... Russians are spying on the super-secret American nukes!
I've been having a blast following some of the reporting, reactions, and the commentary on the story. The best word I can come up with to describe it all: RIDICULOUS.
Oh well, and sad. Ridiculous and sad, because, as mentioned earlier in this blog, Cold War stereotypes and attitudes are still very much alive and kicking - especially in the U.S. The story was so "well-received" and there was so much enthusiasm about it, that it managed to capture headlines for two consecutive days now (and I'm sure it will continue doing so for at least another day or two, unless there is another "catastrophe", with global repercussions, to overshadow this great calamity that has come upon the American people).
Ridiculous. Now, everyone can relive the dearly-cherished memories of the past: the Russians are back to being "the Soviets" (just pay attention in the CNN video below: at about the 1:23-27th minute), KGB still exists (even if under a different name... surprise-surprise!) and has actually revived its strength under former President Putin, while the photos of the Russian "femme-fatale" and "beauty with beastly intentions" (these are real headlines!) are going viral in the media.
Despite the fact that the Justice Department has stated that the alleged spies did not have any access to valuable information and/or intelligence, their "methods" and "tactics" are discussed - in all seriousness - by officials, as well as analysts and experts. The Red Scare is back in full swing! But we should not worry, for FBI has got it all under control. Ridiculous.
I find it ridiculous that alleged spies are charged with "conspiring to act as unregistered agents of a foreign government" (see the full text of charges here). Does this mean that if they were involved in the same "operations", but had a diplo-cover, the FBI - being aware of it all - would not have a problem with it? (Somehow reminds me of South Carolina's Subversive Activities Registration Act passed earlier this year.) Money laundering? Fair enough. But then, I don't see the spy connection there.
It's ridiculous to watch Russian intelligence services being made fun of in such a way: unsophisticated, "old-school" and, in short, lame. Well, I should admit, it would be even more ridiculous if these individuals were indeed Russian agents under "deep cover", and indeed used those methods for their "operations". Come on, SVR. I thought better of you...!
It's ridiculous to see currents - obvious in the media - trying to undermine the slowly improving attitude toward Russia. Apparently, the fact that Obama and Medvedev bonded last week - shared some Tweetenthusiasm, greasy burgers, and freedom fries - didn't go down all that well with some. Oh, and if you didn't know, Obama is to blame for this crisis. Just by the way.
The Russian response has been ridiculous as well. Obviously, there has been no outright denial of involvement; rather, Foreign Minister Lavrov stated that they "did not act against the interests of the U.S." The more ridiculous thing is that Moscow actually expressed hope that in light of the recently-improved relations, the American side "will show proper understanding" when handling the case. I'm still wondering as to what "proper understanding" really means.
Of course, RT has been very busy pushing the somewhat logical arguments against these individuals being Russian government agents.
And yet, there has been a lot of ridiculousness, too. Trying to bring in "lobbying" and "journalism" as arguments in the attempt to justify and exculpate the alleged spies' activities in the US is certainly not a good approach, especially when you represent Russia and have a public diplomacy crisis spiraling out of control. No matter what the leaders say in an effort to downplay the effect of the case on the bilateral relationship, it is the public opinion, especially in the U.S., that's going to bear the loss. After all, it plays in well into the pre-existing stereotypes and nostalgia that many seem just too happy to revive.
Well done, FBI, with this PR move. (Even the Gulf oil-spill story seems to have got pushed further back. Wait, what if BP had something to do with this?!)
On a second thought, though, SONY seems to be a better candidate standing to benefit from this charade. With its SALT movie due to come out in three weeks, a fresh real "Russian spy" case would guarantee box office success on its very first weekend. Without this story, the Cold War seemed just too distant to make the movie as thrilling and marketable...