A good article from David Hearst in the Guardian points out that 1) nobody should be surprised that undercover SVR agents were operating in the United States (there’s a whole series of books on the subject), and 2) other nations such as the UK do the exact same thing inside Russia. The problem is more how terrible they were at their jobs.
The tradecraft used by the alleged SVR ring was amateurish, and will send shivers down the spine of the rival intelligence organisations in Russia. This was bungling on a truly epic scale. No secrets about bunker-busting bombs were actually obtained, but the network was betrayed. The defendants are not charged with espionage, but with charges like conspiracy to act as unregistered agents of a foreign government. To have a spy ring uncovered before they could actually do any serious spying is doubly embarrassing.
Not that anyone in MI6 here in Britain should gloat. In the last decade, we have had two major expulsions of our spies in Moscow, who were caught on film red-handed trying to do exactly what the FBI caught the Murphys at. In one case, the British resident spymaster used a mentally unstable junior Russian diplomat, Platon Obukhov, to spy on his father, a former Soviet deputy foreign minister and one of the main negotiators of the intermediate nuclear forces treaty removing medium-range missiles from Europe. (…)
Perhaps there was a covert message in all this that Washington was sending to Moscow. You can have the old relationship or the new one, but you would get more out of us through the front door.