Friday, July 2, 2010

Russian Spies in New Jersey?: Boris and Natasha Redux!

      The news that eleven New Jersey Russian Americans from the posh suburbs outside New York City  are now in Federal custody, accused of being sent by Kremlin's SVR, Moscow's foreign intelligence service, brings back visions of Cold War gamesmanship to many. 
It perhaps says something about the odd way my brain has developed from those "Spy vs. Spy" years to recall that when the news was first announced I thought of Boris and Natasha. (pictured left). 

The images from television, movies and books I read about Moscow versus London and Washington in dealing with real-lie espionage agents of course had at least  a semi-serious entertainment value.  Images of Sean Connery as the tough and wise-cracking James Bond, Michael Caine as the intrepid if slightly flawed Harry Palmer,  and, on the lighter side, Don Adams as Maxwell Smart  leap to mind.

Some authors wanted to make a stronger case about the seemliness  of spy-craft itself and the sometimes ambiguous moral traps and personal problems spied had. Sober  portrayals of cold war intrigue were offered up by John LaCarre in his George Smiley novels or Graham Greene in "The Human Factor", where one of his characters defects to Russia out of a personal favor done to him and his lover in South Africa by a KGB agent. Both LaCarre and Greene had served in British Intelligence.    

But the earliest inkling in my memory banks  that NATO nations and our former Friends in the East were having t each other came  from a 1960's cartoon show called "Rocky and Bullwinkle". Rocky was a plucky flying squirrel, and Bullwinkle a dimwitted moose.  They were two friends from Frostbite Falls, Minnesota who were frequently running up against the nefarious and short Boris Badenoff and his Amazonian partner and apparent girl-friend, Natasha Fatale. Photobucket

Pictured here with their two-dimensional spymaster, known only as "Fearless Leader"(above) , this pair of idealized Russian spies set a path of ineptitude and total bad luck that made it rather hard for me  and other kids I knew to properly take the  Cold War spy-game with too much seriousness.  

  Parody like this, intended for both children and adults, only went to prove to me that the threats of international communism that had spread like wildfire in the America of the 1950's had been so overplayed that by the next decade it was clear the public wanted relief from such paranoia about "Reds under every bed" . Photobucket 

That the "heroes" of the espionage stories in the Rocky and Bullwinkle saga were none other than a rodent and a large cow-like dufus with antlers only heightened the sense that some politicians in Washington had gone too far in trying to make people stop thinking and  just be afraid.  This was one man's  (Jay Ward, the producer) parody  against blacklisting and the politics of red hysteria under men like Senator Joe Mc Carthy, Richard Nixon and others.

But now we live in a post-modern world where irony can pop up anywhere.  The irony of Russian agents being sent to an America to gather information while posing as ordinary upscale citizens seems not only unnecessary   (what do the Russians  need to know about us? That Wall Street mortgage and hedge fund shell-gamers and con-men decimated  the economy? That we can't get out of Afghanistan just as they couldn't? That our environment takes a backseat to our desire for natural resources? ) but daft. 

Here's the "new Natasha", Titian-tress-ed beauty  Anna Chapman, on a news-spot featuring a  You Tube video she made before her arrest along with her husband and others..


  1. Here is Boris and Natasha in action in a plan to take over Washington using "goof gas". The "anybody can take Washington" reference is to the old Washington Senators major league baseball team, a perennial last-place franchise in the American League.

  2. Damn.

    Doug, I was hoping someone would spin-up something like this - and I'm glad it was you; I was immediately reminded of the whole "Boris and Natasha" gig when this story broke.

    (By the way - that red hair looks just about as real as the wings on my back - and the rest of that gal isn't as all-that as some are saying. Maybe it's just me - but she looks like just about every other heifer on TV nowadays....)

  3. Thanks Astra. I thought someone would beat me to the punch here. I'm sure they have somewhere on Multiply.

    i guess only her hairdresser knows for sure about those red locks, but you may be right. She does look like she is the modern night-time soap opera type for sure.

    The comments on You Tube tell me she has a lot of male fans who want her to coax information out of them.

    Putin, "Dimi" Medvedev and the boys might do better to send someone who looked like Audrey Hepburn in "War and Peace" to make me spill secrets.

  4. LOL!!!!!


    (We're showin' our age, pal!)

  5. And in New Jersey for cripes sake.I bet they learned a

  6. Certainly shows a lack of good reconnaissance work if you ask me Tess ;-)

  7. Hahahaha, I bet she had a field day, people are so easy to get talking. I have found one can get a life story at the bus stop. God know what those business men told her. I hope it wasn't the old tale, "my wife doesn't understand me".

    Interesting write up doug. I was reading about that story in The Telegraph. What's it coming to, Russia and spies? Now where have I heard that before!

  8. I imagine Anna Chapman was no wallflower at some of these gatherings of high-tech hot shots and business types. She likely is quite intelligent and a couple men likely let down their guard for those light green eyes.

    Still, there's something sad in the demeanor of our newest media headliner/ Mata Hari. I can see it in that Manhattan video.

    Yes, I think the whole spy game has a time-warp feel to it, Cassandra. One fellow has apparently confessed to being a Moscow contact, but as I've heard none of the eleven has been directly charged with espionage yet, which I find odd considering they weren't apparently planning any terror attacks.

