As the bizarre story of the "Russian spy ring" continues to unfold — and one of the accused "spies", Anna ("Femme Fatale") Chapman, begins invoking comparisons to a Bond Girl — I keep recalling an old joke from my Soviet Union past.
The KGB has sent an agent to the United States. Having arrived to the country and stricken with a "cultural shock", the agent lost control and spiraled into binge partying. Two weeks later, having spent all his money and forgotten all the codes, he reaches for the radio-transmitter and with the shaky from a hangover fingers types an open message to the Center:
"Center, Center, I'm Sidorov. Who am I?"
The Center responds:
"Sidorov, Sidorov, you're "Eagle", you damned asshole."
What triggered my memory was the following passage:
"The FBI said it had intercepted and decrypted a 2009 message from "Moscow Center" — Russian intelligence headquarters — which read, in part: "You were sent to the USA for long-term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house, etc. – all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US and send intels [intelligence reporters] to C[enter.]"
Will someone please explain to me why the "Moscow Center" would send an encrypted message to undercover agents to remind them about the essence of their mission? Haven't they memorized it during their training? Aren't they supposed to remember it without the Center having to periodically repeat it — at a risk of being "intercepted and decrypted"?
On the other hand, what a convenience for the FBI, having such a message!
Today's Washington Post informs us that charges against the Russian 11 " include conspiring to act as unauthorized foreign agents and conspiracy to commit money laundering. They were not charged with espionage." They were not charged with espionage. Why then does the article headline say "FBI arrest 10 accused of working as Russian spies"? Correct, "foreign agents" don't sell newspapers; Russian spies hugging Bond girls do.
A few days ago, I wrote:
"With the lack of obvious negative developments to upset the success of the Obama administration's "reset policy" toward Russia, the opponents of better relations between Washington and Moscow should now look for something else."
The "Russian spy ring" does look to me as this "something else", potentially more poisonous (and fresher!) than thinly grounded allegations of "human rights violations" in Russia. As the U.S. Congress takes on the New START Treaty and the Nuclear Cooperation ("123") Agreement, the images of "Russian spies" threatening our national security come all too handy. As if someone has produced them on demand.
Empires do strike back, do they not?