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‘US engaged in shadow war against Russia’

All states spy on each other, but the latest bust of an alleged CIA agent in Moscow is indicative not of typical espionage, but rather a shadow war intended to foment opposition to Putin’s government, argues the ANSWER Coalition’s Brian Becker.

RT:What impact could this case have on Russia-U.S. relations, which looked pretty good after John Kerry’s visit to Moscow last week?

Brian Becker: Or they appeared to be pretty good. This reminds one of the old expression that ‘diplomacy is nothing more than a form of perjury’.  You have John Kerry meeting with the Russian foreign minister [Sergei Lavrov] talking about an international conference on Syria. We’ve had many proclamations from the Obama administration recently that there would be greater coordination with Russian security [services] about terrorism. But the fact is, the United States government is carrying out espionage and spying in Russia. All countries do it to each other, but in the case of the United States effort towards Russia, it’s got a larger political motive. Not simply to steal industrial secrets or learn industrial secrets, but to promote a weakening of the Russian government because in fact the US government identifies the Putin government – the Russian government – and its position on international issues as still an obstacle to US  foreign policy designs. We see that right now in the Middle East for instance.

RT:  He was caught with quite low-tech gear - a map, a compass and a couple of wigs - doesn't this look a little unprofessional?

BB: Well, we don’t really know all of the details, we’ll probably learn more – or maybe not – in the coming days. I think the fact that the Russian government has publicized this, made something of it, means the Russian government is calling attention to the fact that the US is doing something of a full court press on Russia; a shadow war so to speak. Using the NGOs and the penetration of Russian society by US soft power through the NGOs at one level, [they are] trying to carry out many, many intelligence operations to get Russians to defect. I think also, if you watch the US media: very favorable coverage of the Russian opposition. Any protest that takes place in Russia, even if it’s small, gets enormous front page coverage. While here, protest movements in the United States get almost no coverage. You see a general scenario being played out of hostility to the Russian government even if there are diplomatic overtures at another level.

RT:You have said that spying is going on, so presumably there are Russian spies operating in America.

BB: Well of course. This is part of modern statecraft; we know that. We know that in the modern world, industrial and military secrets are something that are gained by spying operations by all countries in fact. The point that I’m trying to make is that there is something unusual about how the Obama administration – and before that you had the Bush administration – is approaching the Russian government. Even though the cold war is technically over, they are still identifying the Russian government as an opponent, as a competitor, because they perceive the Russian government to have interests that block the United States or obstruct the United States; interests in geo-strategically important parts of the world like the Middle East.

RT:What do you think of the way the Russian authorities have reacted to this? They simply released him back to the embassy but now they say that he’s got to be deported. Instead of an overreaction the response to the incident has been calm.

BB: I think so. I mean they’re publicizing it, [but] it’s a very measured reaction. He could be arrested, he could be held, he could then be exchanged later for those who had been arrested on the American side. Instead he’s being quickly released. I think that the Russian government’s handling of the situation is to make a point, that they recognize and they want the world to recognize Obama sends Kerry to Moscow for talks about Syria while Obama says there is cooperation on the anti-terrorism front, but in fact, the United States is conducting something of a shadow war against Russia.

RT:And that’s embarrassing for the US now to be exposed if this is indeed proven to be genuine.

BB: Yes, of course they’ll try to put a narrative: ‘this is just the Cold War being played out over and over and over again.’ The Russian government is not trying to overdo the incident but they are trying to prove a point. We’ll see how it plays out in the US media in the coming days.

RT:There have been plenty of spy stories like this in recent years - do you think we can expect these practices to continue?

BB: Indeed. But I think it’s more than just a spy story. I think the US government is trying to fundamentally weaken the Russian government. They would like to have a Russian government that’s more pliable, that’s more of an accommodationist government. I think right now the Putin government and its foreign policy in particular is a concern for the United States so they’re using espionage and intelligence gathering and other methods to create and foment opposition inside of Russia to Putin, including the penetration of important parts of Russia society by US spies. So I think it’s got a serious political motive behind it.