The Ryan Fogle spy scandal is unfolding. Who knows what will come of it over the next hours, days, and weeks. At the moment it all seems very weird. But as someone on Twitter reminded me, the British spy rock looked crazy at the time and it turned out to be real.
What is really weird is what the FSB found in Fogle’s possession:
Ryan Fogle, a third secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, was carrying special technical equipment, disguises, written instructions and a large sum of money when he was detained overnight, the FSB said in a statement Tuesday. Fogle was handed over to U.S. embassy officials, the FSB said.
Bad wigs, cheap sunglasses, and primitive cell phone aside, those “written instructions” sure do read like one of those Nigerian scam emails.
Image: Russia Today
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By Sean — 9 years ago
I highly recommend “Nikita Khrushchev Goes to Hollywood” from the Smithsonian Magazine. Khrushchev, always the showman, charmed, bantered with American capitalists, and even took in the filming of Can-Can during his tour of America in 1959. When the Soviet premier went to Hollywood, hundreds of stars appealed for tickets to attend a luncheon with him. He met such Hollywood legends as Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope, Gary Cooper, and Charleston Heston.
The event apparently had several memorable moments. When Heston leaned over to Soviet novelist Mikhail Sholokhtov and said “I have read excerpts from your works.” The novelist replied, “Thank you. When we get some of your films, I shall not fail to watch some excerpts from them.” When businessman Spyros Skouras used his immigrant rags-to-riches story to educate Khrushchev about capitalism, the communist retorted:
He turned to Skouras—”my dear brother Greek”—and said he was impressed by his capitalist rags-to-riches story. But then he topped it with a communist rags-to-riches story. “I started working as soon as I learned how to walk,” he said. “I herded cows for the capitalists. That was before I was 15. After that, I worked in a factory for a German. Then I worked in a French-owned mine.” He paused and smiled. “Today, I am the premier of the great Soviet state.”
The banter between the two continued with no discernible winner.
However, the one thing Nikita and his wife Nina didn’t get to do was visit Disneyland. At one point during the luncheon, Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker told Henry Cabot Lodge, US Ambassador to the UN and Khrushchev’s personal tour guide, “I want you, as a representative of the president, to know that I will not be responsible for Chairman Khrushchev’s safety if we go to Disneyland.” “Very well, Chief,” Ledge replied. “If you will not be responsible for his safety, we do not go, and we will do something else.”
Word steadily got back to the Khrushchevs. Both were terribly disappointed. So much so that Khrushchev devoted part of his 45 minute speech to the subject:
“Just now, I was told that I could not go to Disneyland,” he announced. “I asked, ‘Why not? What is it? Do you have rocket-launching pads there?’ ”
The audience laughed.
“Just listen,” he said. “Just listen to what I was told: ‘We—which means the American authorities—cannot guarantee your security there.’ ”
He raised his hands in a vaudevillian shrug. That got another laugh.
“What is it? Is there an epidemic of cholera there? Have gangsters taken hold of the place? Your policemen are so tough they can lift a bull by the horns. Surely they can restore order if there are any gangsters around. I say, ‘I would very much like to see Disneyland.’ They say, ‘We cannot guarantee your security.’ Then what must I do, commit suicide?”
Khrushchev was starting to look more angry than amused. His fist punched the air above his red face.
“That’s the situation I find myself in,” he said. “For me, such a situation is inconceivable. I cannot find words to explain this to my people.”
The audience was baffled. Were they really watching the 65-year-old dictator of the world’s largest country throw a temper tantrum because he couldn’t go to Disneyland?
Sitting in the audience, Nina Khrushchev told David Niven that she really was disappointed that she couldn’t see Disneyland. Hearing that, Sinatra, who was sitting next to Mrs. Khrushchev, leaned over and whispered in Niven’s ear.
“Screw the cops!” Sinatra said. “Tell the old broad that you and I will take ’em down there this afternoon.”
Khrushchev never did get to go to Disneyland. Instead, according to William Taubman, his hosts killed time by, in the words of the premier, “driving aimlessly around the Los Angeles suburbs for two hours” in a closed armored Cadillac. Even Lodge agreed that “the interminable afternoon dragged on.”Post Views: 940
By Sean — 10 years ago
My article, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cold War II, is on Pajamas Media. It will be interesting to see how the site’s mostly conservative readers respond to a combination of cultural analysis and satire. Here is an opening taste:
The past two weeks have been a virtual Cold War flashback. Russia invades Georgia. The U.S. condemns Russia. Like during the Cold War, the local particularities of the whole affair matter little. All that really matters is the grand game between the “superpowers.” Like in decades past, they didn’t disappoint. Rhetorical potshots between Moscow and Washington zipped back and forth. All of the familiar signs, codes, and tropes were back.
