“Sherman, set the way-back machine to 1953, the place, KGB headquarters in Moscow”.

In case we needed a reminder of Russian intentions and character in international espionage, MSNBC published this story this afternoon:

10 alleged Russian secret agents arrested

U.S. alleges they lived as Americans, tried to infiltrate policymaking circles

WASHINGTON — They have American names like Cynthia Murphy, but the U.S. says 10 people facing charges are actually Russian secret agents whose “deep cover” stretched back 20 years and included scenes from a bad spy novel — including corny code words and document exchanges at public areas like New York’s Central Park.

The Justice Department announced the charges Monday, alleging the suspects were tasked with penetrating U.S. policymaking circles and hiding “all connections between themselves and Russia” by posing as civilians.

Most of the suspects were arrested on Sunday. An 11th suspect was on the run Monday.

The suspects allegedly worked for the SVR, Russia’s intelligence service and the successor to the Soviet KGB. They lived across the Northeast:Manhattan; Boston, Mass.; Montclair, N.J.; Yonkers, N.Y.; and Arlington, Va.

The federal complaint details a spy novel-like operation that includes false identities, secret communications, money and document handoffs in heavily trafficked public areas like New York’s Grand Central Station and Central Park.

One of the most interesting comments in the story was this one:

The complaint alleges the defendants were sent to the United States and told not to get government jobs but to set themselves up as “normal citizens.” They were allegedly tasked to get in touch with “influential” Americans — college professors, contractors, congressional staffers.

Read the rest here.

But such activity and attention doesn’t bode well for US policy of late in trying to “reset” friendly relations with Putin’s Russia.

Sometimes the soft approach comes out worse for having collided with realpolitik. Russia remains a rival and potential adversary. We would do well to remember that such has been the case for many decades with the US, and many centuries with Western Europe.


Apparently neither Putin nor Medvedev considered me “influential”. A damned shame.

Somehow, “Cold War” doesn’t seem to be the descriptive term. Just sayin’…..

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Air Force, Army, Aviation, Coast Guard, Foreign Policy, History, Homeland Security, Marine Corps, Maritime Security, Navy, Soft Power

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  • Charley

    The FBI has been monitoring these individuals for several years, according to an interview on PBS. Is anyone surprised that the Russians have agents in this country?

  • KhakiPants

    Unsurprising, really. Russia is one of the few nations that could retain the title of world power, presuming it worked at doing the retaining. Of sorts. More accurately, we can look at the Russian Federation as a new, emerging power. We have long passed the point where, “Oh, the Soviet Union has collapsed, Russia can’t hurt us” was even remotely related to reality.

    Given the constant recommendations to downsize our the Navy, cut ships, and be less proactive in missions, Russia could be well placed to pick up the slack. I’m sure that if Russia has not already begun to build a new fleet, such a fleet is certainly on the drawing board.

    Perhaps President Obama should not toss the red phone for twitter quite yet.

  • Byron

    Is it any surprise that the SVR is really still the KGB, and Putin is still a Russian leader of the strongarm variety?

  • Chuck Hill

    Of course we are not spying on the soviets, and Israel is not spying on us. What the Brits are doing would not be called spying, just informal communication.

    Still this sounds like a highly inefficient method of spying. Perhaps they are the kinder and gentler spies.

  • Chuck Hill

    Sorry I meant to say we are not spying on the Russians, but old habits die hard.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “old habits die hard”

    My thoughts exactly.

  • Michael Antoniewicz II

    @Chuck Hill;

    It reads more like they were set up to gather ‘intent’ information as opposed to specific intelligence.

    That message from 2009 has me scratching my head though. Why reiterate something that would have been clearly briefed to them years ago unless someone started to stray from the mission parameters. Maybe that contact where one of them seemed to be trying to pump info on the Nuclear Bunker-Buster program was what sparked that message as a reminder.


    The Bear simply can not be trusted. He still wants to take over.

  • YNSN

    We won’t notice button.

    Considering the time line that must be involved in this, and the fact that we are finally able to get Russia to place pressure on Iran, this will be little more than a speed bump.

    Hopefully we are viewing a cooling relationship between Iran-Russia as being in more in our interests than fanning flames over what we knew they were doing already.

