has published four articles on the subject, the first of which, as I said, tried to portray the interview as a condemnation of the agency during the socialist-liberal governments before 2010. This feat was accomplished by leaving out all references to the current government’s pro-Russian policies, which agents slavishly follow. In this first article Katrein was portrayed as a hero. But then Magyar Idők realized that the damning interview can’t be handled this way, so it moved into attack mode. It claimed that Katrein didn’t leave the agency on his own volition but was fired. Moreover, “secret service experts” now claim that “well-known foreign groups want to influence the foreign policy of the government, its consistent policy toward migration, and its cooperation with the president of the United States.” Yes, those foreigners are trying to ruin the Hungarian government.

International relations, due mostly to the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, are in flux. We have no idea about the nature of U.S. foreign policy toward Russia in the coming months and years. As things stand now, it would be exceedingly risky for Trump to conduct the kind of pro-Russian policy he most likely originally envisaged. In any case, the Hungarian government is trying to get close to the top echelon of the Trump administration. Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó already got as far as Sebastian Gorka, the pride of the Hungarian right.

March 22, 2017
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Istvan
Guest
I found the interview of Ferenc Katrein to be confusing, on the other hand Eva’s essay was cogent and better than the interview itself. I am not sure the interview was much of a bombshell, most of us on this blog we’re operating under assumptions of pretty deep penetration of Russian security services in Hungary. The question that could not be asked possibly for legal reasons, possibly out of fear, to me was the one thousand pound elephant in the room was to what degree did Katerin believe that Orban himself has been compromised by Russian security services? For example does Putin have blackmail evidence against Orban that could be used to destroy him like he has used evidence against out of favor Russian oligarchs corruption that was condoned until the time came for their destruction. The interview dances around this big question. At least here in the USA we have reporters asking for example does Trump owe money to Russians and is that having an influence on his thinking towards Russia? Or does Putin have compromising videos of Trump caught in sex acts with Russian agents? The more profound questions relating to Fidesz and Orban’s relationship with Putin was… Read more »
Ferenc
Guest
Istvan by now you should know that Hungarians don’t like profound questions, not asked to them and so not asking those. As far as I see it, this mentality comes with the feeling that in general Hungarians “are too proud for their own good”. Many of us here might have assumptions, but seeing those confirmed with words from people with experience in the field, takes that one step further to some sort of proof. Furthermore people, who don’t rely and/or trust assumptions, get what is necessary for them to have a sort of change in mind. So bombshell or not, it’s a very important (first?) interview about the secret services field. The ‘thousand pound’ question, you missed, might be coming in the next interview, probably builded up from questions about others like Pinter and Matolcsi. A completely different thing I started to ask myself, why is the Red Star – Heineken – Csiki Beer case so incredibly blow up, in parliament, media, everywhere in Hungary. Possible reasons I see are: -Fidesz&Co jump on anything against foreign/multi….. -Hungarians in Romania involved….. -F&Co blow up a small case to arrange/hide/cover-up other things? -some unknown conflict between F&Co and Heineken? -some hidden money… Read more »
petofi
Guest

BIG PRIDE? small ego…

Hungarians–self-victimizers par excellence.

Balazs
Guest

The Russians are smart and will not destroy Orban. Why would they? Orban is one of their best agents. KGB/GRU were always successful because the Russian have the reputation of being extremely loyal to their assets and comrades.

What will happen is that when Putin thinks it’s a better option for him to support an even better Russian agent (like Vona and Jobbik) then Orban will be told that from then on he will have to settle with only cuts from the natural gas, oil and other energy moneies. Orban will be OK with that. Orban knows his place in the pecking order. When Moscow decides Orban abides and knows that there’s no further appeal available.

Jobbik is basically a Russian vehicle, Fidesz wasn’t originally a Russian vehicle (though it became one).

petofi
Guest

no settlement, and no watches…just a polonium sandwich, packed-to-go

András B. Göllner
Guest
Katrein’s revelations will have far reaching consequences for the FBI/CIA investigations into the relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russian secret service. That relationship was not a direct one, via the Russian embassy in Washington, or through US based operatives. The transactions took place on the “Budapest Bridge”, at the FSB’s European Headquarters, where more than 1000 FSB agents with Hungarian passports circulate freely. It is not a coincidence that Gert Wilders and Nick Griffin have residences in Hungary. The Hungarian banking system provides shelter for the financial transactions, Hungary’s secret services lend friendly cover against wiretapping. It is not a coincidence that J.D. Gordon, US Attorney General Sessions’s right hand man during the campaign traveled 6 times to Budapest. The top echelons of the Trump campaign are all A.J. Finkelstein’s men. The latter is a long time Trump associate, and the hidden brainchild of the Trump campaign. Finkelstein is Bannon’s equivalent in Hungary, with a Budapest residence and almost daily access to Orbán and to some of the most corrupt leaders of the former Soviet Republics. He is the spider at the center of this web. Not surprisingly, Finkelstein has suddenly become gravely ill, and unavailable for questioning.… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

