Democracy. Russia. CIS.

The Humiliation and the Fury

Posted by democratist on July 11, 2010

11th July 2010

At the risk of appearing geeky, gloating and obsessive (and far worse, dull) Democratist – who has actually spent much of the last few days enjoying the excellent summer weather, rather than being stuck in front of our computer – would like to add a few more words of analysis in relation to the recent “reset” spy scandal.

Firstly, it now transpires that the main points we made in our first two articles have been confirmed as pretty much “bang-on”: As the BBC noted in a report yesterday, the 10 arrests that took place on the 27th June came not as the result of the FBI’s hand being forced after Anna Chapman became suspicious she was under surveillance, but were rather the result of some extremely well thought-out plotting.

We now know that President Obama was briefed on the forthcoming arrests on 11th June –  a full 13 days before he hosted Medvedev at the White House, and 16 days before the arrests actually took place. It is therefore clear that the FBI (with the President’s knowledge and approval) were firmly in the driving seat right from the start: The false flag request for Chapman to deliver a passport to a third-party (which we can assume occurred only a day or so before the arrests) was almost certainly a provocation intended to arouse suspicion, and thus allow the FBI to make the arrests on the pretext that she had become aware that the game was up, and was about to flee (whilst also allowing the potential to develop further leads). 

These revelations also serve to further discredit the disinformation campaign that the Russians had orignally been running in both their national media, and on their international mouthpiece Russia Today for much of the last two weeks; that the arrests were either a plot by right-wing elements in the FBI (“US special services” in the parlance) to embarrass Obama, or a ploy to derail the “reset,” and this further unmasks the mendacity of so much of Russia’s domestic and international media coverage.

The recent revelations do, however, rather confirm Democratist’s conjecture that the arrests were part of a calculated, and very very clever US plan to discredit the SVR both at home and abroad, and by extension the Siloviki.

And indeed, apparently a hugely successful one: The humiliation and the fury (both public, and more significant private, within the Russian corridors of power) that has followed the arrests, court appearances and “swap” of the SVR “illegals” has been palpable, despite the ostensibly highly secretive nature of Russia’s “espiocracy”.

Thus, we read in an interview with Lieutenant-General Nikolay Leonov, Retired former KGB intelligence chief with responsibility for intelligence on the American continent (and noted “Americanologist”), in Tverskaya 13 Online (7th July – via Johnson’s Russia List) the following outburst;

“You wonder what on earth is happening in today’s world and in the esteemed profession to which I devoted my life. The impression arises that in this spy scandal one is dealing with some kind of strange mutant from the Cold War era. This is not intelligence in the form that we conducted it…with the same professionalism, the same ideological conviction, and the same level of technological equipment.”

He continues, (in relation to the corruption and money laundering allegations also highlighted by Democratist), “For us, the Soviet intelligence service, the norm was never to mix the business used as cover with intelligence matters… No one could even entertain the idea that it was possible to engage in illegal activity while being an intelligence worker. This was absolutely ruled out.”

And it is becoming clear that the scandal has already started to have exactly the effect that we originally suggested the Americans were aiming for: On 11th July Russia Today featured a 12 minute  interview with a rather grumpy and elderly looking Mikhail Lyubimov, as part of their “XL Reports” slot, in which the former KGB man, speaking in Russian (despite his excellent, if excessively plummy command of English, which suggests his remarks were primarily intended for a domestic rather than international audience) lamented the apparent ineptitude of the “illegals”, and the broader “degrading” of his profession, tellingly comparing this with declines in other areas of state competence in Russia over the past few years. 

But more significantly than any of this, Lyubimov openly suggested the need for greater oversight of the Russian intelligence agencies by the Duma and more public accountability.

Such things do not happen by chance in Russia, and certainly not on Russia Today; well-known former KGB men do not make such statements on TV in a country that has essentially been run by KGB alumni for the last decade, and where the Duma has been little more than a rubber stamp, unless they have some serious backing.

The SVR will be already ripping itself apart as they hunt for whoever was responsible for this 20-year long fiasco; the final political implications are likely to be even more spectacular.

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