    Honestly, When I first read this the rub I got was that the Russians ‘gave’ them to us over the improved relations (or a new deal?). They seem to be small players that never really did anything, as well as used tactics that were foiled by COTS WiFi sniffing programs you all could run on your laptops for free (makes you wonder what else Google may have picked up when capturing data for street view). The timing, and the their function just don’t fit any other way. This is part of something much larger, methinks.

  • Carl

    And we’re not trying to gather intelligence on the Russians?

    Just seems to be the status quo in the Intelligence Community. The only difference is that this type of operation is more of a low risk, low cost, high probability of failure but the possibility of a windfall for results. Looks like the FBI is doing their job.


  • UltimaRatioReg

    “And we’re not trying to gather intelligence on the Russians?”

    At this juncture, with our rather unorthodox world view, it is tough to say. I wouldn’t bet the farm on the intensity of the effort.

    Also good to remember that the Soviets were much better at reading our cards than we were at reading theirs. Some of that was that our society was an open one and theirs was closed. But some of it was the skill and savvy of the KGB.

    They infiltrated our government at the highest levels for decades, so much so that their successes are still classified some seventy years on. Any agency, or legacy agency that can do that, deserves our respect and caution.

  • It is possible that the FBI is in part trying to remind everyone of the vital job they do, in light of imminent budget cuts. Still, Obama apparently didn’t appreciate it at a time when he’s trying to get us lined up with Russia … presumably to deal with Iran … and Medvedev’s reported alarm at the CIA report about Iran’s potential nuclear weapons capability was encouraging.

    If you go on to Facebook and look at Anna Chapman’s page and at her friends, there is one beautiful mostly Russian girl after another … and if you look at their friends … well … WOW. 🙂

    I hope the women are dealt with leniently – especially Cynthia Murphy, who seems to have been a good neighbor and mother for her 2 daughters. As to the men, … tough.

    Some years ago, on Internet I met a couple of Russian students at St. Ambrose University in Davenport IA – Igor (Larin?) and Sergey S(omething). I invited them to my parents’ house in the Quad Cities for Thanksgiving. Igor came gladly enough and was an enjoyable, lively guest. Sergey was on his computer – the Rock Island Arsenal is right there in the middle of the Mississippi – and said he was too busy to come.

    Later, Igor and I played my Russian Front/Great Patriotic War game, German Eagle vs. Russian Bear (available free on my http://www.coatneyhistory.com webpage and indexed in the U.S. government’s Educational Resources Information Center/ERIC database … and probably the best game I’ve ever designed). He was from Dmitrov, where the Germans briefly had a bridgehead across the Moscow-Volga Canal just north of Moscow, and seemed to enjoy the game … which, as I remember, he won … holding Moscow.

    I sometimes wonder what happened to him … and what Sergey was doing on his computer that day that was so important.

    I really think espionage is natural to the Russian character. While espionage by any country should be exposed and stopped in America, I again hope the punishment in the case of the young women involved will be lenient. Motherhood is their real mission in life.

  • Chuck Hill

    During the Cold War we actually focused too much of our intel resources on the Soviets and lost the bubble on other places.

    Gathering intel by whatever means can be a confidence builder as well as a way to gain advantage.

    Bottom line, I would be very disappointed if we were not spying.

  • And after the neocon West’s designs and moves against them in the recent past, the Russians’ desire to monitor our intentions and be sure we aren’t going to aggress against them again is entirely understandable.

    We are not at war with them, and if the information these agents were after wasn’t military – which could be used to kill our servicepeople – this is more on the level of industrial espionage, and I hope the prosecutors and judge will take that into consideration as well.

    Indeed, we would have to deport or imprison a million or more Americans, if we applied the same standards against Israel’s supporters, if not de facto agents, in America … as someone else mentioned above … and Israel hardly behaves like an ally.

    Back in Alaska in the 70s and 80s, there was a lot of anti-military/-deterrence political agitation, which I personally and publicly opposed … at great personal cost, eventually. If Alaskans had voted to become a nuclear free zone, it would have been diplomatically disastrous: New Zealand had already broken ranks/solidarity with us by doing so, which made it off-limits to our Navy nuclear subs and ships.

