Every once in awhile there are stories that capture a major difference in mindset between Russia and the US (or the West, generally). This is one of those stories:
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says he has met the Russian agents recently deported from the US – and claimed they were living “tough lives” and had been “betrayed”.
. . . .
ked whether he had sung karaoke with them, Mr Putin said: “We did, but not with a karaoke box. We sang to live music and we sang ‘Where the Motherland Begins’ and other such songs.”
The song became hugely popular after it featured in a 1960s film about a Russian spy working in Nazi Germany.
I can’t imagine a western president or prime minister doing such a thing. Cordell Hull’s statement that “gentlemen don’t read other gentlemen’s mail” was an extreme, but for the most part American, and most western European statesmen view espionage as something of a necessary evil, and certainly consider those who practice it as rather unsavory. A karaoke party with spies is almost beyond imagining.
But, it goes to prove the accuracy of LR’s characterization of Putin as a “proud KGB spy.”
The song they sang is also very, very revealing. It is of the Soviet era. Moreover, the implicit equation of spying in the US with spying in Nazi German speaks volumes about the attitudes of the Russian security services–and those in government that are just spies seconded to other posts.
Finally, this is choice:
Mr Putin went on to say that the spy swap with the US had come about as a result of “betrayal”.
“Traitors always end badly. They finish up as drunks, addicts, on the street,” he said.
And when asked by reporters if Moscow was planning to take revenge, he said it was incorrect to ask about it.
“It cannot be solved at a press conference. They live by their own laws, and all special services are well aware of these laws,” he said.
Drunks? Nah, that would be too easy. The last two paragraphs are rather ominous. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Don’t believe in bonhomie between leaders at press conferences (at least I presume he’s referring to Obama-Medvedev conviviality). I get the definite “payback is a bitch but we don’t talk about it” and “resets only go so far” feel.
The definitive attribution of the capture to betrayal is also very interesting. I don’t know whether to believe it–it could be easier to blame something like this on betrayal than to an error in the SVR or the effectiveness of US counterintelligence–but knowing Putin it suggests that drunkeness and addiction may be the last thing some people have to worry about.