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Bill Lichtenstein

Bill Lichtenstein

Posted: July 8, 2010 01:12 PM

"Blind as Bats and Sitting Ducks": Russian Media on Spy Arrests in U.S. and Puppetmaster Putin

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File this under "What a different world we live in":

In the wake of the June 28 arrest of ten alleged Russian spies living in the U.S., an opinion piece in today's The Moscow Times, boldly criticized Russia's intelligence services, saying:

Russian intelligence and the spies they hire are like soldiers who wear night-vision goggles in the daytime: They're blind as bats and sitting ducks for U.S. counterintelligence.

The article, "Spy Tale Kafka Would Love," was written by Alexander Golts, an independent military analyst and deputy editor of the on-line magazine, Yezhednevny Zhurnal.

The article echoed the reporting in the U.S. since the busts that has focused on the seemingly innocuous, very "un-James Bond-like" activities of the alleged agents, which reportedly included clipping newspaper articles and using computers at Starbucks.

In his The Moscow Times opinion piece today, Golts wrote:

Had the Russian intelligence services been a little smarter, they would have simply registered their undercover agents as lobbyists, who like the hundreds of thousands of lobbyists flooding Washington and other cities are free to gather open information to their heart's content. Why, then, did Russian intelligence spend roughly $100,000 a year per spy for 10 years -- more than $10 million in total -- if they served no useful function?

At the same time, Golts wrote that the activities of the 10 Russians, which were deemed exceedingly unremarkable by the American media and members of the public, were consistent with the intelligence gathering style and vision of Russian Prime Minister and former mid-level KGB agent for 17 years, Vladimir Putin. Golts wrote:

"It is no coincidence that this intelligence network was created in the early 2000s, when Vladimir Putin became president. Putin's mindset, which is shared by his retinue of former Federal Security Service colleagues that surround him, view all foreign open-source information, such as newspapers and published material from think tanks, as unreliable -- or even 'disinformation' planted by the White House to dupe Russia.

Putin said in an April 2005 interview to Israeli television, 'I do not consider those statements our partners make for the press. I rely on the information that comes from our private discussions.'

Apparently, the only way to reveal the true, conspiratorial U.S. intentions against Russia is to plant spies who can become Americanized and "penetrate" the media and top policymakers.

Putin Must Go

Meanwhile, Golts' publication has published an on-line petition signed so far by 52,000 Russian intellectuals, cultural figures and and ordinary citizens. The petition, replete with Facebook and Twitter links, calls for the ouster of Prime Minister Putin.

The petition, calling for "democratic development," reads, in part:

There can be no true reform in Russia as long as Putin has real power in the country. Returning the country to the mainstream of democratic development can only begin when Putin no longer has control of the levers [of power] of the state and society. During his years in power, Putin has become a symbol of ruthlessness toward his own citizens and Russia has become a corrupt and unpredictable country.

Among those who signed the petition are human rights activist Yelena Bonner, widow of the late Nobel laureate Andrei Sakharov; leading Russian actor Aleksei Devotchenko, who starred in a popular television crime drama called "Streets of Broken Lamps"; and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov. The petition followed a concert in Moscow during which Yury Shevchuk, the front man for the rock group DDT, lambasted the Russian ruling elite in a four-minute rant between songs.

While such criticism of political leaders and intelligence policies in the U.S. would barely be noteworthy, in Russia it provides an eye-opening view of the media, activism and intelligence in the "post-Soviet" nation. This breath of fresh dissent leaves you wondering what might have said if there had been a open press at the time of the Berlin Wall's construction or the invasion of Czechoslovakia, as well as what will come of this new movement for "democratic development."


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