Russian Spy Games

Ryan Fogle and the New Cold War

(Gonzalo Andrés / Flickr)

The case of Ryan Fogle, a 29-year-old third secretary in the political department of the U.S. embassy in Moscow who was arrested last week by Russian authorities, sparked a media furor worthy of the heights of the Cold War. The Russian government accused him of being a CIA officer, suggesting that he had been sent to the North Caucasus to meet with Russian security officials and to follow up on leads about the Tsarnaev brothers, the two ethnic Chechens implicated in the recent Boston bombing. Fogle left Moscow speedily. But in case anyone thought the episode was a one-off, news has also leaked of another: the expulsion on May 5 of Thomas Firestone, a prominent American lawyer in Moscow who used to work at the Department of Justice and is a caustic and well-informed observer of official corruption in Russia. The Russian security service, the FSB (Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti), had apparently tried, and failed, to recruit him.

Although it would be a scandal if the United States were caught spying on Canada or the United Kingdom, no one should be surprised that the United States spies on Russia -- or vice versa. Russia is not a member of the Five Eyes, the intelligence-sharing alliance between the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, which is the closest thing the intelligence community has to a trusting family. Russia is not even a member of NATO -- and NATO allies, such as Greece and Turkey, spy on each other all the time.

For all the talk of resets, moreover, Russia and the United States remain adversaries. Russia is no longer the United States’ top priority, but it does rehearse military strikes on NATO targets, its media is full of anti-Western propaganda, and the country’s security services have a mixed record when it comes to dealing with violent Islamist extremists. Sometimes it represses them harshly; sometimes it uses them to serve Russian interests. The Russians captured

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