What? Russian spies in America! Has the retro craze even affected those of us who wax nostalgic about the Cold War, of all things? What, they miss Nuclear Bomb Drills? They wish the Berlin Wall was still there and that it was Russian troops shooting up Afghanistan instead of our own?
Or maybe they have fond memories of the exhilarating tension of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the highest stakes poker game ever played, with nothing less than the fate of all mankind in the hands of 2 pissed-off, driven men?
Well, if you are one of those people who wonder what it’s like to be a spy for Russia, it looks like they have some openings (11 and counting!) for avid fans of the bad guys in Robert Ludlum novels. The only drawback, it seems, is that today’s spies live exceedingly ordinary lives.
No dead drops, no radio and code book in the attic, no blackmailing of scientists, no poison-tipped umbrellas, no tiny cameras to photograph sensitive papers during a daring embassy break-in, and worst of all, you don’t get to cary a gun with a silencer, much less assassinate anybody!
Granted, the spies picked up the other day by the Feds were “sleepers,” deeply imbedded moles instructed to keep a low profile and blend in with the American crowd while filing innocuous “political reports” and awaiting instructions to take action that never came.
The biggest action these people ever saw was fighting crabgrass. The only “intrigue” in which they were involved was connected with the leadership of their local PTA. So you might want to rethink pursuing the exciting life of an international spy. It’s just not what was.
Employees of the SVR (the renamed KGB), it couldn’t have taken them more than a month to realize that there was absolutely nothing at all secret or classified going on in the suburbs, but, not wanting to lose their cushy gig, they fed their spy masters all sorts of melodramatic nonsense, knowing they’d lap it up.
KGB operatives were the most pissed off of all Russians when the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight back in 1990, rendering their vast espionage network all but obsolete. All they knew was the Cold War; the provocations, the propaganda, intelligence, counter-intelligence, espionage, sabotage and secret prisons. Then one day it was over without warning
Bureaucracies are, however, quite resilient, and the ex-KGB boys must have jumped at the chance to get back in the game when enterprising Russian and South American agents offered to spy on America from the comfort of their split-level ranch homes. What they promised to deliver we can only guess, but odds are they just made stuff up and passed it along on Twitter.
Imagine their chagrin when the Feds found out and thought they were on the level! Initial interrogations indicate that these people held no secrets about America, were in possession of exactly no classified documents or a single blueprint for a secret weapon on microfilm! Some spies.
One is reminded of the Conehead skit on Saturday Night Live where an alien family was sent to conquer Earth but instead wallowed in its bland pleasures and excesses, then panicked when asked for an accounting of their progress.
It was a good scam while it lasted, but with this Homeland Security Administration falling all over America like a ton of bricks to justify their own existence, these amateur spies were bound to find their way onto the radar of officialdom sooner or later. While busting this spy ring might have been a major coup twenty-five years ago, today it is only a mild curiosity at best.
Not too many people think all that much about Russia anymore, much less fear them. While this may bug the Russians no end, that’s just the way it is. With the Gulf of Mexico filing up with crude oil, jobs disappearing, homes being abandoned, lunatic religious terrorists vowing to destroy us and our rapidly warming planet poised to flood our shores with melting ice caps and drown millions of us, well, the Cold War doesn’t seem so bad now.
One would think that modern day Russian spies would be industrial espionage types, emulating China’s success in that area, especially with the orgy of corrupt capitalism and the gangster/entrepreneurs taking over the banks in the former worker’s paradise. For all we know, there’s no shortage of those people working in the United States for various corporations and the mole couples were a red herring.
Commerce is where the stakes are highest in today’s world, with the multinational corporations wielding more power and influence every day. And the pay is undoubtedly better. Russia has a whole lot of oil and natural gas, and when the Soviet Union’s collapse led to the privatization of these assets, politically connected and corrupt Soviet insiders along with the Russian mafia were the big winners in the instant billionaire sweepstakes.
The Russian government, on the other hand, can’t get out of its own way. Led by former KGB stalwart Vladimir Putin, a man who continues to call the breakup of the Soviet Union “a national catastrophe,” and accuses the American police of “going crazy” over the crabgrass spy ring, Russia is consumed with small wars with breakaway former Soviet Republics with names ending in “stan” and obsessed with regaining their Superpower status. It’s a little sad, really.
Even sadder is that so many within America’s intelligence community miss the Cold War as much as the Russians. An entire generation of our own Cold Warriors had nothing to do after 1990, which was okay by most of the world since the Cold War scared the crap out of everybody and gave our CIA license to do the most abominable things in small nations all over the globe.
Not that our “Russian experts” were any good. The fall of the Soviet union was as much of a surprise to them as it was to the rest of the world. You’d think that all the thousands of people trained to speak Russian and know everything there is to know about the Soviet Union would at least have a clue that the whole thing was about to go kablooey? The answer to that one is “no” and they read about it in the papers like the rest of us.
Like their former-and hopefully-future nemeses in the KGB, our own Cold Warriors have now attained high rank through the merit of just being there and their mindset still informs the America intelligence community. Is it any wonder that a grubby bum in robes has eluded them by not playing by Cold War rules and hiding in caves in South Asia? Osama bin Laden has read all the Ludlum novels and wisely stays out of Prague and East Berlin.
And like most generals, our espionage leaders are fighting the last war, and this “Russian Spy Ring” vindicates that in their minds. We can look forward to more years of fighting the wrong wars with the wrong tactics. What will become of their new trophies, these Soccer Mom spies?
Who cares? They’ve already done enough damage, although not the sort their Russian handlers had in mind. America is unchanged by their feeble efforts, and more’s the pity since we need a complete overhaul of our intelligence agencies and their priorities. The last thing we need is a huge splashy “Red Menace” spy trial to take our eye off the terror ball.
This is not the 1950s, it’s the 21st century. Let’s hope our president doesn’t let our intelligence agencies get carried away with themselves and forget about bin Laden and his not-so-merry men, who, by the way, are feeling so comfortable that they have launched their own magazine to promote world-wide jihad. That should be interesting, as in horrifying interesting.
Probably the worst thing you can do to these spies is deport them, see if they can get hold of the spacious homes, minivans, iPads and the sheer American convenience of living in modern Russia. Those things are not for the Communist Party elite anymore, but the wheeler dealers in the private sector. The rest of Russia drinks plenty of vodka to ease the sting of getting screwed again by their latest Tsars.
Judging from their lack of initiative as spies, these mole couples are not exactly equipped to compete with the new Russian aristocracy of hustlers, mobsters and government-connected industrialists. There’s no place in today’s Russia for such people.
Thanks to them, however, there is a place again for American Cold Warriors and their legacy of psychotic, clandestine “black ops” that have caused so much misery. Way to go, Coneheads! Let’s hope they like vodka and standing in line dreaming about that worldwide worker’s paradise they were pretending to implement.