Still, even though it looked like a Cold War and quacked like a Cold War, there was a constant denial of the Cold War. Secretary Rice emphasized that in no way did the increase in tensions with Russia signal a “new Cold War.” The Russians were also reluctant to embrace the “new Cold War.” When Dmitrii Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, announced that Russia would freeze cooperation with the alliance, he assured reporters that “there won’t be any aggressive action from anyone on our side. We will behave in a pragmatic manner. … There will definitely not be a Cold War.”
Not a Cold War? Everyone is making arguments that the U.S. and Russia are not in a “new Cold War.” Why engage in the old psychological trick of repressing what you really desire? Especially when the truth is so blatantly clear: officials in Washington and Russia truly desire a new Cold War. There is just something comforting in that predictable, bipolar world, where two grand adversaries face each other in a real-life game of Risk. It’s like two arch enemies at battle. Neither can ultimately defeat the other, yet they seem to complement each other perfectly. As the Joker endearingly told Batman in the Dark Knight, “Kill you? I don’t want to kill you. What would I do without you? … You … you complete me.”Post Views: 282
By Sean — 10 years ago
Russia is not free. That’s the conclusion Freedom House has made in its new report “Freedom in the World 2008.” According to its scorecard, Russia received a “6” in Political Rights and a “5” in Civil Liberties. The scale puts “1” as the most free and “7” as “not free.” The main reason the report cites Russia’s continued unfree slide was the charges of vote rigging in Duma elections this fall. You wouldn’t know it from the scorecard. Compared to last year’s report, there has been no numerical change in Russia’s freedom, or should I say, lack thereof.
Granted, I don’t take these attempts to quantify such philosophically weighty concepts like “freedom” very seriously. There is just something comical about such studies. Is it the reports’ crass reductionism? Is it how assigning measurement to freedom seems to trivialize its meaning? Or is it because by using such broad categories all differences between nations are obliterated? I can’t help chuckle at how efforts to scientifically graph abstract concepts like “freedom” only further obscures their meaning. What is left is Russia, as a “not free” nation, is simply the same as other “not free” states like Sudan, Congo, Angola, Burma, and Pakistan. At any rate, such is our age where everything can be reduced to a scorecard. Simplicity and comfort, not to mention terror and horror, is found in numbers.
Unfortunately, others do take Freedom House’s so-called “Map of Freedom” seriously. Since its birth in 1973, the report has served as a empirical yardstick and rhetorical battering ram for assessing the rise and fall of that ever elusive buzzword, freedom.
What does “freedom” mean for Freedom House? According to its methological statement,
Freedom House does not maintain a culture-bound view of freedom. The methodology of the survey is grounded in basic standards of political rights and civil liberties, derived in large measure from relevant portions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These standards apply to all countries and territories, irrespective of geographical location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development. The survey operates from the assumption that freedom for all peoples is best achieved in liberal democratic societies.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Russia has never fared well in Freedom House’s tally. It was only in 1991 that the think tank gave the then ailing Soviet Union the mark of “partly free” for the first time. This honor was bestowed on the Communist state because the “Soviet parliament passed laws guaranteeing freedom of the press and of religion” (Christian Science Monitor, 1/3/1991). Russia has yet to get over the “partly free” threshold. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t come close. In 1997, Russia was listed as one of the countries that had made “significant advances” due to its “free and fair elections” for president in 1996 (Christian Science Monitor, 5/9/1997). Once again it just goes to show that being free is not so much how you elect as it is who you elect. Still, Yeltsin’s reelection wasn’t enough for Freedom House. It still considered Russia to be “democratizing.” With the war in Chechnya and organized crime serving as two often cited examples, Russia continued be “partly free.” By 1999, the Chechen War was dragging Russia further down the freedom meter as it was listed as the first of five “major setbacks for Freedom” that year. Nevertheless, many thought that freedom’s future in Russia looked bright. That is until Putin arrived.
Freedom House didn’t label Putin’s Russia “not free” immediately. It was only in 2005 that Russia was demoted back to the “not free” category. A good 13 year run at wading in “partly free” limbo came to an end. What happened? Freedom House then explained that Russia’s freedom decline was “due to the virtual elimination of influential political opposition parties within the country and the further concentration of executive power.” From there Russia’s decent into a “not free” hell has been gathering steam ever since.Post Views: 188