Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers his take on the spy expulsions from Washington and Moscow in the Washington Times.
Washington and Moscow recently exchanged tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats, stemming from a suspected poisoning of a defected KGB officer and his daughter in London.
It is not a state secret that embassies of both powers contain numerous intelligence officers who are working undercover.
Hence a question is being debated in the U.S. intelligence community: Regardless of the brazen nature of the motivating attack, one of several carried out by the Russians in recent years, were the mass expulsions the best way to retaliate?
To be sure, the Russians must be taught that such brutal behavior violates the norms by which decent nation perform. President Trump and leaders of other Western allies must be applauded for demonstrating to Vladimir Putin that such actions will not be tolerated.
But an obvious downside is that replacements must be found for the expelled spies. For the Central Intelligence Agency, being assigned to Moscow Station — either in declared status or “black” (i.e., undercover) — reserved for the best-of-the-best officers in the Operations Directorate. Several years of extensive training in “Moscow rules” — highly specialized tradecraft — is required.
Unsurprisingly, a half-dozen retired officers with whom I spoke on a no-names basis had varying opinions of Mr. Trump’s action — although all agreed that some form of retaliation was necessary, and all agreed that countering expulsions by Moscow were sure to follow.
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