American espionage in the Soviet Union

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Since the formation of the Soviet Union in 1917, the United States of America has had presence in the Soviet Government. American espionage was not centered around the same goals and ideals as the Soviet Union; in which the Soviets tried to steal American technology and other American advances, along with American battle plans, location of nuclear weapons, equipment, military bases, and other military operations. Mostly, America focused on the latter, as Soviet technology was not of interest to the United States. The United States conducted espionage through the Central Intelligence Agency(CIA), while the Soviet Union conducted espionage through the KGB.

American and Soviet Espionage[edit]

Throughout the Cold War, acts of espionage, or spying, became prevalent as tension between the United States and Soviet Union increased. The KGB, Soviet military group, made use of espionage primarily at the American Embassy in the Soviet Union. When word of this spying reached the United States, President Ronald Reagan initiated several negotiations with the Soviets in an attempt to eliminate the danger of possible exposed military secrets. Punishments for espionage in the United States were harsh and involved a quickly issued death penalty, especially the cases that involved betraying one’s own country.


The KGB, a military organization that provided national defense in the Soviet Union, played a major role in the battle of espionage and tactics in the Cold War. The American Embassy in the Soviet Union appeared to have been invaded by the KGB’s efforts to acquire any useful information from the United States. According to Stan Levchenko, a former KGB officer, “The KGB would never lose a chance just to look around.”

This was confirmed first in 1988 when a brand new American Embassy in the Soviet Union was abandoned after Soviet “workers” had filled the building with wire bugs, hidden recording devices, to gain information.

However, during a large fire on March 28, 1991 at the American Embassy, the KGB was believed to have stolen several classified documents and equipment. The KGB did have complete access to the building as it was on fire, leading many to believe the fire was intentionally set by the Soviets to gain access to American information. This event sparked controversy in the United States, leading to negotiations and agreements with the Soviets.[1]

Foreign Policy Affairs[edit]

Secretary of State George Shultz and President Ronald Reagan sought to negotiate with the Soviet Union in 1987. Reagan was determined to come to an agreement that would leave the United States and Soviet Union’s relationship in a better place with less conflict. Although the Soviet Union claimed it was in agreement with eliminating all missiles in Europe, word of infiltration of the American Embassy in Moscow hovered around.[citation needed]

Due to his fear of spying in his embassy in the Soviet Union, President Reagan made several meetings with the Soviet Leaders solely regarding espionage.[2]

Soviet Accusations[edit]

In response to the accusations that the Soviet Union was “bugging” American buildings, the Soviets countered with claims of the United States using their embassy as a method of espionage. Soviets argued Americans used the embassy to break into neighboring buildings to gain protected information.

The United States quickly denied these charges and noted that the Soviet Union was attempting to cover up their dishonest acts of espionage committed during the floods of the embassy.

Punishments and Internal Affairs[edit]

Due to the increased levels of Soviet espionage, the United States Congress desired to issue the death penalty to both foreign and internal spies to protect classified information. The death penalty seemed like a viable option after the incident with John Walker, a nuclear submarine radioman, who was accused of espionage during peacetime by a military officer.[citation needed]

This Defense Authorization Act also applied to the military in serious cases. The death penalty could be issued to American militants if they were participating in serious espionage involving the following secrets:[citation needed]

  • Nuclear weaponry
  • Military spacecraft or satellites
  • Warning systems
  • War plans
  • Communications codes
  • Major weapons systems[citation needed]

An act to require polygraph tests for 3.5 million DoD workers passed the US House in 1985 by a vote of 333 to 71.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ Anti-Satellite Space Test Ban Voted by House June 27, 1985 Sara Fritz, LA Times