Sparking a flurry of Cold-War-style intrigue, a number of reports
suggest that Moscow and
Washington are fleshing out a deal to trade spies. Under the presumed
agreement, the U.S. would swap the 10 Russian "illegals" captured last week
Sutyagin, a Russian arms-control specialist sentenced to 15 years in a
Russian prison for passing weapons secrets to an alleged CIA front.
Would the U.S. be getting a good deal?
- Looks Like a Fair
Deal, writes Steve LeVine at Foreign Policy: "The
deal may be even: Sutyagin to this day maintains his innocence. He
claims that, as a specialist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, he
never had access to classified information. What he passed on to the
alleged CIA front -- Alternative Futures -- was strictly from open
sources, he said. As for the Russians in U.S. custody, prosecutors don't
allege that they actually carried out any espionage, only that they
didn't register as foreign agents."
- Are You Kidding? Stephen Sestanovich, a Russia
expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, disagrees with LeVinel:
"It's a relief to have Igor Sutyagin out after what he's been through.
But let's recognize there's been a terrible disproportion between the
messages sent here: Get caught in a gray area of what's secret and
what's not in Russia, and you do 15 years of hard time. Work for years
in an elaborately constructed and bankrolled intelligence operation in
the U.S. -- complete with assumed identities and constant covert
monitoring from Moscow -- and you're handed a get-out-of-jail pass in
- A Huge Win for the U.S., writes Russia expert Charles Crawford: "Hard for me at least to
see why the Russians would want to do this unless the
illegals/sleepers rounded up in the USA were likely to spill so many
operational beans during their looming long years on trial and then in
prison that it is worth Moscow eating great slabs of humble pie to end
the agony asap... The more you look at it, the more this looks like a
five-star triumph for the Americans in general and the FBI in
- This Whole Affair Is Both Novel and Old School, writes
Mark Hosenball at Newsweek: "An
old-fashioned spy swap would be only the latest anachronism in a case
that has many eerie Cold War echoes, ranging from the femme fatale antics
of one of the alleged spy ring's younger members (topless photos of
Anna Chapman surfaced in a London tabloid over the weekend) to the use
of seemingly antique 'tradecraft' like messages written in invisible ink
and bales of cash buried under broken beer bottles in remote rural
fields. On the other hand, the accused Russian agents also used modern
high-tech methods like two-way laptop wireless hookups and the
transmission of secret messages to Moscow Center via 'steganography'--an
advanced technique in which texts are fiendishly encoded by computer and
then embedded in pictures posted publicly on the Internet."
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