Russia’s spooks revealed as just an imitation
Financial Times

Sir, Anatol Lieven has again got Russia wrong (“Spies aside, Moscow has come in from the cold,” July 1). It is extremely naïve to believe that this time the Kremlin, proceeding from what Mr Lieven calls Russia’s “national interests,” is ready for a genuine partnership with the west.

How do you define “national interests” in a country whose regime is regarded by most analysts as authoritarian? Rather, the present-day Russia is run by a relatively tiny group of people who, as one witticism has it, also own it.

Russia’s understanding of “rapprochement with the west” is a classic quid pro quo: a relationship of the “equals” with the delimitation of respective spheres of interest – something Mr Lieven appears to approve as he hails the “end of Nato and EU expansion to the former Soviet Union.”

What he seems to ignore is that it is not for Russia to decide the geopolitical direction of the ex-Soviet “in between” states. These sovereign countries are fully entitled to choose allies as they see fit.

Curiously, the latest spying scandal (involving 11 alleged “illegals” who apparently didn’t manage to obtain a single valuable secret over a decade) provides a nice vignette of Russia as a country of simulacra. Its democracy is a fake, its “imperium” phony (as the recent events in central Asia demonstrated) and now its spooks have also been revealed as largely an imitation.

No wonder even Prof. Lieven was misled.