Espionage in Russia’s National Interests?

This letter to the editor takes on a recent interesting article by Anatol Lieven in the Financial Times:

From Dr Igor Torbakov.

Sir, Anatol Lieven has again got Russia wrong (“Spies aside, Moscow has come in from the cold”, July 1). It is extremely naive 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 aclassic quid pro quo: a relationship of the “equals” with thedelimitation of respective spheres of interest – something Mr Lievenappears to approve as he hails the “end of Nato and EU expansion to theformer Soviet Union”.

What he seems to ignore is that it is notfor Russia to decide the geopolitical direction of the ex-Soviet “inbetween” states. These sovereign countries are fully entitled to chooseallies as they see fit.

Curiously, the latest spyingscandal (involving 11 alleged “illegals” who apparently did notmanage to obtain a single valuable secret over a decade) provides a nicevignette 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.

Nowonder even Prof Lieven was misled.


Senior Fellow, FinnishInstitute of International Affairs,

Helsinki, Finland