After Donald Trump married his first wife, Ivana, in 1977, the communist intelligence service in Prague took a particular interest in the future president’s affairs, according to The Guardian’s review of archive files and testimony from former spies.
The goal was to gain in information about the “upper echelons of the US government”, and Ivana’s father played a significant role.
Czechoslovakia’s Státní bezpečnost (StB) carried out a long-term spying mission against Trump following his marriage in 1977 to his first wife, Ivana Zelníčková. The operation was run out of Zlín, the provincial town in south-west Czechoslovakia where Zelníčková was born and grew up.
Ivana’s father, Miloš Zelníček, gave regular information to the local StB office about his daughter’s visits from the US and on his celebrity son-in-law’s career in New York. Zelníček was classified as a “conspiratorial” informer. His relationship with the StB lasted until the end of the communist regime.
In October 1988, on the eve of the US election, Ivana Trump visited her parents in Zlín, known at the time as Gottwaldov. According to the files she “confidently” predicted Bush’s victory to her father, who in turn passed the tip to local StB officers.
“The outcome of the election confirmed the veracity of this information,” StB field agent Lt Peter Surý wrote, in a document dated 23 January 1989 and marked “secret”.
The prediction came “from the highest echelons of power in the US”. Ivana was “not only a well-heeled US citizen” but moved in “very top political circles”, Surý stated.
The scale of Soviet Russia's spying on Trump remains unknown, as the KGB — of which the StB was a sister agency — did not declassify files.
However, secret memos written by the KGB chief, Vladimir Kryuchkov, in the mid-1980s reveal that he berated his officers for their failure to cultivate top-level Americans. Kryuchkov circulated a confidential personality questionnaire to KGB heads of station abroad, setting out the qualities wanted from a potential asset.
According to instructions leaked to British intelligence by the KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky, they included corruption, vanity, narcissism, marital infidelity and poor analytical skills. The KGB should focus on personalities who were upwardly mobile in business and politics, especially Americans, the document said.