Spy swaps

   In 1962 the United States and the Soviet Union inaugurated a policy of trading captured agents. The first trade involved the exchange of the Soviet illegal William Fisher (“Colonel Abel”) for U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers at the Glienicker Bridge in Berlin. A year later the Soviet Union escalated the policy by arresting a Yale professor in Moscow to exchange for a captured intelligence officer in the United States who lacked diplomatic protection. These swaps continued through the 1970s and 1980s. The United States largely tolerated Moscow’s actions, trading to get back American citizens and allowing Moscow to protect its agents. In 1986 the Ronald Reagan administration ended this with the wholesale expulsion of Soviet intelligence officers in an action referred to as Famish. Spy swaps became a major feature in the struggle between East and West Germany. To redeem agents captured by the West German security service, the East German regime traded and sometimes sold its citizens seeking a life in the West. Bonn accepted the policy as part of the price of doing business with the East German regime. Up to 1986, hostage-taking benefited Moscow and its German ally, allowing them to tell their agents that they had a “get out of jail” ticket should they be arrested.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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