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 Guardian5 min read
Thirty Years On, The Tiananmen Square Image That Shocked The World
Photographer Jeff Widener explains how a series of mishaps meant it was almost the picture that got away
The Guardian13 min read
The Schoolgirls Who Defied The Stasi: 'Someone Said, "What If We Take Him Across The Border?"'
They were West German teenagers on a school trip. He was a young man desperate to escape from East Germany. Thirty five years later, they tell their story
The Guardian4 min read
What We Can Learn From Tina Fey’s Workplace Comedies
They say “write what you know” and Tina Fey knows a lot about work. Specifically, working in live TV (she was on Saturday Night Live from 1997 to 2006). She turned that experience first into the Emmy-winning 30 Rock, and later brought it to her produ