Finkelstein and Paul Manafort essentially did the same thing, they sold either the illusion of influence or actual influence to foreign governments. That is what American political wonks do and also lobbyists do. Bribery is easily regulated because we all know it’s a crime. Somebody is trying to break a rule. Getting rules changed, on the other hand, is part of the democratic system and our feelings about lobbyists depends on who they’re lobbying for.

The problem we are having over here in the USA is the delicate difference between being a Putin operative and being a lobbyist for Russian interests with our government which is legal as long as it is divulged no matter how much you get paid for doing it. Our system of lobbying here is legalized corruption and now it is entering the world of espionage.

wrfree
Guest
Re: ‘lobbyists… depends on who they’re lobbying for’ And thus when looked in the context of spies who are ‘lobbyists’ in a sense the situation when it presents itself usually shows how shall we say it a form of fluidity where allegiances will go with a whisp if it forwards a strategy for ‘success’ for plans in the nefarious and dangerous espionage world. Spying has always been an element in countries’ foreign policy. Perhaps it is more important today than it ever was. Today in the clash between the US and Europe with Russia the nature of the espionage runs along the line of the spied upon worked upon to make decisions which would help implicate their own destruction due to ‘lobbying’ moles. Russia appears to have the heads up on that right now. As they ran rings around Britain’s spy agencies during the War arguably the same could happen to the US and Europe without great vigilance. It may sound absurd to say that a POTUS could be a unwilling tool of a foreign power. But no matter it still can occur in the realm of probabilities. I’m not too sure a writer has explored that issue. If it… Read more »
András B. Göllner
Guest

Precisely.

petofi
Guest

Stop it, Istvan.
You’re still harboring the notion that the initiative rests with Americans–it does not. Pyutin calls the shots.

petofi
Guest

Assets in far away places:

Abramovich–owner of the Chelsea soccer team; based in London.

Prokhorov–owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

Question: Russian billionaires like to stay close to home to
soak their assets at banyas and show off to others…
So what are two of the richest billionaires doing living in London and New York?

(Russkies go to Miami for three months and own property there but they don’t go to live there…)

petofi
Guest

Google, Malcolm Nance interview on Salon…about Trump scandal.

Ferenc
Guest

2017.Mar.14 – Intelligence expert Malcolm Nance on Trump scandal: “As close to Benedict Arnold as we’re ever going to get”
http://www.salon.com/2017/03/14/intelligence-expert-malcolm-nance-on-trump-scandal-as-close-to-benedict-arnold-as-were-ever-going-to-get/

Istvan
Guest
There are many problems with using Malcom Nash as a source petofi, he probably has as many problems as using President Donald Trump’s foreign policy adviser Sebastian Gorka as a source. Most readers of this blog are unaware that Mr. Nash was likely not a sworn CIA agent, but rather the was an NCO in the US Navy where trained Navy and Marine Corps flyers, both pilots and aircrew to survive captivity as a prisoner of war. He was involved in the Advanced Terrorism, Abduction and Hostage Survival school (ATAHS), a special survival program designed to train Special Mission Units, and did training for the Navy SEALS. He went to college through a remote learning program via Excelsior College while serving in the Navy where he claims to have majored in Arabic, but that college has no Arabic major. There is no question that Nash had contact with spooks, particularly when he was a civilian contractor. But so did a lot of retired military people, but we are by law prohibited from discussing any aspects of those relationships due to Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. So who really knows? I actually agree with some of his conclusions, but I… Read more »
petofi
Guest

The name is NANCE and not NASH. Are we speaking of the same guy?

Istvan
Guest

Same guy, my iPad for whatever reason did an auto anticipation insert I did not realize I guess.

There is a lot on former Navy NCO Nance just a little research petofi reveals that. He is not a fraud, he is what he is, and his credibility is similar to Gorka. Both have some credentials one in the Trump camp, one in the anti-Trump camp. I would not bet the house on the guy.

Ferenc
Guest

“credibility is similar to Gorka”
so another big balloon trying to avoid something sharp (i.e.reality)?

petofi
Guest

@Istvan

What do your military intelligence buddies tell you about how Trump won the Republican nomination?

