President Obama's "rush to sweep the recent Russian spy scandal off the table" quickly with a spy swap was a "bad move," says Gene Coyle at CNN.com. Obama clearly views the overall U.S. relationship with Russia as a higher priority than making a few covert agents spend decades (or even a couple years) in prison. "However, there is a line between seeking a mutually beneficial relationship and delusional pandering." Russia was taking a risk by sending in "illegals" — spies who have no diplomatic immunity because they have no official ties to their country's embassy or consulates — but Obama has effectively told Moscow that spying on America isn't really such a dangerous job, after all: "Try anything you want." Here, an excerpt:
The history of U.S.-Russian relations shows that dealing respectfully but firmly is what works best... The only thing releasing all of these deep-cover Russian intelligence officers within a matter of days is going to teach Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, an old KGB officer, is that Obama is a pushover — overly focused on making sure not to offend Russia.
Aside from sending the wrong political message, the quick swap also tells the leadership of the Russian government and the SVR, its intelligence service, that there is really no downside to being caught carrying out espionage in America....
Obama is no doubt an intelligent fellow, but he certainly didn't get very good advice from his intelligence community or Russian experts about how to handle this spy caper.