  9. Thanks. The "Rocky and Bullwinkle" fans out there really have some fun little treasures on the photo sites! The You Tube clips I found were quite indicative of the show as I fondly remember it.

  10. Thanks Good Stuff! Very appreciated.

  11. This whole New Jersey charade is a hilarious.... if also a tad psychopathic..... fantasy game that nobody could take with anything more than a pinch of salt I think Doug.

    LOL Boris and Natasha cartoons are rather more believable,the racist stereotypes and warped paranoia at least had a basis in fact, but these laughable Russian American "spies" look more like agents of that deeply subversive un-American, Scandinavian flat-pack and meatball front they call IKEA .

    Comrade Anna Chapman is our woman from IKEA...the thing I find hard to come to terms with is how incredibly simple minded this propaganda is, completely lacking in any credibility.....rather like Hillary Clinton really.... who is by pure coincidence I am sure.... engaging in a spot of cold war-mongering in Poland and Georgia as we type and this story breaks across the "free world".....really ha..... credibility rating zilch, whatever happened to Edward Bernays?

    Anyway you always know British spies are fictitious if they are NOT working for a foreign power, used to be the KGB of course but nowadays its the CIA, they are torturing and murdering Dr David Kelly for their US death squad geek counterparts.

    James Bond, nah never....Anthony Blunt, that was the reality in the past....... Tony Blair today all British spies are paid by somebody else, we can't afford civil servants like them on those fancy public sector pensions in austerity Britain

    Great post Doug, highlights the absurdity of the whole fantasy game that nobody (here) really believes except the crackpot PSYOP jockeys and tabloid hacks who think these things up in the first place and then convince themselves...a truly pathetic attempt this time though!

    Has anyone ever done a cost benefit analysis on the NSA/CSS I wonder?

    Just a thought.

  12. Thanks AA. Truth is I can never resist a Boris and Natasha/Rocky and Billwinkle angle to a blog. It's really an early birthday gift for me.

    Ha! Yes, I knew there's was a missing piece to this "espionage" puzzle (although no one has actually been charged with espionage among the eleven suspects)...The Scandinavian retail connection fits it to a tee! IKEA has to be some acronym for a despicable organization bent on...bent on...well, something nefarious.

    Hillary Clinton might be trying to get Russia to push the "reset" button on the Cold War...Haliburton and General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin , et al, could use the extra business. Once you have two wars going in far-off places, a bit of another is barely noticable.

    Yes, I always tought one of the great things about Britain's spy network is the clever way both America and Russia subsudize MI5 and 6. It makes for great scandal copy when its revealed, and it saves the British government money that they can spend on pub beautification on the Falkland Islands or snail bait for the succulents growing in St. James Park.

    Once again, the British collect our taxes--through the spooks in Washington---and leave us non-represented at Westminster! And you thought it was only the English who were hung out to dry politically.

    I've heard that the NSA budget is three times that of the CIA. Whatever the powers-that -be say they spend is an understated lie. They could be running Multiply for all I know.

    That's a chilly thought.

  13. "But now we live in a post-modern world where irony can pop up anywhere. The irony of Russian agents being sent to an America to gather information while posing as ordinary upscale citizens seems not only unnecessary (what do the Russians need to know about us? That Wall Street mortgage and hedge fund shell-gamers and con-men decimated the economy? That we can't get out of Afghanistan just as they couldn't? That our environment takes a backseat to our desire for natural resources? ) but daft." < this is a very interesting read along with the earlier parts I just read. Unfortunately Doug we are not within times of a Cold War however yet I think that this will always be the case. We do it we still do live within a time of spies. One would hope that this did not exist and they could not pass under the radar however I bet there still are others out there. Yet there is not one thing we can do. I guess just to try our best.

  14. But America has nothing anyone else wants, these spies are just another 'false flag' operation playing upon the delusion that the world wants to know the 'secret' of Kentucky Fried Chicken, it doesn't.

  15. One thing this seems ot be developing is some sort of "spy swap". According to the New York Times today, a fellow named Igor Sutygin, a former arms control researcher who was arrested in Russia for passing secrets to the West --has reportedly been flown from his prison camp up near the Arctic Circle to Moscow, and been given a passport.

    The White House denies a swap is at hand, but that's standard for cases like this as I recall.

    According to Sutygin's lawyer, he's not really a spy, just a guy scooped up in a wave of FSV muscle flexing. Maybe he's not really a spy. Maybe Anna Chapman and the others were duped into being bogus spies for the same Americans whom they thought they were spying against. I wouldn't rule that out at all. Or maybe the ten were all working for Russia after all. Or not. Take your pick at this point, ladies and gentlemen.

    Who can say who the real spies are? These people stole absolutely nothing or value. It all reeks of a Cold War do-over.

    Lots of possibilities, and probably a few books coming out in acouple years from several parties concerned.

  16. This transparently cynical stunt has not enhanced the flagging reputation of the Obama regime abroad I'm afraid.

  17. A lot of taxpayer money to catch some not-so dangerous people and whisk them back to their homeland with in a few days?

    I would agree with you there AA--The White House looks nothing more than cynical here.