Dos Vedanya Tovarischa Anna Chapman née Kushchenko

I really haven't been following the embedded Russian spy story closely, though I have found it rather exceptionally amusing at times. I mean it is not often that one gets to see spy porn plastered in the British tabloids. Few page three girls can boast the lifestyle, if not the breasts, of a character that reads as if from the fiction of John Le Carré. The Russian femme fatale Anna Chapman née Kushchenko, aka The Lady in Red, is, no doubt, the Mata Hari of our day and age but unlike the Dutch tulip of yore, this Russian turnip gets to live another day. Today, she was deported to Moscow as part of a spy swap, the first in 24 years, between the United States and Russia.

Marc Ambinder over at The Atlantic finds that "the fact that the two countries managed to so quickly figure out a mutually beneficial solution after the arrests of Russian spies last week suggests that Moscow and Washington work together well and that both countries believe it is in their best interest to move on from the wilderness of mirrors." In Marc's view, the quick deal is "a sign of a healthy relationship." My take away is more nuanced. The relationship is as healthy as it can be given the dysfunctional nature of the relationship between the two countries. Frankly, I'd like to know what both the US and Russia are so eager to cover up. Alas, given the deal we are never likely to know.

It is somewhat stunning to me that in this entire episode no one has brought up the Cambridge Five, the most notorious embedded spy ring to ever operate in the West. In the 1930s amidst the background of the rise of fascism, the Soviet Union managed to recruit five Cambridge students - Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, Kim Philby and John Cairncross - to provide intelligence even before they embarked on diplomatic and intelligence careers. Maclean, in particular, was quite the catch given that his father had been the leader of the Liberal party in the 1920s. And Kim Philby was the son of St. John Philby, the noted British diplomat and explorer who was instrumental in placing Ibn Saud on the throne of Saudi Arabia. And as per Anthony Blunt, well, he was a third cousin of Queen Elizabeth, the wife of King George VI and mother of the present monarch. Sir Anthony Blunt, a noted art historian, would also advise the royal family on its art collection but would have his peerage revoked after Margaret Thatcher revealed his role, minimal compared to Philby's and Burgess' roles, in the whole sordid affair. By these standards, Anna Chapman née Kushchenko's pedigree is rather that of a mongrel.

Personally, I can't wait until the BBC turns this latest chapter of Russian espionage into a mini-series. Below a delicious scene from Cambridge Spies with Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth and Samuel West as Sir Anthony Blunt:

This is par for the course. There is no reason to believe that Russia, the United States, Israel, China, the United Kingdom or most any country will curtail their spy games. We can only hope that in future such spy games are as entertaining as these.


Tags: US-Russian Relations, Cambridge Five, US Intelligence Issues (all tags)



I like the theory that goes something like this...

There are factions within Russia that are working to integreate Russia into Europe. To accomplish that Russia needs to do a certain amount of sucking up to the U.S. so the U.S. does not try to scuttle the effort. But, of course there are forces in the U.S. as well as Russia that do not want closer ties between Europe and Russia. So those forces spring things like the spy incident just after Medvedev is here to bolix things like Russia-Europe integration. etc etc

by Jeff Wegerson 2010-07-08 10:43PM | 0 recs
RE: Dos Vedanya Tovarischa Anna Chapman née Kushchenko

This is 8th grade level BS.  Honestly, they were convicted of basically being "under cover" with espionage intentions.  I am happy to see they are not being treated lightly, but this is Cold War Porn for the 50-90 year olds who love this shit.  We cannot kill bin Laden, or wipe out Al Queda easily...but we sure can catch those hot red-headed Russian spies.  Every cold warriors wet dream come true...

by Hammer1001 2010-07-09 12:56AM | 0 recs
I wish

I could write with 10% of the skill you have...dutch tulips and russian turnips...indeed =)

by Ravi Verma 2010-07-09 02:39AM | 0 recs

One correction: Anthony Blunt never had a peerage revoked. Why? Simply because he never received a peerage in the first place. He only had a knighthood (KCVO = knight commander in the Victorian order) revoked. A peerage however is a noble title, at the time entitling the holder a seat in the House of Lords. A peerage can only be forfeited by a bill of attainder.

by Frederik 2010-07-09 05:49AM | 0 recs
RE: Correction

Thanks. You're right. He was given a knighthood not a peerage. 

by Charles Lemos 2010-07-09 10:54PM | 0 recs

The US and Russia worked out a sensible exchange of spies. But I think that, instead of Vienna, they should have exchanged them on Berlin's Glienicke Bridge.


by altara 2010-07-09 10:04AM | 0 recs
Thats a big 10 - 4

That is, a swap of 10, for 4....  the end of the cold war and the post-yeltsin era of Russian-American relations never ended the KGB operation here.


I for one, see this as a sort of sign of the return to health of the CIA and perhaps even the KGB... there's alot to be said for the value of boots on the ground.


Having said that, I believe the Americans may have gotten the better end of the deal. In my view, some of the 10 that were exchanged were not valuable agents - one has to wonder, of what value the agents we received...

Four people who are in ill health, having been kept in prison? They are off their game and unlikely to be useful. Do they have information that we need?

Why all of this is positive, is that at least the CIA is now regarding such operatives as useful instead of playing video games with hellfire missiles and getting all lathered up over google earth.

There's way too much evil in the world for the CIA to be asleep at the wheel. All I see here is that someone , somehow, broke this ring that was operating in the US - and someone else saw value in retrieving another set of operatives operating somewhere else.

Which is a good thing, considering that we waste alot of effort on the NSA and certain elements of the CIA electronically shattering what would be the equivalent of our fourth amendment constitutional rights.


When net neutrality is installed into the US constitution, as a formal amendment and a part of the new bill of rights - and we've got Osama Bin Laden's head on a stick. Then we'll know the CIA is pointed in the right direction. But news like this can't be all that bad.


Confession: I don't even know what the redheaded babe looks like. I'm kind of into* Betty Page, so I tend to get blindsided at times as to who the hot chicks are.


* defined here as 'semi-healthy obsession'  that involves north of 500 page impressions per year

by Trey Rentz 2010-07-09 11:54AM | 0 recs
The worse consequence of this episode is that it has deprived John Le Carré of material.

Couldn't they just have permitted a few spies to stay? A mole is a hard thing to create, and to just to give them up without thinking of the consequences is unpatriotic, in my opinion, especially during a recession. It will probably increase Hollywood unemployment.

by MainStreet 2010-07-13 11:11PM | 0 recs


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