Our friends may be spies, but it could be a lot worse

February 27, 1994|By ROGER SIMON

I am totally confused about us and Russia.

So? Why should you be any different than the White House?

I mean, are they are our friends or what?

That is an interesting point. Technically speaking, Russia is neither our ally nor our adversary.

So what is it?

According to the State Department, Russia is our partner.

What does that mean?

We give them money.

But they need the money, right?

Desperately. Their economy is in a shambles. Their people need help.

So what does the Russian government spend our dollars on?

Spies.

Spies?

Yes, first the Soviet Union and then the Russians have spent at least $1.5 million on a spy within our CIA.

So the Russians are in urgent need of U.S. dollars, but they can afford to give $1.5 million to a spy? Doesn't sound cost-effective.

But it is. The spy gave them the name of U.S. agents working for the Russian government.

And then the Russian government rounded them up and killed them. So it saved all those salaries.

Pretty rough way to balance a budget.

Yeah. Maybe our Congress should consider it.

But that brings up a point: If we have spies in Russia, why shouldn't Russia have spies in the United States?

Because we are the people handing out the money. Say your neighbor asks you for a thousand dollars to repair his roof. You give him the dough and then you look out your window one day and notice he is throwing a wild party.

That rat!

L But you're not sure. So you'd probably want to check it out.

You might even want to peek in his window.

L I might want to drive my Ford Ranger through his front door!

But you can't do that in the complex world of international diplomacy. That would be considered simplistic. But you might want to take a little peek, right?

Right. To protect my investment.

Exactly. If you give money to someone, you have a right to see how that money is being spent. Which is why we have a right to spy on Russia.

But since Russia doesn't give us money, it doesn't have a right to spy on us?

Exactly.

But isn't that simplistic?

OK, then try this: We're the good guys and they're the bad guys.

I like it!

So do I. And I've got another: We won the Cold War and they lost it. Capitalism triumphed and communism failed. So, naturally, we get to do things to Russia that it doesn't get to do to us.

Sounds sensible to me.

But not to the White House. Though a few members of Congress agree with it.

What are they saying?

Well, they are saying that since Russia takes our money and buys U.S. spies with it, maybe we ought to hold up on future money.

"We're handing over $2 billion to the Russians and it seems to me it's not asking too much to ask them to back off of this stuff," Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., said.

"And if they don't, we need to reassess our relationship with that country."

And what did President Clinton say to that?

Friday, he said: "It is in our national interest to continue working with Russia."

What does that mean?

We are going to keep giving them billions.

Why?

Because the Russian government says that if we don't, the really bad Russians will take over the country and then America will have spend billions on defense.

This is the way the spokesman for Russian President Boris Yeltsin put it: "Returning to the psychology of the Cold War and whipping up distrust and a new wave of spy mania would contradict the idea of an international partnership for peace."

Translation?

Pay us now to be friends or we'll turn enemy and you'll have to pay more later.

And that's international diplomacy?

That's one thing you could call it.

What's another?

Blackmail.

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