5th July 2010
Following the media frenzy that has erupted over the past week, especially in the UK, where the case is perfectly suited to tabloid sensationalism – it even has topless photos – Democratist’s (doubtless more sober and less easily titillated) readership must surely be wondering if there could possibly be anything more to say about the recent Russian Spy scandal?
Well…..yes. Quite a bit in fact. So here we go;
Firstly, while there has been plenty of speculation concerning the timing and rational of the FBI’s decision to move in and arrest the 10 suspects, ranging from cluelessness masquerading as hauteur in the UK’s Independent to the kind of disinformation/conspiracy hybrid that one now automatically expects of the Kremlin’s English-language mouthpiece Russia Today, Democratist has yet to see a more convincing explanation of what is going on than our own.
In the words of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (surely quoting Carl Douglas?), this was all done “with expert timing”: Those that have suggested that the United States’ hand was forced because Anna Kushenko/Chapman became suspicious after having been contacted by a FBI false flag should keep in mind that it seems fairly obvious that the Americans would never have made such a risky move if they had been intending to continue this (already 20-year long) investigation for much longer.
Or, are we to believe that the FBI is so incompetent as to think that the next time Chapman met or contacted her real handler(s), she would have failed to mention that she had been asked to pass on a passport to a fellow spook, or to report on the results? Or that the recipient would not have done likewise? Instead, it seems that the FBI already knew they were approaching the end-game, and were therefore willing to take an (almost certainly terminal) risk in order to flush-out a (so far) anonymous third-party.
Instead, it is more probable to suggest that the timing of the arrest, coming as it did just a few days after the Medvedev-Obama summit, was quite deliberate, and had been in the planning for some months – not because right-wing elements within the FBI were seeking to embarrass Obama (he knew exactly what was going on), or derail the “reset,” or because the G-Men wanted to remind Washington of its usefulness after a series of security “slip-ups” over the past year - as some in the Russian media have rather lamely suggested, but in fact because the US wanted to it make clear that;
i) They have been onto these people for years (stated numerous times in the court documents); maybe right from the start; maybe since even before the start, maybe since the 1980′s in some cases.
ii) Whatever these “great illegals” got up to (and it was probably a lot more than currently admitted, because the FBI doesn’t want to make them look too good, and it’s not like any of the ”illegals” are likely to brag about what they were up to at the trial) the FBI never thought that the damage the “illegals” were inflicting on the US during a 20 year period made it worth its while to call a stop to the party - and were never worried that they did not know what was going on to the point that they felt they needed to step in.
iii) That they did not feel threatened by the “illegals” for so long suggests that the FBI developed a fairly low opinion of their opponents, and an inversely high opinion of their ability to trust their own people (again for 20-years, which suggests that more than a few people were in the know), and of how well the CIA (or an allied agency) had infiltrated the SVR.
iv) That all of the above demonstrates (and will demonstrate in US courts over the coming months) just how inept and corrupt the SVR has become since the end of the USSR: Far from being the shining example of Soviet self-sacrifice that so captivated the young Vladimir Putin (capable of cultivating an Ames or a Hanssen) under his watch the Service has declined to the point that is apparently easily and repeatedly infiltrated, while the senior ranks (such as Vasily Kushenko) have apparently been enrolling their own children as a way of giving them access to cash and connections, rather than for anything to do with serving the motherland (and Anna Chapman is very unlikely to be an isolated case).
v) All of this underlines Democratist’s oft-made point that almost the entire Russian political-economic system is rotten from (especially) top to bottom: These arrests, and any subsequent ones (perhaps also in other countries) over the next few months, are going to do a superb job of repeatedly and brutally highlighting that this is true even for the holiest of holies; the “illegals,” and that they and their superiors are just as incompetent and crooked as everyone else in the nomenklatura. This is bound to strengthen calls for meaningful reform, regardless of whether Medvedev or Putin takes on the Presidency in 2012 (but as we mentioned before, tends to benefit Medvedev at Putin’s expense).
Despite their nationalist bluster, Russia has always been obsessed by the West, especially the US, as a kind of mirror-image and rival to which they can compare themselves (as half an hour watching Russia Today will quickly confirm). Over the next few months, maybe even years, the Russian political class and intelligentsia is going to be continually reminded just how bad things have become, at a time when the government is in no position to rattle enough sabres to mask the howls of anger.