The recent spy saga suggests the Russian leadership still has not made up its mind about where to place its destiny. During the 1990's, it seemed as though the Kremlin had decided to turn to the West. Yelstin, the Westerner, for sure. During the first Putin decade of the new century, the Kremlin has turned inward again, the political Slavophiles in the ascendancy with the Westerners waving copies of Pushkin from the sidelines. The internal Russian debate continues.
Led by many old KGB colleagues, Putin has returned to traditional spying approaches, including the placement of "sleepers" in the US and elsewhere. In this day of the Internet, when most secrets are open to the public, Russia does not need sleeper spies. To continue to rely on them suggests Russia at the moment feels happier, more secure, getting information labeled "secret."
Russia still wants industrial secrets and discoveries, nothing new, and the Kremlin still wants inside dope best obtained, it feels, in the real American suburb, where inside information is exchanged over barbecues. Foolish, of course—retrograde in fact—but this new sleeper spy drama truly represents the old Russia, stuck in the mud of autocracy, when sadly but promisingly there are so many new Russians, ready to embrace not just the West but the entire world, who are struggling for attention and power.
Marvin Kalb is the Edward R. Murrow Professor Emeritus at Harvard and founding Director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government. He was a network news correspondent at CBS and NBC.