Ryan Fogle Spy: U.S. Espionage in Russia Comes Amidst Deteriorating Relations

Less than a week after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin, the Federal Security Service (FSB) responsible for internal security and counterespionage in Russia announced the detainment of American diplomat Ryan Christopher Fogle. The FSB accuses Fogle of attempting to recruit a member of Russia's intelligence agency.

Video of the arrest can be found here.

Ryan Fogle, who works as the third secretary of the political section of the American embassy in Moscow, was detained on Monday before being released to the U.S. embassy in Moscow.


The FSB alleges that Ryan was found with special technical equipment, printed instructions for the Russian being recruited, a large sum of money, and materials designed to change the person's appearance.


U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation Michael McFaul as well as a spokeswoman from the embassy, and the CIA declined to comment on the matter.

This morning, Fogle's expulsion was ordered by Russia after the FSB declared him a "persona non grata" and called for his "early expulsion."

Reminiscent of a story right out of the Cold War, the FSB claims the letter found in Ryan's possession gives detailed instructions on setting up a Gmail account to contact American sources and promises up to $1 million a year payment if the citizen agrees to supply the U.S. with the information it desires.

President Barack Obama, who has tried several times to "reset" U.S. relations with Russia, must continue to navigate souring U.S.-Russian relations.

Last December, the U.S. and Russia both passed measures specifically aimed at each other in an eye-for-an-eye style. The U.S. passed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act targeting Russia's human rights record, while Russia passed the Dima Yakovlev Act banning Americans from adopting Russian children.

These laws came after a tough year in U.S.-Russian relations, which saw bitter fighting in the United Nations over sanctions in Syria, an idea which Russia, a Syrian ally, opposed using its Security Council veto power. Eventually, the fighting spilled over into U.S.-Russian diplomatic relations which led to the U.S. Agency for International Development being expelled from Russia and Russia's announcement that it would end a 21-year-old nuclear arms control agreement.

The former Cold War rivals have faced increased opposing clandestine activities over the past several years.

Just last month, American Army Specialist William Colton Millay was sentenced to 16 years in prison for attempting to sell military secrets to Russia. 

Only three years ago, the discovery of a large Russian spy ring in the U.S., led to a spy-swap where 10 deep-cover agents were exchanged for four Russians imprisoned for spying for the U.S. and Britain. The FBI investigation, codenamed Operation Ghost Stories, uncovered a Russian spy ring dubbed "The Illegals Program" by the U.S. Department of Justice, whose purpose was to infiltrate deep into American society and collect high-level contacts to provide intelligence to the Russian government.

After returning to Russia, all ten spies were awarded Russia's highest honors at a Kremlin ceremony while managing to re-integrate themselves back into Russian society.

The FBI reported that in both the cases of Specialist William Millay and the 2010 Russian spy ring, no state or military secrets were successfully stolen.

In 2007, Michael McConnell, then-director of U.S. National Intelligence, warned the House Judiciary Committee that Russian covert operations were "approaching Cold War levels."

In 2001, the FBI arrested former FBI Agent Robert Hanssen, who spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence agencies against the United States from 1979 to 2001.

Following the Hanssen affair, four Russian diplomats were expelled from the U.S. and another 46 were asked to leave. In response, Russia expelled four U.S. diplomats and asked 46 to leave in an example of tit-for-tat politicking.

Seven years earlier in 1994, former CIA counter-intelligence agent Aldrich Ames was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and Russian Federation from 1985-1994.

Ames and Hanssen managed to steal state secrets and were the first public cases of post-Cold War Russian spying on the U.S.