Democracy. Russia. CIS.

Mike Hancock: Not-so-useful idiot.

Posted by democratist on December 6, 2010

7th December 2010,

Nice to see Democratist’s old chum Mike Hancock MP is back in the spotlight once again. We think he has come off rather well so far, under the circumstances.

As the wonderful Ed Lucas (who we suspect has been recently whispering with someone wearing dark glasses and a trilby in the back of a pub somewhere) points out in the Daily Mail, so far Hancock appears as a sort of “useful idiot,” (a politically motivated idealist who can be manipulated to do the Kremlin’s bidding) rather than corrupt, or a full-on traitor.

Nonetheless, his enduring support for the Russians in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) over many years, an interesting choice of questions in the Commons, and his actions and statements as a PACE election observer in Azerbaijan in 2008, imply that more information may be forthcoming.

With regard to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR, this all looks like yet another PR disaster (neatly topping off an extraordinarily bad year) which will doubtless provide the staff at Russia Today with a couple more hours’ overtime.

Perhaps a spot of tit-for-tat petulance is also in order, and we might expect to see some hapless Brit hauled onto a plane at one of the Moscow airports (or something similar) at some point.

Nonetheless, the Russian spooks once again come across as inept and perhaps rather desperate, since they chose to run someone working for an MP whose actions were certain to draw attention and arouse suspicion. Evidently, the Security Service have been on to Zatuliveter for some time.

Perhaps the SVR are no longer really that worried about the bad publicity that this kind of public unmasking engenders. They should be. After all, who’s going to want to sell their services to a bunch of people who keep getting caught?

As for the rest of us, Zatuliveter’s arrest feeds into the kind of spy mania so beloved and eagerly sensationalized by the UK media, which at least has the effect of making the population more aware of the potential threat of espionage, and therefore makes the UK a tougher prospect for the SVR in future.

British parliamentarians will also be getting the message, and will hopefully be less eager to be seen employing lissome young Russian women as “assistants” over the coming years. Even so, perhaps it is time for the government to bite the bullet, and impose tighter restrictions on the employment of Russian citizens in potentially sensitive posts in the UK? 

And not just in parliament. As Democratist has underlined, while political and strategic material apparently made up much of Zatuliveter’s reporting, Russian’s main focus is likely to remain on military-technological developments, as they attempt to modernize their armed forces in the face of growing industrial backwardness exacerbated by corruption.

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