On Spies and the British Council

Michael Weiss provides an interesting history of the British Council in Russia in the Weekly Standard: “One theory popular among Putin’s domestic enemies is that the FSB is quite happy to level charges of espionage and “provocation” at so harmless an outfit as the British Council because its own agents desire to live in England. (Lavrov’s daughter studied there, as have the children of so many other Kremlin officials.) After all, the greater the supposed threat posed by Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the more spies from the other sides are required for surveillance and counterintelligence. Many a grizzled KGB agent has reminisced about his cushy Andropov-era posting near the Thames, and it should come as no surprise that, in a country ruled by ex-KGB agents, there is still the willingness to manipulate national security to obtain la dolce vita. Bottomless accusations against the British Council therefore play into a much larger scheme of what might be called siloviki self-gratification. And that’s enough to make even a dispassionate observer sick without polonium.