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US-Russia spy swap reminiscent of Cold War.
There is cooperation between Russia and the United States too, especially on Islamic terrorism. But this isn’t going to stop a little steam from opening an envelope from time to time.
There was a certain brilliance in America and Russia getting rid of this embarrassing incident by quickly exchanging spies before the case could damage a relationship important to both countries.
I once knew a wily American ambassador who, when confronted with irrefutable evidence by the president of the country to which he was accredited that the United States had been spying, used his head to contain the damage. There was no denying it, so our ambassador quickly and sincerely told the president of the nominally friendly country that the important thing now was to preserve the relationship between their two countries and that the ambassador and the president were in a position to do so. The president thought about it for a minute and the case was swept under the rug.
Some of the never-ending Obama critics have said that America should have struck a better bargain than four for 10. But the four we got were of higher quality than their 10 and when it was time to get dissident Anatoly (later Nathan) Sharansky out of the Soviet Union in 1986 we were willing to give up nine people held in the West.
There was a certain elegance, too, in picking Vienna for the exchange. Vienna is steeped in Cold War literary lore — think of the days of the four power occupation portrayed so brilliantly in the Graham Greene-penned black-and-white film, “The Third Man.”
Yet if our respective spy chiefs had a more attuned sense of romance and tradition they would have chosen the Glienicke Bridge between Potsdam and Berlin that used to mark the border between East and West. In both fact and fiction the Glienicke Bridge played a leading role in the Cold War’s long running drama — think of Len Deighton’s “Funeral in Berlin.” Across the long bridge, where you can still see the line in the middle that marked the border, exchanged spies used to take the long walk from west to east, and east to west.
It was across the Glienicke Bridge that Gary Powers, the downed U2 spy plane pilot who caused such a rumpus between President Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev, walked to freedom in 1962 just as Russia’s most important, deep-penetration spy, Colonel Vilyam Fisher, aka Rudolph Abel, walked the other way. The bridge was Sharansky’s road to freedom too.