February 15, 2017

Spies Like Them


Spies Like Them
Yep, definitely spies.

News is now breaking on a daily basis about questionable ties between Trump World and Kremlindom. As the FBI investigation deepens, we thought it would be useful – a public service, really – to provide a few handy tips, based on our years of experience in the Russian milieu.

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s ousted campaign manager who is being investigated by the FBI (and the CIA, NSA, ODNI and FinCEN), and who has not yet been charged with any crimes, said in Tuesday interview with the New York Times about the Trump campaign’s extensive contacts with Russian intelligence and government officials:

“This is absurd, I have no idea what this is referring to. I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today... It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’”

Well, actually they sort of do. You just have to now what the “badges” look like. Here are seven signs that should help.

Seven Habits of Highly Successful Russian Intelligence Officers

  1. The Leather Jacket. No, a Russian Intelligence Officer cannot be immediately recognized by his (or her) bare torso. That’s a Putin/SNL thing. Since the 1920s, the well-groomed male Russian intel operative has had a thing for leather jackets. It’s the crinkly sound it makes when he shuffles his shoulders. Sounds like the skin of your enemies.
  2. The English that is just a bit too good. Your typical Russian operative will try to pass himself off as a Scandinavian, because no American speaks Norwegian or Finnish and cannot ask probing questions about that part of the world. Great cover, right? So, don’t expect the stereotypical Rocky & Bulwinkle accent. But do listen closely to their Vs, which will often sound like Ws, unless the spy was really studious in his linguistic classes. Oh, and Russians also can’t properly say the A in apple. So take your suspected operative out for a drink and get them to ask for a Vodka Appletini. If they say “Wodka Eppelteeny,” it’s time to leave.
  3. The solicitous tone. Years of training in a secret location outside Murmansk on how to wear baseball caps and talk like an American has a way of turning subjects into self-satisfied, overconfident jerks. It’s something they just can’t hide. And while the training up there in the Arctic is definitely superb, there are gaps. Pierce their overconfidence by asking something unexpected, like whether a batter can be struck out on foul balls, or what the difference is between a bogie and an eagle. (Hint: It’s a good idea to know the right answer before you ask.)
  4. They are married and have killer hand-to-hand combat skills. Seriously. Married people are more trusted than solo operators, so obviously that is how the Russians are going to set themselves up in America. Which means that pretty much you should not trust anyone who is married, or who says they are married, and especially married couples that run travel agencies. For instruction, watch The Americans. It’s on TV, so obviously it’s true.
  5. The look in their eyes. It’s called a squinch – something between a squint and a glare. Steely gazes and granite faces are bred into these guys. They are like Secret Service agents, only their visages can stand up to much larger quantities of caviar and vodka.
  6. The fact that they are into you. If a beautiful Moscow University graduate takes an interest in you and you are a paunchy, middle-aged guy with a security clearance, you should probably be suspicious.
  7. The fact that their phones are bugged. Yeah, so if you hear a funny click on the line when you are chatting by phone, that’s sort of a tell. But then everyone knows that, right? Well, except certain NSC appointees.

Like this sort of spy stuff? Then you’ll love our Chtenia issue: Spies and Imposters, as well our our three-novel series, The Case Files of Pavel Matyushkin, the most recent of which is Murder and the Muse (the first two were Murder at the Dacha and The Latchkey Murders).


Image: The Americans digital wallpaper

Tags: spiesKGB
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