The Russians are keeping their invisible ink and exploding pens safely locked away.
U.S. President Joe Biden is arriving in Brussels on Wednesday night for a bumper session of NATO, EU and G7 meetings but Russian agents in Europe’s city of spies are keeping their heads down.
Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Belgian authorities have seen a decrease of Russian espionage activities on Belgian territory, a spokesperson for Belgian state security said.
“They are less active, they have become more cautious and observe a lot of security rules,” the spokesperson said.
Belgian state security could not comment on the number of Russian spies in Brussels, which hosts both the EU institutions and NATO headquarters. Belgian media have reported that one-third of Russian diplomats are actually intelligence officers, which would add up to a couple of dozen Russian spies in Brussels.
Public prosecutors have called for an update of the country’s law on espionage, which dates back to the 1930s because Belgium has long considered spying not to be a crime. Public prosecutors have cited Belgium’s role as a diplomatic hub as justification for broadening the definition of espionage in national law to ensure prosecution.
Earlier this month, the European Parliament also called on Belgian authorities to “review and update the domestic anti-espionage framework to enable effective detection, prosecution and sanctioning of offenders” guilty of foreign infiltration.
The Belgian government last year announced it would invest more in its state security, aiming for the government agency to increase its employees from the current 583 to 1,000 by 2024. At the time, Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne called counterintelligence one of the state’s priorities, saying that those teams will be strengthened.