    I have never been employed or assigned any mission by any intelligence or counter-intelligence agency. However, I am a loyal American, and I noted to a good friend that there were a number of European women who had become close to our state legislature in one way or another. In one case, I asked as a personal favor (in return) that if action was taken, the very beautiful girl would not be imprisoned or deported – that it was very likely she and her family back home were under terrible pressure.

    She had become the girlfriend of the son of a prominent Alaskan, and a few months later the guy (who had himself been active in anti-military activities) came up to me and announced that the two of them would be moving to another beautiful state.

    I wished him/them all the best, and told him to take care of her and MARRY her – that she seemed like a very good person who deserved to have a happy, normal life. I hope they made it.

    Another, older woman confronted me at about the same time and announced she was returning to her home country. I similarly acted surprised and wished her well.

    I believe I wrecked (or helped wreck) about 5 Soviet KGB operations of one kind or another in and out of Alaska. The Russians know me to be a loyal American, but they also know that I am pro-Russian whenever possible and try to be fair: for example, I helped blow the whistle on Appendix B of the Rambouillet Treaty, which Clinton, Blair, and the neocons used to start our war crime Kosovo war against the Serbs … and Russians.

    I would expect Putin’s reaction will be to arrest 11 Americans on similar charges, but it is crucially important that he does not over-react and arrest innocent people, or equivalency will be lost and our relations will indeed be badly damaged at a critical time.

    It is vital that the Obama administration meanwhile continues trying to build good relations with Russia, so that we CAN effectively move against Iran getting nuclear weapons and other world problems … together.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Are you going to blame the fog in San Francisco on the “neo-cons”?

    Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, precisely the nations which give Russia the most alarm, were courted by Clinton’s “Partnership for Peace”, and accepted into NATO in 1997, during the Clinton Administration.

    Your drum is old, tired, and off the beat.

  • No, I’ll just blame the (- you? -) neocons for dragging us into strategic disaster and national bankruptcy … and nearly World War 3 … and leave it at that, URR.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    You are entitled to just about any view of the world that you care to have. But before you begin besmirching folks, you might do well to remember who has fought for and defended this country and preserved that right. (Hint: Of the two of us, it wasn’t YOU.)

  • As I have described above, I certainly have fought for and defended the Country … at serious personal cost – in ways you obviously can’t comprehend – and your attempt to deny/denigrate that only heaps dishonor on you, URR, not me.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Yes, Lou. Your heroism in the Battle of Alaska is admirable. Much tougher than Ramadi or Fallujah, I am certain.

    You use the term “personal cost”, without knowing what the words mean. Hop a flight to Helmand and spend some time in the field hospital, and you may get an education.

  • Again, stop trying to wrap your neocon drumbeating and DISASTERS in the suffering our servicepeople (and their families) have had to pay for them, URR.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Finished with you.

    You denigrate our service members and accuse them of atrocities and war crimes. Then you claim equivalence to their (and my) service as if you ever served on active duty, let alone went to war.

    You are the worst kind of moral relativist, who is a pretender to the honor and sacrifice of those who did serve. And you try and excuse it by wrapping it all in some political cloth that means everyone who disagrees with you must not be as honorable as you, nor served as honorably as you.

    Shame on you, if you had a concept of that word.

  • You only shame yourself, URR. I’m not a neocon politician or cheerleader who fraudulently ordered and cheered our long and inevitably dirty Iraq war of occupation and lost us Afghanistan as well.

    And as I have said before I did do active, volunteer, draftee service in the Army in CONUS and Germany, 1967-69, which was good enough for Uncle Sam, regardless of you.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    My apologies, you DID serve on active duty.

    So if you consider your service to your country honorable, why do you not consider others’ to be?

  • Apology accepted, URR. I get passionate in my beliefs too, sometimes.

    With a few exceptions … some of which have been exposed and are being punished … our servicepeople ARE serving honorably in a tough, dirty, and (unfortunately) now unwinnable war. Servicepeople following orders and doing their best is essential to the survival of any democracy.

    However, those politicians and pundits who started the Iraq war did so dishonorably, and we are now all paying the price in one way or another – servicepeople most of all.

