Since the end of the Cold War, a variety of leaked diplomatic cables, captured operatives and acts of espionage, such as this summer's hack of the Democratic National Committee, have served as reminders that Russia and the United States continue to routinely spy on each other.
June, 2013: An embassy row
The United States expelled two Russian diplomats in retaliation for a bizarre episode outside the U.S. embassy in Moscow, in which a Russian police officer attacked a U.S. diplomat. Russian television showed a clip of the scuffle and said the American was an undercover CIA operative who had refused to show identification before entering the embassy. The U.S. State Department said the American was an "accredited diplomat" who had been assaulted as part of systematic harassment of U.S. embassy staff by the Russian authorities.
May, 2013: From Russia with wigs
Moscow ordered a U.S. embassy official, identified as Ryan Fogle, to leave the country. His expulsion followed an almost comical arrest in which he was caught carrying two wigs – blond and brown – a Moscow street atlas, $130,000 (U.S.) and a letter offering "up to $1-million a year for long-term co-operation."
2010: A sleeper cell
Ten Russians accused of being members of a sleeper cell were deported after pleading guilty to conspiracy in a federal court in Manhattan. As part of a deal, the spies were swapped for four Russian prisoners, three of whom were serving sentences on treason convictions. The case, which was often compared with the plot of a spy novel, included evidence of letters written in invisible ink, buried cash and a red-haired beauty whose romantic exploits and risqué photographs made for tabloid fodder.
2001: An FBI turncoat
In March, 2001, the United States expelled 50 Russian diplomats in the wake of the arrest of Robert Hanssen, who was a counterintelligence expert at the FBI and had spied for Moscow for more than 15 years. U.S. officials said Mr. Hanssen had been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars after he volunteered to turn over U.S. secrets to Russia, and they blamed the Kremlin for not turning him down or turning him in. In response, Russian officials kicked out several U.S. diplomats.
1994: A mild blowback
In February, 1994, shortly after the arrest of Aldrich Ames, a career CIA officer who turned out to be a double agent, U.S. officials expelled a senior Russian diplomat, Aleksandr Lyskenko, whom they called a top officer of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. According to the State Department, Mr. Lyskenko was "in a position to be responsible" for Mr. Ames's activities as a very productive mole.
Although Mr. Ames's treachery was almost certainly the most damaging breach of U.S. intelligence since the Second World War – Moscow executed several operatives whom he had betrayed – Washington's response was considerably less severe than it would have been in Soviet times, or now. In the years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the administration of Bill Clinton, eager to encourage friendly relations and reform, supported the new government of President Boris Yeltsin. Before Mr. Lyskenko was told to leave the country, the Americans even gave the Russians the option of voluntarily sending him back home.
1986: A mass expulsion
President Ronald Reagan expelled 55 Soviet diplomats in November, 1986, in an effort to curb espionage. Similarly, the authorities in Moscow ordered 260 Soviet employees of the U.S. embassy in Moscow to stop working. It was the largest number of diplomatic officials to be expelled by the United States at once. The conflict arose after a Soviet employee of the United Nations, Gennadi Zakharov, was arrested on espionage charges. The Russians responded by arresting Nicholas Daniloff, the Moscow correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, and accusing him of spying. Mr. Daniloff was released two weeks later.