Russia And U.S. Swap 14 Spies In Cold War - Style Exchange.?

Discussion in 'Europe and Russia' started by bhramos, Jul 9, 2010.

  1. bhramos

    bhramos Elite Member Elite Member

    Mar 21, 2009
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    MOSCOW/VIENNA (Reuters) – The biggest spy swap since the end of the Cold War appeared to have taken place on Friday as Russian and U.S. planes met in Vienna to exchange agents, defusing an espionage drama that threatened improving relations.
    Two planes involved in the swap, one Russian, one U.S., parked side by side on the tarmac at Vienna airport for around an hour and a half as vehicles shuttled between them. The Russian plane then took off, followed by the U.S. plane.
    Local officials maintained a strict news blackout throughout.
    Moscow and Washington had earlier agreed to swap 10 Russian agents held in the United States for four Russians jailed in Russia on charges of spying for the West.
    The dramatic conclusion to the espionage scandal which has gripped America came after spymasters brokered the deal on the instructions of presidents keen not to derail a series of important diplomatic breakthroughs in Russia-U.S. relations.
    In the first step of the carefully choreographed swap, the 10 Russian agents pleaded guilty on Thursday in a New York court to charges against them and were immediately deported.
    Then, around midnight local time, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree pardoning four spies serving jail terms in Russia on charges of spying for the West.
    Some of those accused in the U.S. boarded a plane in New York on Thursday night and the same Vision Airlines jet landed in Vienna on Friday, a Reuters witness said.
    As the planes stood parked in the bright sunshine, some people were seen boarding the Russian Emergency Ministry jet at the airport and others boarded the Vision Airlines jet. The Russian aircraft then took off, followed about 10 minutes later by the U.S. jet.
    "The United States has agreed to transfer these individuals to the custody of the Russian Federation," the United States Justice Department said on Thursday.
    "In exchange, the Russian Federation has agreed to release four individuals who are incarcerated in Russia for alleged contact with Western intelligence agencies," it said.
    The spy scandal broke at an awkward time for U.S.-Russia ties, just days after Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev met for a friendly Washington summit last month.
    The U.S. and Russian legislatures are also considering ratification of a key treaty cutting nuclear weapons and Russian accession to the World Trade Organization, things neither side wants to jeopardize.
    Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the spy swap "gives reason to expect that the course agreed on by the leaders of Russia and the U.S. will be consistently implemented in practice and that attempts to knock the parties off this course will not succeed."
    But the swap itself -- which one Russian internet site quipped was "Russia 10: USA 4" -- may add fuel to Republican accusations that President Barack Obama is being too soft on Moscow.
    Relatives of spies on both sides of the swap had waited anxiously in Russia -- all bar one of the 14 agents are Russian citizens -- for news of the swap. Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) declined all comment on details of the affair.
    Moscow has always prided itself on bringing trusted agents back home and Washington has agreed to swaps before, though rarely on this scale.
    The largest known Cold War spy swap was in 1985 when more than 20 spies were exchanged between East and West on the Glienicke Bridge in the then divided city of Berlin.
    Spymasters on both sides say that despite generally warmer relations, the two former Cold War foes still fund generous intelligence operations against each other.
    The current scandal broke when the United States said on June 28 it had uncovered a ring of suspected Russian secret agents who were using false identities to try to gather sensitive intelligence on the United States.
    FBI counter-intelligence agents explained that the Russians had communicated with Moscow by concealing invisible text messages in photographs posted on public internet sites and some had met Russian diplomats from the U.S. mission in New York.
    Russian diplomats said the timing of the announcement, just days after Obama and Medvedev's June 24 summit in Washington, could be an attempt by U.S. hardliners to torpedo the so-called reset in ties that Obama has championed.
    A Kremlin source said Medvedev and Obama's warm relations had allowed the swap deal to be reached so swiftly.
    "This was due to the new spirit set in Russian-American relations and the high level of mutual understanding and trust between the Russian and American presidents that no one will be able to shake," the source said.
    (Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Michael Stott and Ralph Boulton)

    Russia 10: US 4 !!!
  3. nandu

    nandu Senior Member Senior Member

    Oct 5, 2009
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    REVEALED: How Russian spy gave nuclear submarine secrets to CIA spooks in Birmingham

    IT IS the international espionage plot that has made headlines around the world.