    I wrote the Feb03 American Historical Review review of the film We Were Soldiers. By phone, I interviewed General Moore and Joe Galloway as I was writing it. Here is the last paragraph:

    “Like the Killing Fields (1980), this film is emotionally
    wrenching and difficult to watch. Nevertheless, despite any
    flaws, it should be viewed by every adult American, let alone
    prospective soldiers. Responsibility for young lives, to see
    they are not wasted or forgotten, should be felt not just by
    their commanders but by all the rest of us who would send
    them into such hell. We Were Soldiers holds us all accountable
    to see that their faith, trust, and sacrifices, which
    it so passionately portrays, are not betrayed again.”

    From the moment in August 2002 I was told Cheney&Bush and Blair were going to invade Iraq “regardless” … of justification, material or human cost … I did everything I possibly could both publicly and privately to try to stop it … to try to stop our servicepeople from being betrayed again … this time from the very outset.

    (Notice in the film the sarcastic reference to “politicians,” during the good-bye party, but in the case of Viet Nam America was doing the right thing, trying to fulfill President Kennedy’s famous pledge and protect the South Vietnamese against communist aggression.)

    Obama has been a disappointment in many ways, but at least he is trying to get us out, honorably, of an almost impossible Southwest Asia predicament.

    And I am sure that one issue you and I can both agree on is the need for adequate care and compensation for our returning veterans. Collectively, all we Americans sent them over there, and we owe them and their families a heavy debt.

    By the way, I volunteered for the draft in early December 1966, after going into my draft board to find out why I hadn’t been called up. Selective Service had LOST my records. 🙂

    I counted every day but was and am proud to have served. I believe Viet Nam was a just war and would have gone if ordered, but I knew it was a lost war and also knew Agent Orange was a permanently degenerating and deadly contaminant.

  • TheOne


    I’m still waiting for you to wrap yourself in the flag so tight that you eventually shut the hell up.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    You are going to be waiting a long time. Unless you wanna try for yourself.

    Didn’t think so.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    You and I will disagree about Iraq and AFG being either necessary or winnable. I have my very strong criticisms of how Iraq was run in 2003-5. But I didn’t believe it unwinnable even in the worst of times, and I think it is a success now. Same will be true of AFG.

    Your points about antagonizing Russia are right on in many ways, but to blame it all on “neo-cons” is absurdly myopic. I was involved in the PFP program right after Poland joined NATO. Several of the officers I spoke with were not at all happy about it, because they knew that Russia, while at the time powerless to do much about it, would not always be, and has a memory much longer than does the US. And the Poles knew that the Russian objections were not baseless.

    While at Stanford, Condi Rice wrote a series of papers in the mid-90s to the effect that Russia was not out friend, and their interests coinciding with ours was temporary, and somewhat illusory. Russia will remain a wary potential foe of the West, with damned good reason. Rice also warned against kicking Russia while they were down, for much the same reasons the Poles warned.

    The Clinton Administration lacked the historical perspective to understand that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was not an end to traditional Russian interests and attitudes.

    We made the same mistakes, and continue to make them, with China. China is not an ally, or a friend, or a global “partner”. She is not an enemy, but has the potential to be. We should remain cautious of our dealings with them and behave accordingly.

  • Well, I think Russia just wants to join the West as any other full partner, URR, and we will have a more constructive influence with them when we let them.

    We are in complete agreement about China.

    Your background is impressive.

    Now, I must return to writing my book … about model ships and naval war games.

    As ever, it has been a stimulating exchange. 🙂

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Off to your book. The topic sounds interesting.

    About Russia, though. She seems to be leveraging so that the West has to join HER. Witness Germany’s initiatives of late. We shall see.

  • Woody Sanford

    We communicated a few times about the Battle of Midway and German Operation Barbarossa in Russia. I assumed you were a Military History buff. Now, with all your comments about Russian Spying/Espionage and justification of the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, I am not sure what or who you stand for. You sound like a free-thinking and argumentative College debater. I really have no problem with that, but I certainly misread you before.
    What I wanted to comment about mainly was the 3 posted pictures on the USNI website of the “Moscow Mama,” assuming it be the Femme Fatale Anna Chapman. The shot on the right– does she have on a blue corset or Teddy? I don’t know if she could influence a diplomat or Professor, But I know damn well she could get something out of a Soldier or Marine. I guess that info might be disinformation or BS, but she could get it looking like that. I am also sure that those guys would want more than a look. Woody