The Moscow Rules Guide of KGB and CIA Spycraft | RDCTD Covert Operative Tradecraft The covert operative guide to the “Moscow Rules”, a methodology governing operatives in hostile environments as a lifeline for working under the constant threat of surveillance and compromise by adversarial forces.


While rooted in the world of espionage, the principles embodied in the Moscow Rules transcend their origins, offering valuable lessons and strategies for modern-day personal security and awareness. This exploration covers the origins, essence, and practical applications of the Moscow Rules. Then contrasting them with the lesser-known “London Rules” and extending their wisdom into everyday life practices for both the professional and ordinary individual.


          Origins of the Moscow Rules

The “Moscow Rules” are a set of guidelines developed during the Cold War, primarily by operatives working in Moscow, one of the most challenging environments for Western intelligence agencies. These rules were not officially documented but rather passed down through generations of operatives.

They were designed to ensure the safety and effectiveness of operatives working under constant threat of surveillance and interception by the Soviet security services, particularly the KGB.


          The Moscow Rules List

The Moscow Rules are a series of principles and practices focused on discretion, counter-surveillance, and operational security. While the exact number and wording of these rules vary, some of the most commonly cited ones include:

1)   Assume you are under surveillance.

2)   Never go against your gut.

3)   Vary your routine and pattern.

4)   Maintain a low profile.

5)   Use secure communication channels.

6)   Trust no one completely.

7)   Minimize written communication.

These principles reflect the extreme caution and meticulous planning required in high-risk operational environments.


          Purpose and Application

The primary purpose of the Moscow Rules is to guide operatives in maintaining operational security and avoiding detection. In practice, these rules emphasize the importance of situational awareness, the use of tradecraft techniques such as surveillance detection routes (SDRs), and the need for contingency planning. They also highlight the psychological aspect of intelligence work, where intuition and adaptability are key.

Operatives are trained to constantly assess their environment for potential threats, use cover stories effectively, and employ technology and tools cautiously. In essence, the Moscow Rules are about blending in, being unpredictable, and staying one step ahead of adversaries.


          Comparison with “London Rules”

The “London Rules,” while less documented and famous than the Moscow Rules, refer to a set of principles used by operatives in relatively safer and more predictable environments, like London, during the Cold War.

Compared to the Moscow Rules, the London Rules might be seen as less stringent, reflecting the different operational challenges and lower levels of threat in such environments. The key differences include:

Risk Assessment:   The London Rules allow for more flexibility and fewer restrictions, given the lower threat level.

Operational Practices:   In less hostile environments, operatives could take greater risks and be less rigid in their tradecraft.

Communication and Interaction:   The London Rules potentially permit more direct communication and meetings, given the reduced surveillance threat.


          Application of the Moscow Rules in Everyday Life

While the Moscow Rules were designed for covert operatives, their principles can be adapted for everyday use, particularly for individuals concerned about personal security and privacy. In today’s digital age, where surveillance and data breaches are common, these rules can offer a framework for vigilant living.



Trusting Instincts


Varying Routines


Maintaining a Low Profile


Secure Communications


Skeptical Trust


Written Records



          Broader Implications

Adopting these rules in daily life does not mean living in constant fear or suspicion but rather developing a heightened sense of awareness and discretion. It’s about being proactive in safeguarding one’s personal security and privacy in a world where these are increasingly at risk.

By incorporating elements of the Moscow Rules into everyday behavior, individuals can cultivate a mindset that balances caution with confidence, enabling them to navigate various situations more safely and securely.



While the Moscow and London Rules were developed in the specific context of the Cold War, their principles remain relevant for modern operatives and even for individuals in certain high-risk professions today. They emphasize the importance of constant vigilance, adaptability to different environments, and the nuanced understanding of risks and operational security.

Understanding these rules provides insight into the complex and often dangerous world of covert operations and the urban jungle, where every action and decision can have significant consequences.