by Charles Lemos, Thu Jul 08, 2010 at 07:52:50 PM EDT
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.