Russia arrests CIA agent in Moscow

FSB agents arrested an alleged CIA spy yesterday in Moscow as he traveled to meet with a person the CIA was attempting to recruit, according to Russian officials. Embassy diplomat Ryan Fogle was arrested and the FSB says that Fogle carried a large sum of money, technical devices and written instructions for the individual he was working to recruit.

Fogle's Russian issued diplomatic pass.
Fogle’s Russian issued diplomatic pass.

Spy arrests are to be expected from time to time as even friendly countries spy on each other. In this particular case the cold war may be over but the state of relations between the United States and Russia is currently very chilly at best.

Fogle's State Department Embassy ID.
Fogle’s State Department Embassy ID.

We do marvel at the blatant stupidity of the USA in recent years and for the sake of argument we’ll call it the “Bush Obama era” as both the previous and current US presidents have been nothing more than amateurs when it comes to dealing with Russia. From former President George W. Bush gazing longingly into Vladimir Putin’s eyes, to President Obama’s nothing short of idiocy in replacing an Ambassador whom Russians loved (John Beyrle) with someone the Russians hate (Michael McFaul), the USA has no idea how to work constructively with Russia.

We hesitate to remind readers of new Ambassador McFaul’s claim that the Russians were hacking into his cell communications and bugging his office because they seemed to know his every move in advance. Only when it was pointed out to the Ambassador that the Russians were merely following his own Twitter “tweets” on his schedule, did he finally issue an official apology to the Kremlin. McFaul’s apology however came after the matter had been raised by the Russians not only to the State Department where Hillary “What difference does it make?” Clinton, despised at best in the Kremlin halls, seemed bewildered by it all. To make matters worse the Kremlin took it’s complaint even higher to the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in Washington.

We should also remind readers that new Ambassador McFaul’s first official meetings after presenting his credentials to the Kremlin was to hold a series of meetings with the leaders of Mr. Putin’s opposition.  It that really the work of a “reset” in Washington’s eyes?

Popularity of the USA has sunk to new lows among Russians recently.
The two countries are struggling to maintain relations.

So last week the tallest and most talkative new Secretary of State strode into Moscow. The same man who embarrassed himself during a presidential debate several years ago by claiming to have visited the famous KGB prison, Lyubanka while referring to it as Treblinka Square  (Treblinka being the name of a concentration camp in Poland), came to seek Vladimir Putin’s cooperation on Syria.

Upon his arrival Mr. Putin kept him waiting, for 3 hours, then sat quietly with kind of a smirk on his face while fiddling with his ink pen to keep awake as Mr. Kerry, who loves to hear himself talk, did just that: he talked and talked and talked. Once the surely torturous session was over, Mr. Putin kept his press briefing comments about their meeting very brief, ten sentences to be exact. In response to Mr. Putin’s brief remarks, Mr. Kerry gave a speech of which there were ten sentences in just the first three paragraphs, that being just the introduction of his remarks.

Gushing that his visit to Moscow represented yet another “reset” for relations between Moscow and Washington, what did Secretary Kerry do on his second day in Moscow before returning to  Washington? He held a series of meetings with leaders of Mr. Putin’s opposition and several non-government NGO’s under scrutiny by the Russians. Smart move, Mr. Kerry. The Kremlin was probably none the wiser.

So let’s go back to the spy arrests in June 2010 of FSB (formerly the KGB) agents, including Anna Chapman, in which the agents were quickly whisked back to Moscow in a quiet little agreement after ABC news learned that an unnamed official in the Obama administration may have been enticed by a certain very attractive and very sexy Russian agent.

Page one of the US governments introduction of the plea agreement to send Anna Chapman back to Moscow within 72 hours of being arrested for spying.
Page one of the US government’s introduction of the plea agreement to send Anna Chapman back to Moscow within 72 hours of being arrested for spying.

Thus it was no surprise that the arrest of American diplomat Ryan Fogle, operating out of the US Embassy, resulted in his quick release and banishment back to Washington. The Russian foreign ministry declared Mr. Fogle to be “persona non grata” and ordered his immediate expulsion. Fogle was flown overnight back to the USA.

What is the good news in all this? The Kremlin could have locked up Mr. Fogle for decades, dragging his case slowly through televised public trials while embarrassing the USA every step of the way, but they didn’t. Not only was an exchange likely, but this signals Mr. Putin’s willingness to work with the USA on certain issues, perhaps even Syria up to a point.

Today Mr. Putin hosted visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Sochi, home of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Their meeting was cordial and Mr. Putin was wide awake this time, no smirks or ink pen fiddling, telling the Israelis that “our relationship with Israel is both friendly and mutually beneficial.

Mr. Putin prepares to greet Mr. Netanyahu in Sochi.
Mr. Putin prepares to greet Mr. Netanyahu in Sochi.

When Mr. Kerry came to Moscow to talk about Syria, afterward Mr. Putin made no mention of Syria at all in his remarks. This time however with Mr.Netanyahu at his side he did speak to the Syria issue, telling the press that “The situation in Syria is a particular concern. My colleague and I agree that continuing the armed conflict in the country is fraught with disastrous consequences for both Syria and the region. Only by quickly ending the armed struggle and arriving at a political settlement can we prevent a very negative outcome.

Sochi, Russia: Israeli PM Netanyahu and Russian President Putin.
Sochi, Russia: Israeli PM Netanyahu and Russian President Putin.

As part of his remarks Mr. Putin said, In this crucial period it is especially important to avoid actions that could destabilize the situation. Mr Prime Minister and I agreed to stay in contact: both in personal contact and via our organizations and special services.

Although their private meeting lasted for several hours, comments to the press were brief.
Although their private meeting lasted for several hours, comments to the press were brief.

Obviously the timing of this arrest is of importance to the Russians. Mr. Putin has just concluded meetings with David Cameron Prime Minister of the UK and now Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu ahead of a planned Moscow summit with President Obama on the Syrian issue in September. The two will also have the chance to exchange views and ideas in June at the G8 Summit.

Mr. Putin’s message was not meant only for Mr. Netanyahu, but also directed toward Israel’s allies in Washington. “In this crucial period it is especially important to avoid actions that could destabilize the situation.

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