    Ten Russian spies seemingly living a normal surburban life in America were secretly taking orders from paymasters in Moscow.

    It was a successful operation – until the ring was smashed by FBI agents.

    Anxious to avoid an international incident, not to mention further blushes, Russia and America agreed a spy swap deal.

    On Friday the former enemies exchanged captured agents on the tarmac of Vienna airport in a spook swap reminiscent of the Cold War era.

    The American ring, including sexy redhead Anna Chapman, went East – while four spies held in Russia headed West.

    The biggest fish in the net is weapons expert Igor Sutyagin, 45, who was jailed in Russia for passing secrets to the CIA.

    And today the Sunday Mercury can reveal how he plied his secret trade in ... Birmingham.

    In the 1990s Sutyagin was a young research assistant working for the Moscow-based US-Canada Institute, when he attended a conference run by Birmingham University at Wast Hills House.

    The lush country pad near Kings Norton – once home to the Cadbury family – was used to host seminars on international relations, allowing academics from the city to rub shoulders with four-star generals from the former Soviet state.

    It was during one of the conferences in 1998 that arms control expert Sutyagin handed Russian secrets to the West, a deal which would eventually land him in prison for more than a decade.

    Tony Mason, then head of Birmingham University’s Centre for Studies in Security and Diplomacy, arranged the conference which gave Sutyagin the opportunity to betray his homeland.

    And he remembers the intriguing set of circumstances that led the Russian and a shadowy representative from a bogus company called Alternative Futures to the heart of the Midlands.

    Prof Mason reveals how a flurry of last-minute calls and faxes saw Sutyagin and Alternative Futures being invited to the £300-a-head event.

    “The conference was designed to bring together academics, diplomats, military officers and the media to discuss, in an informal atmosphere, topics of mutual interest between the UK and Russia,” he said.

    “But neither Alternative Futures nor Mr Sutyagin were on the original guest list for the conference.

    “A few weeks before the event I was contacted by fax by Alternative Futures, a political risk consultancy based in the City of London, asking for an invite.

    “I had not heard of them before, but I did not believe there was anything suspicious, and so agreed to their request.”

    Three days later, Prof Mason received the telephone call that would secure Sutyagin’s last-minute place at the table.

    “He was included at very short notice,” he recalls.

    “This followed a request from the US-Canada Institute after their original representative had pulled out.

    “Again, I did not think anything about it. Some time after the conference, I received a phone call from a man in the United States, purporting to be an academic colleague of Mr Sutyagin.

    “He told me Mr Sutyagin had been arrested for spying – and could I tell him anything about Alternative Futures?”

    The conference, it emerged, had been at the centre of what would blow up into an international incident.

    The Russians claimed that Sutyagin had divulged secret military information to Alternative Futures which, far from being a consultancy business, was acting on behalf of foreign intelligence services.

    Russia’s FSB security service – replacement of the notorious KGB – said he had handed over secrets about his country’s nuclear submarine programme to the company for a payment of £14,000.

    In 2004, Sutyagin was jailed for 15 years. He admitted working with the elusive company to supplement his wages, but denied espionage, saying he had no knowledge that Alternative Futures was a front for the CIA.

    The company, meanwhile, had mysteriously vanished without trace.

    Father-of two-Sutyagin had nine years still to serve when last week’s spy swap was agreed, and was surprised to be freed.

    Yesterday it emerged that US officials had hatched the spy swap more than two weeks before they rounded up the foreign spooks on their soil.

    The 10 people spying on America – including four couples – had been dispatched by Moscow to live normal lives in suburbia while trying to get close to sensitive political, economic and military circles.

    A number of the couples had children who were raised as Americans, knowing nothing of their parents’ double-life.

    But it was glamorous Anna Chapman (real name Anya Kushchenko) who grabbed the headlines. The 28 year-old redhead was caught at a Starbucks coffee shop accepting a fake US passport from an undercover FBI agent.

    She now says that she wants to live in the UK, where she has citizenship after her failed marriage to British businessman Alex Chapman.

