That enemy could not and did not flourish in the vastness of alien deserts or impenetrable hideaways in some of the world's most rugged and distant mountains.
The Soviets never sent suicide pilots to fly planes into landmark American skyscrapers.
Members of their dour Politburo weren't out to kill religious infidels. They believed in no god, their only religion the tangled theories of Marx and Lenin.
Thus, it was a balm of sorts in the week leading to U.S. Independence Day, the high holiday of American patriotism, to return to a time when government agents could roll up a band of alleged Russian spies -- deep cover, sleeper agents who looked just like our neighbors, seemingly consumed with their inconspicuous suburban lives.
Bookstore shelves weighed down with yarns about the Cold War spy vs. spy contest bear witness to our fascination with that high-stakes game, how it was played and what led the players to take the chances they did.
This time, Anna Chapman, the spy suspect with a heavy presence on the Internet and New York party scene, quickly became a tabloid sensation with the obvious references to her as a James Bond girl.
Nostalgia aside, however, the situation becomes more complex when assessing the fallout of such a high-profile FBI sting, its potential to snarl years of diplomacy.
Was it just coincidence that the Russian agents were grabbed so soon after a largely warm and fuzzy visit to Washington by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev?
Were the intelligence dangers -- real or potential -- of the undercover agents sufficient to move against them even at a cost to diplomatic progress fostered by President Barack Obama?
The White House has said Obama knew about the investigation but was not aware when arrests would be made.
Not surprisingly, both Obama and Russian leaders have said the case is only a hiccup in relations.
Obama is intent on a "reset" of the relations that had deteriorated under President George W. Bush. The Russians are equally intent on modernizing their economy and gaining technological parity, both goals heavily dependent on U.S. help.
Should the alleged spies have been arrested and hauled into court so publicly? Sometimes these affairs can be handled more quietly by simply throwing the spies out of the country, minimizing the impact on relations.
The FBI obviously hopes that continued questioning of the alleged spies could turn up information that leads to more dangerous operations, but the evidence produced so far appears fairly mundane.
So what was the Kremlin hoping to gain?
The Russians actually reduced their espionage operations under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin in the first years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the former senior official noted. The U.S. never did.
The Russian approach changed when Vladimir Putin -- who had spent his career in the KGB -- took over from the ailing Yeltsin. Russia now has renewed and strengthened his intelligence presence in the United States, with much greater focus on the commercial and technological world than on government secrets, the former official said.
The spy business now is less about the ideological fight for geographic spheres of influence. The big prizes these days are secrets pried from board rooms and laboratories, the heavy weapons of expanded national economic reach in the global marketplace.
Then there's this from John L. Martin, who supervised the Justice Department's spying prosecutions for 27 years: "They run these kind of operations, and even though they may not appear productive on the surface, they run them as art for art's sake.
"They run them," he said, "because they can and they think they can get away with it. This time they didn't get away with it. They got caught."