As Bliss found himself formally charged on Friday, the U.S. warned Russia that the move could hamper American investment in Russia’s struggling economy. The 29-year-old engineer was accused of spying on sensitive military installations while helping lay the groundwork for a new cellular phone system in the city of Rostov, using a Global Positioning Satellite.
He was arrested by the Federal Security Service (successors to the KGB) even though his activities had been authorized by a local telephone utility, and the equipment he used was commercially available piece of navigational technology.
Bliss may have been held because Qualcomm failed to pay a bribe. The arrest may also have been a political move by provincial FSB officers wanting to show the West who was boss.
Either way, the case is a boost to those in the State Department who want to reduce Russia’s international role, believing Moscow to be too unstable to be considered a close ally.