Sunday, July 18, 2010

From Spy To Politician?

Recap time on the Russian Spy Scandal. The US and Russia seemed happy to wrap the whole sordid affair up ten days ago with a hastily arranged swap of agents in Vienna, Austria; the Russians to get the world’s attention off their generally lousy spycraft and the Americans perhaps to cover-up the fact that the FBI very well may have blown a decade-long investigation into the ring with their ham-fisted attempt to ensnare alleged spy Anna Chapman.

Since getting back to Russia, ten of the eleven swapped agents seem to have quickly faded into obscurity; the eleventh of course is Anna Chapman, who according to Newsweek, could find herself in the Duma, the Russian Parliament. The head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) in Chapman’s hometown of Volgograd is promoting her for a seat in the next Duma elections in 2012. The LDPR is one of the few official opposition parties in the Duma; the party is mostly known for the antics of their leader, the fiery nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, himself best known for making the occasional outrageous statement, or for in his younger days, starting fist-fights within parliament. As Newsweek notes, the LDPR has a track record for giving seats to Russian pop culture icons and sport stars, despite their utter lack of political experience. An upside to a political future is that it, under Russian law, would give her immunity from any future prosecution – perhaps even allowing her to travel to the United States or United Kingdom, which revoked her British citizenship (her former husband was British) soon after her swap back to Moscow.

A Kremlin-backed youth group also called on the mayor of Volgograd to give Chapman “honored citizen” status, and she has also achieved another rank of fame in the Internet age – her own Wikipedia page (which lists her occupation as “businesswoman, independent sales consultant, entrepreneur, and agent of the Russian Federation”). And if Chapman does make the transition from “spy” to politician, she will be following in some famous footsteps.

Meanwhile, a recent public opinion poll conducted by Russia’s Levada Center showed that just more than half (53%) thought the whole spy scandal was cooked up by the FBI as a way to derail improving US-Russian relations. An even larger majority (58%) though believed that the scandal would soon blow over with little damage done to bilateral relations.
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