But in many cases, the Russians' sloppy tradecraft has meant their "secret" operations are almost immediately noticed.
Two current European intelligence officials described the scoop by the New York Times about a unit of Russian military intelligence, commonly called the GRU, tasked with murdering Russia's enemies in Europe and helping sow political and military chaos, as "credible."
The NYT piece, which ran Tuesday, used a mix of open-source documentation and intelligence gathered across Europe in the wake of half a dozen killings to determine that many of the international incidents involving Russia involve "Unit 29155" of the GRU, a previously unknown unit.
Its track record of wildly aggressive actions has usually backfired publicly
But despite the almost certainty the unit has been involved in previously unidentified incidents, its track record of wildly aggressive actions -- spraying nerve agents on a turncoat agent's door handle -- have usually backfired publicly, and left a trail easily linked to Russian intelligence.