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American diplomats and Russian “special assignments”

A Russian demonstration of the "Immortal regiment" glorifying the Soviet Union is held near the White House
A Russian demonstration of the “Immortal regiment” glorifying the Soviet Union is held near the White House
American diplomats and Russian “special assignments”

A few months ago one of the most prominent newspapers in the US published a series of articles about how poorly American diplomats are treated in Russia.  The whole arsenal is there:  nighttime break-ins, re-arranging furniture, leaving lights turned on so as to give the occupants a feeling of paranoia.  One diplomat reported that an uninvited guest even defecated on his carpet.  The children of former ambassador Michael McFaul were even followed into their school; someone broke in and killed the dog of the American Military Attaché in Moscow, tires were punctured along with innumerable other “petty things.”

This has been the norm already for several years in the capital of the Urals, Yekaterinburg.  The favorite pastime of “public stoolpigeons” in the capital of the Urals is to “uncover American and British spies,” and without exception every “spy” is a foreigner who has come to the city by chance or for their work.

USA Consulate in Russia harassed after offering help to a beaten activist

In Yekaterinburg, aggressive harassment of the Consulate General of the USA began in October 2014 when banner headlines appeared in the press, such as “Mole uncovers US spies.” The authors affectionately identified the “mole” as civil activist Stepan Chernogubov who was severely beaten for his ecological activism, that is, for organizing a protest against toxic emissions from the Russian Chrome plant.  Following this incident,former American Vice-Consul John Rutherford offered to assist the injured rights defender in receiving treatment and offered him an internship abroad.  But Chernogubov was so fearful that legal charges would be brought against him for his previous radical activism that he reported to the FSB on all his conversations with the Americans.

The result of the scandal was that anyone who might be tempted learned that the consequence of speaking out in Russia is a beating, that companies poison people with toxic emissions, and the Americans sometimes offer internships to human rights defenders (about which anyone can read on the Internet).  But the harassment of foreign diplomats did not end with this. Ever since every step of the US Consulate General and its employees gives rise to heaps of slanderous publications and hysterical proclamations. Warnings are published about personal meetings between diplomats and political scientists and businessmen, including photos of such meetings and even video recordings of their conversations.

We’re not talking about officers, defectors or the builders of secret research institutes, but rather about political scientists whose work requires them to take part in the region’s domestic and foreign political life.  Nevertheless, everything is presented as a battle against “subversive activities of the CIA,” to such an extent that even a meeting between a Consul and the mayor of the city in which his consulate is located can be reported as “uncovering an espionage network.”  Such meetings, of course, are completely natural and even necessary for any diplomatic establishment.

A “special assignment” of the Russian diaspora in the USA

Against this background, it’s especially comical and maybe wild to consider an article that appeared a few days ago in the newspaper “Kommersant” under the headline “The Russian diaspora in the USA has received a special assignment.  The material begins with an even more shocking admission:

“Yesterday representatives of the Russian diaspora in the USA spoke in the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation (OP RF) about how they promote the Russian language and her history and culture ‘under the conditions of the sanctions war.’  Organizations of compatriots who have received grants from Rossotrudnichestvo declared that they consider themselves a part of the Russian ‘soft power’ strategy.”

The Russian “sanctions warriors” personally reported to the head of the Commission for the Development of Public Diplomacy and Defense of Compatriots, Elena Sutormina, who with disarming honesty stated, “The present situation is rather complicated by the sanctions war. You are on the front lines.”

Under the rubric “military operations” of the undeclared war the Vice-President of the Coordinating Committee of the Council of Compatriots in the USA, Olga Zatsepina, cited the “Immortal Regiment” demonstration that depicted the USSR in a positive light, work with Russian children adopted by Americans, and work with Americans, including senators (who Elena Sutormina says “must be used”).  To judge from this, these “warriors of the invisible front” in “enemy” territory experience no discomfort from such revelations.

In Russia, an American organization that conducted similar activities using money from the US Government would be immediately labeled a foreign agent.  But the Russian diaspora in the USA encounters no such problems. – quite the opposite, Ms. Zatsepina praised New York State authorities who had made her NGO non-taxable,” according to the article. 

The publication notes that the Heritage center run by Zatspina operates in the USA with the assistance of the Foreign Ministry, Russian Cooperation, the Consul General of the Embassy of the Russian Federation, the Russian World fund, and the Moscow government.”

“Exponentially asymmetrical” approach to the Russian Consul in the USA

If one checks out the official page of the Russian Consulate General in New no special newspaper “revelations” are required to learn that the Russian Consul met (you won’t believe it) the Mayor of New York right in the Mayor’s office!  Other activities of the Russian Consul include meeting the mayors of other American cities and other officials, such as Japanese.  Moreover, the consul awards American citizens with certificates of honor from the government organization Rossotrudnichestvo, accepts the greetings of the Governor of New York and conducts activities with American senators.  And with all this, no one raises hysterical alarms about espionage or “plants moles” or makes clandestine videos of these meetings.

The distinguished American expert Paul Goble, commenting on this situation, said, “America sends diplomats to Russia, and Moscow treats them as spies while the Kremlin sends spies to us, and we treat them as diplomats.”  In fact, there is an exponentially asymmetrical approach despite the fact that American-financed Russian organizations do not permit themselves to do a fraction of what pro-Russian organizations in the US do. On 21 March 2014, in Seattle local supporters of the “DNR” (“Donetsk Peoples Republic”) and “LNR” (“Luhansk Peoples Republic”) threatened pro-Ukrainian activists with acts of terror in their homeland.

On that day along the route of the Peace March [where Ukrainian activists protested Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea immediately after the “referendum”] grim-faced young men in t-shirts bearing the symbols of the “Donetsk Peoples Republic and “DNR” and “LNR” flags laid in wait.  They turned out to be members of the Russian-American Youth Association, including their vice-president.  The provocateurs created an insulting Internet video calling march participants, including a lot of Americans, “banderites.”  But the Kremlin propagandists weren’t satisfied only with an Internet video and tearing down placards.  They threatened acts of terror in Ukraine.

“I reminded them of the Budapest Memorandum and started to prove that Russia attacked Ukraine.  One of the marchers, hearing our conversation, asked the propagandists:  ‘How can you defend terrorists who murder people?’  One of the provocateurs wearing an ‘LNR’ T-shirt yelled something like, ‘If you think Luhansk and Donetsk are bad, we’ll organize acts of terror in Ukraine,'” reports a participant in the march, Valeriy Golborodsko. 

A few months later Ukrainian Kharkiv and Odesa suffered acts of terror.

Of course, we can’t confirm that these very Putin propagandists organized these acts – they didn’t have the physical possibility of doing so.  However, such behavior, to say the least, contrasts sharply with the conduct of American diplomats in Russia.

This raises the question: how fearful must the Russian authorities be about any contact with the outside world if they start panicking from “likes” on the Internet and the conversations of political scientists with foreign diplomats? And perfectly understanding that they can’t find legal loopholes to arrest people they don’t like, they begin to harass them like children from around the corner.

Of course, they can cover it all up with pretty words like “defense of the motherland,” “the war against traitors,” and similar patriotic slogans, but facts are facts:  harassing and persecuting people are signs of cowardice, baseness, and immature bullying more characteristic of high-school hoodlum gangs than a government that has any self-respect.  It’s not hard to defeat a few intellectuals gathered around a café table, but in a clash between “government-intellectual” and “government-hoodlum,” in the final analysis the hoodlum loses. This does not change the fact that even intellectuals must at times defend themselves from wanton punks and not allow too much privilege to governments that are inimical to the United States.

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