Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Did you hear? Did you hear the news...?

 ... 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...


  1. Interesting and thought-provoking piece...
    I agree. The key word is "ridiculous".
    However, I think that ramifications and consequences may prove to be serious, if not fatal. Probably, that is the intention behind this "scandal." I do not and cannot know the intentions. But what I am pretty sure of is that it is not only an attempt to worsen the U.S.-Russia relations but to nudge Russia to some actions.
    Whether or not the alleged spies are from the intelligence community Russia will have hard time trying to save the face. At some point the temptation to get back to traditional ways ("tit for tat") can become irresistible. So, we might expect that this time some American "spies" will be caught in Russia. No one has abolished the principle of reciprocity, has she?
    What is worse, the dynamic may become self-sustaining.
    I believe the whole point is to get Russia off balance and to make her take some steps. It all seems to be related to the Middle East and Iran.
    I will not be too surprised if a new period of Russian-Iranian "rapprochement" will follow soon.
    And now think, who is interested in that? Who will (or who at least expects to) benefit from it?
    The British intelligence analyst, whose interview you posted above, says what is on many people's minds ... they were "enticed"...
    Who and why would want that?
    SALT or no SALT, it is not a movie. It is real life. Consequences will be real...

  2. Update
    An interesting piece has just been published that tends to support some of the ideas in the previous comment.

  3. hahaha :) Thanks so much for the link! "A России не привыкать быть в глазах зарубежного обывателя злым медведем, желающим поглотить мед трудолюбивых пчел Запада." Awesomeness!

    Indeed, the best reaction I can STILL have is (interestingly, in Russian, again): "Не смешите мои подковы!" :)

    I don't know if you saw the news, but the Brits found "femme fatale"'s hubby in UK somewhere, and now he's come up with another good fairy tale. As for the guy in Cyprus, he was "most probably flown away by the Russian military, off the Larnaca harbor in the middle of the night." I'm waiting for more of this circus.

    And yes, I can't but agree with you and with the article!