This morning, on the tarmac of Vienna’s international airport, America handed over ten spies to Russia, and, in return, received four men accused by Moscow of spying for the West. The Russian agents were brought in on a American Vision Airlines jet; Russia brought their half of the deal in a Moscow Emergencies Ministry plane, according to the New York Times.
There were no formal announcements, just a swift exchange and departure of both planes.
Just yesterday, the ten ‘spies’ had pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a Manhattan courtroom and were sentenced to time served and ordered deported. Within hours, President Dmitri A. Medvedev signed pardons for the four men Russia considered to be spies for the West.
It was a quick resolution to a problem that became annoying and a little embarrassing to both sides: The spies weren’t really spying and the FBI agents who tracked them for over ten years were only able to charge them with little more than that they essentially didn’t register as spies. If anything, the investigation created a headache for American and Russian officials who were just beginning to have a warmer relationship and didn’t want a trial unfolding in front of press and the public.
Meanwhile, our Russian spies agreed to never return to the United States without permission from the attorney general. Some of the agents, such as the Montclair couple, agreed to forfeit real estate.