10 October 2013
by Elizabeth Pond
Once upon a time there was a very, very clever KGB spy called Ivan Ivanovich. He inherited real KGB genes. He was born in the United States to a mother and father whom Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov, in his dying breath, had sent to the US to be sleepers, build a successful immigrant life, found a company or two, cultivate the New York elite, and be ready to serve the fatherland when the superpower apocalypse finally came.
In fact, the apocalypse came, at least for the Soviet superpower, when little Vanya was in kindergarten. It happened so fast, however, that the KGB didn’t manage to activate his mother and father in time to stave off collapse. The couple became hedge fund managers instead. Yet they never deserted their goal of serving the fatherland, and they inculcated in Ivan a burning desire to fulfill their own original dream.
Indeed, they explained to him that, as a native-born American with an American passport, he was much better prepared than they had been to become the ultimate Russian super agent. His “L” was a New York “L.” He had no trouble remembering when to use “a” or “the” in front of a noun. His cadence was pure Bronx. And, should any suspicious G-man try to trick him by challenging the depth of his cultural knowledge, he could, in an instant, recite “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Milo and Tock, and “How to Give a Killer Presentation” from the latest Harvard Business Review.
Ivan (who pronounced his name EYE-van when he wasn’t at Harvard) grew up with the tragic demise of the Soviet Union, the dumping of Gorbachev, the onset of Yeltsin, and the advent of Putin. And although he masked his rage and lust for revenge well, he never lost sight of the Main Enemy, or, in Khomeini’s lingo, the Great Satan. He coolly analyzed what Mikhail Sergeevich and Boris Nikolaevich did wrong in the 1990s – putting too much trust in the West and letting Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania slip the leash. He appraised Vladimir Vladimirovich as a non-entity. But he retained his faith that the descendants of Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky at the KGB – now called FSB – would eventually restore the proper world order. And he vowed to do his part.
His chance came in 2009. His acute Leninist eye noticed that Tea Party activists, disgruntled after they failed to derail the presidential hopes of the obscure black Senator from Illinois, were changing their tactics, preparing for the long haul, and, with laser-like precision, infiltrating the Republican Party. He joined them, organizing primaries, writing tracts to prove that Obamacare was a Communist plot, and gerrymandering sinecure constituencies for right-thinking candidates. By a combination of elbow grease, eloquence, and luck, he swiftly worked his way up the ranks. He devised his own master plan, one so diabolical that he never even dared commit it to paper.
By 2013 he was one of the party’s key strategists. He could begin implementing his wily plan. He would not confront the American industrial juggernaut in a frontal arms race that the Kremlin could never win, as Brezhnev had foolishly tried to do. Nor would he detonate iconic Manhattan architecture as Al Qaeda had done, winning a momentary Pyrrhic victory but subjecting itself to pesky drone assassinations for years to come.
Instead, Ivan Ivanovich would destroy the world’s one remaining superpower from within, without risking one Russian life. He would simply hollow out America’s brain, the government in Washington, by sucking out its money. With one blow, this would ground US jets over unpaid J-P8 fuel bills, cause US stock markets to collapse, and prevent children from going with their suddenly jobless parents to see the Chinese panda at the suddenly shuttered National Zoo.
Ivan’s plot worked beyond his wildest imaginings. But he made one cardinal mistake. He was still so obsessed with the Russian-American ideological confrontation of the old Cold War that he never stopped once to think about China.
For lack of cash, President Obama had to cancel his visits to Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, and Indonesia to counter new superpower China’s growing might. They took umbrage at hosting no one higher than the US Secretary of State and, buckling under the unremitting pressure of the People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyers, pulled up their offshore gas rigs in disputed waters, thus letting bullying Chinese State-Owned Enterprises come in instead.
Emboldened, the PLA activated its own sleepers in Siberia, seized control of Russia’s oilfields, made itself totally energy independent, and lured all of Central Asia out from under Moscow’s sway. Rumor has it that President Putin, who initially awarded Ivan Ivanovich a secret FSB medal for Distinction in Special Operations for his brilliant plan, later rescinded the award and personally tore the medal off Vanya’s deflated chest.
Or at least this is the fairy tale that is making the rounds in Berlin these days.
ELIZABETH POND lives in Berlin and is the author of From the Yaroslavsky Station.
© Elizabeth Pond