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July 8, 2010
Spies not like us
It appears that despite the declared end of the Cold War, its espionage component goes on. Anna Chapman and 10 others have been accused of operating an illegal passport ring on behalf of Mother Russia.
Those surprised that this type of activity still emanates even from Putin's supposedly capitalist Russia should study the history of Soviet espionage. Chapman's elite boarding school background, and her resume as a businesswoman at, among other places, Barclay's Bank recalls the exclusively idealistic motives of such Cold War spies as Alger Hiss (although he did get a Bokhara rug and an Order of Lenin medal out of it) and the Rosenbergs, who did their work out of their dingy, New York apartment. She clearly didn't need the money and expressed her patriotism for Russia on--and this is a concession to our modern era--on Facebook.
And the country Chapman owes her allegiance to has more in common with the regime Hiss and others labored so diligently for. Both Stalin and Putin came out of a gangsterish background: the former robbed banks for the Revolution and the latter knocked heads, and probably worse, for the KGB. Despite all the rhetoric about Five Year Plans, Stalin was as eager as Putin to trade with the hated capitalists; after all, it was businessmen as much as lefties who pressured FDR in 1933 to open diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.
It will be instructive to see how Obama reacts to this. Will he cut a deal with Putin, as has been rumored, and swap spies as Kennedy did for Gary Powers? Or will he, as in the case of terrorists, devote considerable energy to due process?