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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Shock' Waves Over Russia's Spy Scandal

WASHINGTON -- To understand the sea change that has come over the Washington consensus on how to deal with Boris Yeltsin's Russia, recall that famous scene in the movie Casablanca, when the Vichy French policeman announces that he must close Rick's club. "I'm shocked, shocked, shocked to find that illegal gambling has been taking place here," he says, breaking off to stuff into his pocket his roulette winnings.


Everyone from President Clinton through Congress and the various intelligence agencies have been required to say that are "shocked, shocked, shocked" to learn, or rather, be required in public to recognize, that Russia still spies on Washington.


Last week I was in the office of Tony Lake, the White House national security adviser. Asked whether he would be altogether displeased to learn that the head of Russian counterintelligence was in fact working for the CIA, Lake wisely refused to reply. He just gave an enormous grin.


By being forced to denounce Russia's wicked ways in public, a new concept has emerged to define the way America will consider Russia in the future.


"We have to get over the idea that this is a partnership," said Republican Senator Richard Lugar. "This is a tough rivalry, and that is an important distinction to make."


Senator Lugar, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer, and former chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, was one of the key figures to craft the bi-partisan consensus of the past five years on the need to subsidize the process of Russian reform. In 1992, he described aid to Russia as "an investment in political, economic and social reform that will repay dividends many times over."


Lugar backed this up with his colleague, Democratic Senator and chairman of the Armed Service Committee Sam Nunn. They jointly backed a bill to provide $7.8 billion over 20 years to help finance the dismantling of nuclear weapons in Russia and the other former Soviet republics.


That program will continue, Russia permitting, even though Senators and Congressman have been shouldering one another aside to get on television screens and denounce sending any dollars to Russia that are then recycled back to buy American traitors. And most other U.S financial programs, which are already being steered away from the Moscow bureaucracy to regional and grass roots economic reform and democratic institutions, will also continue as planned. The current thinking is that exchange programs and other ways for the United States to connect directly with Russian students and people will probably increase.


But Lugar's new concept of "tough rivalry" is going to transform the theme music of U.S.-Russian relations. The Clinton administration will support any prospective democratic and market reforms in Russia, but not to the extent of risking any Republican accusations that they are soft on Russia.


America's European allies are warning the Americans not to go too far with this "rivalry" business. John Major discreetly suggested to President Clinton in his Washington talks this week that it would be a very bad idea to start treating Russia like China, and holding its trading access to U.S. markets hostage to the ups and downs of the political relationship.


Clinton nodded at this, but he also backed the proposal of CIA Director James Woolsey that in the light of new challenges, the CIA will need a larger budget.