Tales from the Trail

Swapping spies to advance a post-Cold War relationship

RUSSIA-USA/SPIESIt’s hardly ever been a rock-solid relationship but has had its moments. So what does one do when deceit is discovered but no one wants a divorce?

When Russia was caught engaging in the second oldest profession in the United States the two partners decided that the overall relationship was too important to disintegrate over such an indiscretion. Their answer: swap spies.

But the public story so far has raised questions about why the hurry?

“Looks to me that the Administration was in one mighty big rush to put aside this annoyance in the U.S.-Russian relationship. What a deal. We swap 10 Russians for 4 Russians,” a former U.S. intelligence official says.

“I am not buying the spin that we were anxious because of the ill health of some of those being held in Russia. No indication we were working to spring those folks until we found ourselves in the possession of the U.S. based ring,” he said.

The message appears to be that a Russian who gets caught spying in the United States will get sprung by Moscow in 10 days, while a Russian caught working on behalf of the west may get sprung years later if it suits Moscow’s needs, the former official says.

GASP! Russia spying on the United States

There’s gambling in Vegas (sharp intake of breath)… Tea grows in China (eyes widen)… Russia spies on the United States (hand over heart stagger backward).

SHOCKING, SHOCKING, SHOCKING! (Get out the hanky and smelling salts).

Well, hold on a minute… it’s not exactly Robert Hanssen is it? The former FBI agent was charged with selling U.S. secrets to the former Soviet Union and then Russia and is now serving a life prison sentence in what was seen as a huge intelligence disaster – Russia penetrated the FBI. RUSSIA-USA/SPYING

In this spy story, a multi-year U.S. investigation into the “illegals” program nabbed 10 “alleged secret agents” in the United States and charged them with conspiring to act as unlawful agents of Russia. A charge that carries a 5-year prison sentence.