The most recent mass arrests of the alleged Russian spies in the U.S. were very interesting because they shed some light on how the Russian intelligence works. Let’s make it clear, the arrested people mostly had English names and immediately after their arrest Russian foreign ministry recognized they were Russian citizens, while prime minister Putin said, he hoped the matter would be resolved along the lines of cooperative spirit between Russia and the U.S.
Russians made all these statements before their consulate in the U.S. even met the arrested people. So there is little doubt these people were really Russian spies.
It gets more interesting when it comes to the harm they did to the U.S. It appears, they did not do much, at least according to the information that is publicly available. Also the key person in the group was practically allowed to escape through Cyprus. So the Russian spies do not seem to have done much harm, as Putin pointed out in his defensive speech.
What does it say about the Russian intelligence services? It says several very intriguing things. One is that perhaps members of the well-connected Russian families from Moscow are recruited for spying in the U.S. It appears to be a prestigious job – to live off government’s money in a comfortable environment like the U.S. All arrested people seem to have been fairly wealthy, upper middle class or so people. They did not do much work, in fact, they may have used their government sponsorship just to lead “normal, American lives” and enjoy themselves. Further it appears, nobody particularly minded against their lifestyle and low efficiency. So this is an additional proof of their derivation from the well-connected Russian families, perhaps in the circles that are close to the security services and diplomats.
In the mid-1990s-when the group seems to have been dispatched to the U.S. these people must have felt especially lucky to be resettled in the U.S. as Russia and everything in it seemed to be falling apart. So these people must have been from the very top layers of the certain services. That is why the Russian government did not even pretend they were not Russians. The spies’ relatives must be very well-positioned people within the Russian government.
Does this story expose corruption in the Russian security services? Perhaps yes. Who said, that spies are necessarily honest guys fighting and making sacrifices for the idea of it? They are all very human, at least partly:)