The Justice Department has broken up a 10-person Russian spy ring in an operation that seems reminiscent of the Cold War. Even though the Russian spies have been in place since the early 1990s, the incident is a diplomatic black eye for Russia.
The announcement of the Russian spy ring took place barely a week after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited President Obama on a trip that featured lunch at Obama’s favorite hamburger joint and talks on a new START arms control treaty. The START treaty is still being mulled by the United States Senate. Some diplomatic sources suggest that the spy incident may push some senators to vote against ratification.
The Russian spy ring appeared to be attempting to infiltrate American policy-making circles in order to ferret out military secrets, including intelligence on missile defense and bunker-busting bombs that could be used to take out Iranian nuclear sites.
One of the spies, a woman named Vicki Peleaz, wrote oped columns for a Spanish-language newspaper, El Diario, in which she inveighed against American immigration policy. Peleaz suggested that American immigration law was the equivalent of Nazi-era legislation.
This suggests that another purpose of the Russian spy ring was to influence American public opinion by spreading disinformation. During the Cold War, the KGB was very active in disinformation operations, particularly seeking to turn public opinion in Europe and the Third World against American defense and foreign policy.
Immigration policy is a source of great political discord in the United States, with Hispanic Americans often feeling affronted at attempts to seal the southern border against illegal immigration, and everyone else angry that the federal government has not been making those attempts with enough vigor. Thus, writing incendiary articles about immigration in a Spanish-language newspaper would seem to be a prime way to sow discord and to destabilize that United States to a certain extent.
The Russians likely see the current Obama government as a prime opportunity to gain an advantage through espionage activities. President Obama is known for his desire to reach out to potential enemies, and to not be overly aggressive in opposing them when they become aggressive.
At the same time, the revelation of the Russian spy ring will likely galvanize the President’s many opponents, as it will suggest that the Russians are reverting to their Cold War misbehavior. That being the case, the world has become that much more dangerous, especially with an American President who takes his cue for dealing with America’s enemies from Jimmy Carter rather than Ronald Reagan.
U.S. Espionage Claims Recall Cold War `Spy Mania,’ Russian Government Says, Lucian Kim and Ilya Arkhipov, Bloomberg, June 29th, 2010
Alleged spy’s newspaper commentaries pretty much what you’d expect, Patrick Ishmael, Hot Air, June 29th, 2010