Maria Butina; What's Up with Her?

She has to be a spy. She has confessed to being a spy. She did spy stuff. On the other hand, spies are not supposed to confess. They are supposed to sit in solitary for a five or six years until they are ordered to talk across a bridge in Berlin on a foggy night.

Maybe she was a civilian who sort of accidentally fell into being a spy without the proper training and indoctrination? Maybe she is simply a very bad spy and weak person? Perhaps Soviet spies were made of sterner stuff.

Very strange. Any thoughts on my musings?

I always thought it was a bridge in Berlin, too. But then I went to Checkpoint Charlie; no bridge.

Maybe she is more like a wannabe spy. Someone who has more ego-driven ambition than the kind of self-sacrificing dedication needed to be a real spy.

The bridge is Glienicke Bridge between Berlin and Potsdam. It was the only crossing where the Russians (not the E. Germans) controlled one side so it was suitable for such exchanges, as well as not generally used for civilian travel.

If you wanted to sneak someone across a checkpoint, you definitely did not want to use this bridge. Hence not used as a setting for the sneakier kind of border crossings seen in old movies.

As to Maria Butina, she worked as an agent for Russia without registering. “Agent” here means working on behalf of a government, not specifically spying. If she had registered, then no problem (well, there’s the political influence stuff, etc.). So registered agents are admitting they are agents.

Admitting you are merely an unregistered agent is less of an issue than not admitting you are a spy.

Interesting information; thanks for the correction. Next time I’m in the neighborhood I’ll have to check it out.

Kids these days! No discipline.

In my day, spies were spies! No matter how many onions on our belts, they wouldn’t break.

Today? Pfft. Take away their you-tube connection and they crumble like week-old bread.

Oh, and get off my military base!

I believe that while the core of the Russian government, its military, spy agencies, etc. all run somewhat like we might think, with professionals who have received official training and gone through a process to get to their role, that’s not the limit of Russian governmental activities.

Communism made money irrelevant. The way you got stuff was through connections, favor trading, and plunder. That’s how you rose through the ranks.

The key to success in all of that, at the lower levels, is usually less about brute force as playing spy games - con jobs, blackmail, fraud, faking it till you make it, getting people drunk and having them sign stuff over to you, etc. Once you’ve gained some power, maybe you start adding muscle, but it’s raw street smarts and foxiness that gets you through the first few levels, and that means that everyone on the higher levels is a sort of natural spy type / con artist personality.

Money now has value, but still most of it started in the hands of people like that, after the collapse of the USSR, and it’s hard to change the culture on a dime. You probably need another 40 years before things can start to shift.

So, as it is, there’s still a strong culture of “committing audacious acts, that you know will gain you favor with those higher up the ladder than you”. It’s still how you get a social promotion.

There is no strong separation between the government, business, and the mafia. The government, internally, operates using a top-down meritocratic, promotion scheme, pulling in Russian patriots and expecting them to operate according to orders. But all the mafia and all the businesses know that they couldn’t survive against the military. Some gangsters with pistols are no match against the people with tanks and rocket launchers. You can’t buy Putin off with a briefcase full of cash, because he could simply put you in jail and take your business for yourself.

In the US, business is viewed as its own thing. You’re supposed to leave it alone and let it thrive, maybe just policing it a bit, but otherwise ignoring it. Criminal Enterprise is bad, and an enemy.

Putin, I don’t think, looks at business nor the mafia that way. He looks at them and he just see the word “mine”. It’s all just more of what he can utilize as he wants.

(Technically, these organizations probably operate more like proxy states - self running and not always obedient, but still under the thumb.)

But so, if you want to own more businesses or control more mafia groups, you need to gain the favor of those higher than you, and at the top that means gaining Putin’s favor.

And so going back to Soviet teachings, the way to do that isn’t by giving him money, it’s about figuring out what would make him happy and trying to make that happen, using whatever means - legal, moral, or otherwise - to make it happen.

So even though you have the government running spies, you also have regular businessmen operating spy-like operations, because that’s how their minds work, it’s how they climbed the ladder, and it’s how you gain the favor of the Big Boss.

I don’t see how Butina could be considered a ‘spy’ except in the broadest possible use of the word. Nor do I see where she confessed to ‘spying’ or was ever even suspected of ‘espionage.’ Espionage is the act of obtaining secret or classified information - preferably in a clandestine manner. I have yet to see that this was what Butina was involved in.

My understanding is that Butina was a political activist who attempted to promote Russian interests. I suppose it might be better to call her an agent provocateur.

Did she volunteer to be a spy or was she pressured and forced into it?

If she goes back to Russia will she be tortured and killed?

Stuff like that would affect her decisions to flip or stay silent.

She is being charged with a crime that falls somewhere between illegal lobbying and spying. I think it fits. She wasn’t just lobbying, she was part of a larger apparatus to take over the NRA and cause it to operate as a proxy arm of the Russian government (obviously, Russia has no interest or possibility of legalizing arms and no oligarch is going to try and set up a Russian NRA for real).