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  • Spies or Not, Obama Pushes “Reset” with Russia and NEW START

    Anna Chapman

    Only days before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will conduct hearings on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (NEW START) verification, the Obama Administration has decided to abruptly terminate the scandal caused by the Russian illegal spy ring arrested in the United States.

    Instead of viewing espionage on its merits—an activity undermining Obama’s Russian “reset” policy and an obstacle to the proclaimed new relationship with Russia—the Administration went into an overdrive to get rid of the embarrassing headlines. The reason: ratification of the NEW START treaty, which is Administration’s top priority.

    That Russia is continuing to spy on the United States should not come as a surprise. As early as 2007, it was widely reported that Russian (and Chinese) spy operations were “back at Cold War levels” in the United States.

    Moreover, according to then-Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, in the 2007 Annual Threat Assessment to the United States, China and Russia are “among the most aggressive in collecting [intelligence] against sensitive and protected U.S. targets.” The 2010 assessment highlights Russia’s ongoing efforts.

    Nor was the Administration on top of this investigation. Significantly, according to an eyewitness, on the day of the arrests a senior Administration official was annoyed and surprised with the FBI spy sweep. Reportedly, so was the President. This is despite the White House spin that they were ready for this all along.

    Questions abound about the White House’s handling of the spy affair. After the FBI had tracked 11 “sleeper” agents for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the Obama Administration agreed to an unprecedented swap. Unlike the Cold War, when spies did real hard time and where exchanged years after the arrest, these spies were allowed to confess and got swapped for two aging British agents, a Russian political prisoner who for 10 years denied being an American spy, and a Russian intelligence veteran who defected to the U.S. in the 1990s. This was not a good bargain for the U.S. No significant questioning of the spies took place, nor were their handlers expelled—presumably, they were allowed to quietly depart for Moscow.

    However, despite the fact that the Russian spy ring was handled with kid gloves—and despite the priority the Administration is putting on ratification of NEW START treaty—the Kremlin continues to perceive the U.S. as its principal foreign adversary.

    While the United States was hosting the “cheeseburger summit”, both the Russian government and the plurality of the Russian public were reiterating their view that the United States and NATO are geopolitical enemies that must be kept under constant surveillance. Moreover, they believe the U.S. should be the target of the Russian nuclear warheads, just like during the Cold War.

    Indeed, President Obama did his utmost to sweep this episode under the rug so that the “reset” of relations, the ratification of NEW START, and additional nuclear arms control agreement can continue apace. As grave concerns about the treaty abound, it is now time for the Senate to examine the treaty, to demand the nuclear negotiations records and State Department verification reports, and to evaluate the damage the treaty does to the U.S. national security.

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    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to Spies or Not, Obama Pushes “Reset” with Russia and NEW START

    1. Billie says:

      I'm sure he shares much of America with his favorite leaders of the world! He shows no significant concern about spies (probably part of the agenda.) In fact, they're probably welcomed, incognito of course.

      He is dangerous. People of government authority have to step in.

    2. Kathy Ann Lee says:

      Jul 9, 4:54 PM EDT

      Former top Russian spy Sergei Tretyakov dies at 53

      By BRETT ZONGKER

      Associated Press Writer

      AP Photo

      WASHINGTON (AP) — A former top Russian spy who defected to the U.S. after running espionage operations from the United Nations, Sergei Tretyakov, has died in Florida, his wife and a friend said Friday. He was 53.

      News of his June 13 death came the same day the United States and Russia completed their largest spy swap since the Cold War.

      Tretyakov's defection in 2000 was one of the most prominent cases involving Russia's intelligence agency in the past decade. Tretyakov later said his agents helped the Russian government steal nearly $500 million from the U.N.'s oil-for-food program in Iraq. He was 53 when he died, according to a Social Security death record.

      WTOP Radio in Washington first reported his death Friday. His widow, Helen Tretyakov, told the station he died of natural causes. She said she announced his death Friday to prevent Russian intelligence from claiming responsibility or "flattering themselves that they punished Sergei."

      Helen Tretyakov said her husband warned U.S. authorities when he defected that Russia was expanding deep-cover operations.

