The Guardian

Has the cold war idea of 'spy etiquette' disappeared?

Sergei Skripal’s poisoning appears to have broken unwritten rules, but some say they never existed
The Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was killed by a poison pellet on Waterloo Bridge in 1978. Photograph: Dimitar Deinov/AP

US and Russian intelligence officers who operated during the cold war largely acknowledge that Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies is a fair portrayal of how a spy swap used to be. The movie reflects a world in which there seemed to be an unwritten “spy etiquette”. Those captured would be exchanged rather than executed, and would not be hunted down later in revenge assassinations.

Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, said this etiquette had broken down under Vladimir Putin, the Russian president and former KGB officer..

Speaking after the nerve and his daughter, Yulia, Galeotti said: “During the cold war, there was an understanding about what was and what was not acceptable.”

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Guardian

The Guardian2 min readSociety
Up To Four Avocado Trucks Stolen In Mexican State Every Day
Packers and exporters took out newspaper adverts to decry situation in Michoacán, a battleground for warring crime factions
The Guardian2 min readPolitics
Kim Jong-nam, Half-brother Of North Korean Leader, 'Was A CIA Informant'
Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, was a CIA informant before he was assassinated in Malaysia in 2017, a report has claimed. Citing an unnamed “person knowledgeable about the matter”, the Wall Street Journal said
The Guardian5 min readPolitics
Leaked Documents Reveal Russian Effort To Exert Influence In Africa
Exclusive: Kremlin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin leading push to turn continent into strategic hub, documents show