The Uses of Embassy Spies

Blinding Russian intelligence at a time like this would be dangerous.

|March 29, 2018

By George Friedman

The U.K. alleges, and evidently more than 25 countries agree, that Russia ordered and executed a nerve agent attack on British soil this month in an attempt on the life of a former Russian spy. If true, this brazen act warrants a stern response. That response came earlier this week, when more than two dozen countries, mostly in Europe but including the U.S., Canada and Australia, said they would expel varying numbers of diplomats from Russian embassies and consulates in their territories. Russia has denied the charges and vowed to hit back. The assumption, then, is that the expulsion of diplomats is a serious matter, approximately on the level of trying to assassinate someone on foreign soil.

But is that really the case? It is difficult to know the precise impact of the expulsions, but any analysis of this should begin with the fact that the people who were expelled were known by their host governments to be Russian intelligence personnel, and were expelled

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