    The other spies released by the Russians are Sergei Skripal, a former colonel who helped MI6 unmask Kremlin agents working in Europe; Alexander Zaporozhsky, a former colonel in the Russian foreign intelligence service, jailed for espionage, and Gennady Vasilenko, a former KGB officer employed as a security officer by Russia’s NTV television.
  4. bhramos

    bhramos Elite Member Elite Member

    Mar 21, 2009
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    Spy swap was a mistake!

    Editor's note: Gene Coyle is a retired, Russian-speaking, 30-year veteran of the CIA, who specialized for most of his career on Russian affairs. He is a recipient of the CIA's Intelligence Medal of Merit. He is now an adjunct professor at Indiana University and the author of two spy novels.
    (CNN) -- The Obama administration's rush to sweep the recent Russian spy scandal off the table as quickly as possible with this swap is a bad move on several counts.
    It is understandable and correct that President Barack Obama values the overall U.S.-Russian relationship above the question of whether a few Russian spies spend years in jail.
    The "reset" campaign was an excellent idea; too bad no one in our Department of State knew how to correctly spell the word in Russian when Secretary Hillary Clinton presented the "button" to the Russian Foreign Minister. However, there is a line between seeking a mutually beneficial relationship and delusional pandering.
    The history of U.S.-Russian relations shows that dealing respectfully but firmly is what works best. Most importantly, Moscow only agrees to anything that it perceives to be at least 50 percent in its self-interest, not because we've been nice guys. The only thing releasing all of these deep-cover Russian intelligence officers within a matter of days is going to teach Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, an old KGB officer, is that Obama is a pushover -- overly focused on making sure not to offend Russia.
    Video: U.S. and Russia spy swap complete Video: Russian spy suspects plead guilty
    Espionage and Intelligence
    Barack Obama
    Hillary Clinton
    Aside from sending the wrong political message, the quick swap also tells the leadership of the Russian government and the SVR, its intelligence service, that there is really no downside to being caught carrying out espionage in America.
    Any intelligence service in the world, including Russia's, when deciding whether to carry out a particular espionage operation looks at the "risk factor." What will be the blow back if this becomes known?
    Running "illegals" -- that is, Russians posing as citizens from a third country and who have no overt connection to the Russian embassy or consulates in America -- would usually be considered a high-risk operation by Moscow because those Russian citizens don't have diplomatic immunity if caught. It's bad press and it's bad for morale within the SVR if one, much less 11, of your deep cover officers get caught and are facing decades in prison. But Obama has now just told the SVR, "Hey, there is no penalty for spying in America. If we catch you, we'll just let you go so as not to damage 'big picture' relations."
    We did show Russia certain appropriate courtesies in these arrests, which would have indicated we didn't want to harm our political relationship with Russia.
    We waited until Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had made his visit to America. We waited until after the G20 meetings in Canada. We haven't even publicly named or expelled the Russian diplomats who were apparently observed being involved in the communications with these illegals. (Hopefully, the Department of State has at least told the Russian ambassador that certain of his diplomats should quietly leave America.) And speaking of morale, what message does this send to the hundreds of FBI special agents who spent thousands of hours working these cases?
    According to various press accounts, the number of Russian intelligence officers in America and Western Europe has already returned to Cold War levels. Obama has now told the Russians, there isn't even a problem if we catch you. Try anything you want.
    Normally, when any intelligence service has a major flap as this was, it would order an immediate stand down of other operations in that country for perhaps several months while it tried to figure out what had gone wrong. By immediately sending these SVR officers back to Moscow, they will be available to assist in that investigation.
    Not knowing what all they were involved in -- it was certainly more than "penetrating the local PTA" -- I don't necessarily advocate having kept these people in prison for decades, but a year or two in prison before offering a swap would have sent a strong message to Putin and the SVR. And if the press accounts are accurate, getting four people out of Russian jails in return for these 10 doesn't seem like much of a bargain either. (An 11th suspect detained in Cyprus remains on the loose after being released on bail.)
    Obama is no doubt an intelligent fellow, but he certainly didn't get very good advice from his intelligence community or Russian experts about how to handle this spy caper.
    The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gene Coyle.

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