- Russian President Vladimir Putin has placed agents into US society
- But the US has also been caught in the act as well
The Obama administration's expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats Thursday, a response to Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election, is only the latest attempt by both US and Russian authorities to remove foreign operatives from their nations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB intelligence officer, has placed agents into US society.
In June 2010, FBI cameras captured Russian agent Anna Chapman and a federal undercover agent meeting in New York for coffee. Seventeen days later, Chapman and nine other alleged Russian sleeper agents were arrested in New York, New Jersey and Virginia, charged with conspiracy to act as unlawful agents of Russia. The spies had burrowed deep in American society for years, trying to steal secrets and recruit agents.
The FBI had watched Chapman and the others for months, recording drop-offs of packages and meetings on staircases. The US believes the group never got its hands on classified information, but the Russian infiltration into the US was a classic Moscow move.
Within days, at the airport in Vienna, an elaborately choreographed transfer unfolded: the 10 Russians traded for four Russians charged with being in touch with Western intelligence services.
But the US has also been caught in the act as well.
In 2013, Ryan Fogle, a political secretary at the US embassy in Moscow, was arrested. The Russians claimed they caught him with wigs, dark glasses and cash as he tried to recruit a Russian agent. Fogle was expelled, though it was never clear if he was set up by the Russians.
Relations have also occasionally turned violent: Earlier this year, a US diplomat was tackled and beaten by a uniformed Russian police officer as he tried to enter the American Embassy in Moscow. The US State Department expelled two Russian diplomats over the incident.