During the US-Russia spy swap this morning, the U.S. was represented not by a military plane, but by Vision Airlines. A private charter company out of Las Vegas, Vision Airlines usually transports vacationers. Some are questioning the use of a private charter company for government business.
Vision Airlines swaps spies
In a moment that looked like a scene from a spy movie than anything else, a Vision Airlines jet and a Russian Emergency Ministry jet met up on a tarmac in Vienna. Ten accused Russian agents got on the Russian plane while four “Western sympathizers” got on the Vision Airlines jet. Both planes took off, and the biggest post-Cold War era spy drama was (hopefully) over.
The choice of Vision Airlines
The decision to send the Russian agents back home and bring the American agents back to the U.S. on a luxury charter jet is an interesting one. Russia obviously took a more austere approach with the government plane. Was the U.S. Government trying to pamper the agents that were being brought back? Or were all the available planes already taken? It is very possible that the government agreed that no military planes were to be used on other sides. Either way, the choice of a luxury charter jet to swap spies is an interesting one. One has to wonder if Vision Airlines donated their $10,000 plus fee for this trip, or if the U.S. Government is footing the bill. Donating may have been the smarter choice, as Vision Airlines is getting so much website traffic today that their website keeps going down.
Keeping tepid relations going
According to Rahm Emanuel’s discussion with PBS’s “NewsHour,” the President was “briefed” on the spy swap decision. The choice to use Vision Airlines instead of military planes, to not make announcements, and to keep the spy swap as low profile as they could all point to a desire to not start a fight. The U.S. and Russia have both said that they want to “reset” relations between the two countries, rather than returning to Cold War style relations. Most interestingly, none of the spies have actually been charged with espionage – instead, they have all been charged with “acting as agents of foreign governments without registering.” In other words, even sleeper agents couldn’t get any information worth having.