While many top-secret documents about Cold War aerial intelligence have been declassified, very little has emerged about the use of commercial aircraft. However, files in the Dutch National Archives describe in surprising detail some of Aeroflot’s activities over the Netherlands
For a large part of the Cold War, the Soviet state-owned airline Aeroflot was used by Moscow as a convenient cover for clandestine photographic and electronic espionage operations worldwide. The deliberate, rapid expansion of Aeroflot’s international routes from the end of the 1950s — with the need for conventional profitability of secondary importance — gave the US cause to warn European NATO countries explicitly about the intelligence consequences of Soviet overflights. However, those warnings did not make a deep impression. In the opinion of many west European nations, eager to expand their own commercial air services, the alleged dangers seemed somewhat exaggerated. Reciprocity was the magic word in negotiations with Moscow.