      "He was aware that the part of the SVR budget for supporting illegals increased dramatically in the 1990s," she told WTOP. The SVR is the Russian intelligence agency that succeeded the KGB after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

      However, she said there was no direct link between his information and the 10 people arrested last month as Russian spies near Boston, New York and Washington.

      "It wasn't him who disclosed the names of these people," she said.

      She asked friends not to make the death public until the cause was determined, according to author Pete Earley, who wrote a 2008 book about Tretyakov. Earley said Friday that Helen Tretyakov told him her husband died of cardiac arrest at home.

      "We did not supervise the autopsy," said William Carter, a spokesman at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. "However, we were certainly interested in and have no reason to dispute the results."

      The medical examiner's office in Sarasota County, Fla., said the autopsy report was pending. A woman who answered the phone at the office said it would be completed after July 26.

      "Sergei was called 'the most important spy for the U.S. since the collapse of the Soviet Union' by an FBI official in my book," Earley wrote on his blog. "Unfortunately, because much of what he said is still being used by U.S. counterintelligence officers, it will be years before the true extent of his contribution can be made public – if ever."

      A private funeral was held three days after Tretyakov's death, in keeping with Russian Orthodox tradition, and more than 200 people attended a service in the days after, Earley said.

      Tretyakov lived with his wife in a peach-colored home in the small, southwest Florida town of Osprey. No one answered the door there Friday, and telephone calls seeking comment were not returned.

      Neighbors who would not give their names when talking about him said they knew that Tretyakov had been a Russian spy. They called him friendly and a "wonderful neighbor," and said his death took them by surprise.

      "We really miss him," one neighbor said.

      Tretyakov was born Oct. 5, 1956, in Moscow. He joined the KGB and rose quickly to become second-in-command of Russia's U.N. mission in New York between 1995 and 2000.

      Peter Earnest, director of the International Spy Museum in Washington, called Tretyakov's 2000 defection significant.

      Russia's spies in the United States would have come under Tretyakov's purview, said Earnest, who spent more than 30 years in the CIA.

      For up to a decade following Tretyakov's defection, the FBI kept watch over 10 Russian agents as they tried to blend into American suburbia. They were arrested last week and swapped Friday in Vienna for four people convicted in Russia of spying for the U.S. and Britain.

      "That does bring into mind the question: Is that the sort of information he might have shared with the U.S. authorities?" Earnest said.

      Tretyakov defected to the United States with his wife and daughter. The family eventually became U.S. citizens.

      Earley interviewed Tretyakov at length for the book, "Comrade J.: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America after the End of the Cold War."

      "He had a fabulous memory that he had sharpened as a KGB/SVR officer, and he refused to speculate or exaggerate when he discussed KGB/SVR operations," Earley wrote.

      In a 2008 interview promoting Earley's book, Tretyakov said his agents helped the Russian government skim hundreds of millions of dollars from the oil-for-food program before the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. He told The Associated Press he oversaw an operation that helped Hussein's regime manipulate the price of oil sold under the program, and Russia skimmed profits.

      Tretyakov called his defection "the major failure of Russian intelligence in the United States" and warned that Russia, despite the end of the Cold War, harbored bad intentions toward the U.S.

      Tretyakov said he found it immoral to continue helping the Russian government.

      "I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel. I'm not very emotional. I'm not a Boy Scout," Tretyakov said. "And finally in my life, when I defected, I did something good in my life. Because I want to help United States."

      Associated Press Writers Tamara Lush in Osprey, Fla., Lauren Sausser and Nafeesa Syeed in Washington contributed to this story.

      Online:

      http://www.peteearley.com/

      http://wtop.com/

      © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

    3. G-Man, Chesapeake, V says:

      The Russians recognize a good deal (New START) when they see it, but the Liberal-progressives in the White House and the Senate don't!

      It is clear from history and the recent Rianovosti articles (links in the Blog above) that the Russians clearly see us as their adversaries and they are acting upon that understanding. Only the naive would think that we should attempt to change the Russian's view by weakening our nuclear arsenals or missile defense programs (I.e. ratifying New START).

      The Russians understand one thing and one thing only: STRENGTH. Only when the U. S. is strong can it influence the world for liberty and freedom.

      U. S. Senate! You vote to ratify New START at your own political peril and the weakening of the United States of America. You WILL be held accountable starting in November…I can't wait!

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