I’d say that winning the nomination was more surprising than winning the election.

Istvan
Guest

He just won, he appealed to the interests of many primarily white and a lesser percentage of Hispanic Americans who have deep concerns over the changes in our nation, and opportunities in our society. As I have indicated before the majority of retired and active military I know supported Trump and most continue to support him. The psychology is to a degree explainable by reading Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis or David Brooks in The NY Times.

There does not have to be a conspiracy to explain every event in the world, but I won’t deny conspiracies do exist in this world.

András B. Göllner
Guest

“He just won” ??? He won, because in addition to all those variables you listed István, the Trump campaign had a central “thread” – Hillary cannot be trusted. This was the Trump campaign’s overarching theme. Whenever Hillary’s polling numbers increased, the Russians released some e-mails, that changed the narrative of the campaign, and resulted in – on average – a 3-5 point drop in Hillary’s support. That was the necessary margin of victory. THAT was the strategy/tactics coordinated via Finkelstein, and the traveling Trump operatives, including Roger Stone, J.D. Gordon, and Trump’s chief pollster, Tony Fabrizio.

Istvan
Guest

I think Bannon’s strategic thinking for Trump was very important too in appealing to the white working class.

petofi
Guest

It is appalling that, working class or not, people can not see a flim-flam man with a history of lying and con artistry. It’s beyond me. Don’t people read?

What’s more, why would people want Trump as an example for their kids?
Mind-boggling.

petofi
Guest

Istvan,

you’re better versed in congressional law than I, I’m sure. So tell me what punishment there is for Nunes who has betrayed the constitution and the establish procedure of committees?
Should he have to face a disciplinary committee?

Speculation: For what Nunes did by reporting to the President, he must’ve gotten atleast $100 million dollars.

International, money politics big time…

Istvan
Guest

Nunes apologized for his going to Trump with the supposed information before going to the committee see http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/23/politics/devin-nunes-reaction-house-intelligence-committee-congress/index.html

My guess would be that given the Republicans have the majority on the ethics committee of the House no investigation or censure of Numes will happen. Its not clear if what he did was a violation of any criminal law, my guess is it wasn’t.

Thomas Deri
Guest

I don’t predict a long life for Mr. Katrein.

Alex G
Guest

Katrein’s is a very remarkable interview because in Hungary basically no former or present intelligence officer (appearing as such) has given any serious interview in the last 20 years. The interview was also unusually long and Index translated it to English for greater impact which Index does very rarely.

Nevertheless Orban will surely not change course and thus nothing will change. The Hungarian intelligence services are entirely subordinate to the political leadership which in Hungary means Orban and Orban only. Since Orban is a Russian asset as long as Orban is in his position Hungary will faithfully serve Russian interests.

Ferenc
Guest

OT
The latest drunken developments:
-the Fidesz cleaner, Herr Szilard (sorry Wolfi), considers Heineken the ‘Devil’s Beer’ and does never buy/use anything with a red star……
-clown Lazar compared Heineken’s red star with Real Madrid’s royal cross (which they removed for sponsor reasons out of their symbol) and tried to convince that people might be offended by red stars for ‘totalitarian’ reasons

My thoughts:
-why get Lazar & clowns get free hand from OV in a case which can never be won in any legal way (only may be get some more sympathy from ‘Greater Hungary’ supporters). Does OV may be want to get rid of some of his clowns (i.e. replace Lazar with for example Rogan)?
-if opposition is not able to severely damage Fidesz in this case, Hungary with all it’s inhabitants must be considered an asylum where the lunatics have definitely taken over and the 2018 elections will be a farce.

Member

Tonight on ATV Peter Talas, a specialist in security policy, suggested that everything that Ferenc Katrein revealed had already been in the public domain for some time. http://www.atv.hu/videok/video-20170323-talas

petrovics
Guest

This is a typical reaction by deep state elements supportive of Orban -Talas is part of it, he’s old school. It’s a bit like with Snowden when security experts said – among other things, downplaying his significance – that we all suspected that the NSA was conduction surveillance of the internet or phones, what’s new? But as some apt people remarked it’s one thing to suspect you’re wife is cheating on you and quite another finding her with another man. The statements by Katrein were important because he said so when no other similarly ranked person ever gave any interview or ever expressed any opinion about current events. Despite what Talas says the significance of the interview is not lost on the Hungarian security establishment but nobody will do a thing: Orban’s ukaz is unequivocal, he’s with Russia and Russia can do whatever it wants to do in Hungary, using Hungary.

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