It's time to send for George Smiley.

Russia’s covert foreign intelligence operations against America have reached Cold War levels under President Vladimir Putin, according to Washington officials.

White House intelligence advisers believe no other country is as aggressive as Russia in trying to obtain U.S. secrets, with the possible exception of China.

In particular the SVR, as the former KGB’s foreign intelligence arm is now known, is using a network of undercover agents in America to gather classified information about sensitive technologies, including military projects under development and high-tech research.

Yuri Shvets, a former KGB agent, said: “In the days of the Soviet Union, the number of spies was limited because they had to be based at the foreign ministry, the trade mission or the news agencies like Tass. Right now, virtually every successful private company in Russia is being used as a cover for Russian intelligence operations.”

Intelligence experts believe that since Putin became president in 2000, the Russians have rebuilt a network of agents in the United States that had been depleted during the country’s transition from communism.

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