One of the faces of 21st century Russia: KGB colonel-turned-president Vladimir Putin
Twenty-first century Russia has three famous faces: Anna Chapman, the failed spy, who came in from the cold to become a red hot sex symbol back home; Alexander Litvinenko, the spy-turned-dissident, who was poisoned by a radioactive polonium isotope in London; and Vladimir Putin, the KGB colonel-turned-president, who had himself re-elected for a six-year term last month. It is no accident that all three of these faces belong to former intelligence officers. The point of Deception is to explain how and why Putin's Russia has succeeded in fooling us all, both about its own sinister nexus of espionage, politics and finance, and about its insidious corruption of the West. This important book is a sequel to the author's last indictment of the Putin regime, The New Cold War, which came out four years ago. Deception is, if anything, even more devastating.
At this point, I should declare an interest: I have known Edward Lucas for a quarter of a century, ever since he and I covered the revolutions in Eastern Europe that heralded the fall of the Soviet Union — he for the BBC World Service, I for the Daily Telegraph. In those days, Ed was a kind of one-man world service, rushing from press conference to demonstration, from the dungeons of the dissidents to the palaces of the politburos, reporting and commenting, sharing in the euphoria but never letting himself be carried away by it. He has not lost his missionary zeal to this day: as a senior editor at the Economist he is still unmasking the enemies of civilisation.
In Lucas's hands, the case of Anna Chapman reveals much more than the sexy secrets of a latter-day Mata Hari. The daughter of another spy, Anna is a typical product of the post-Soviet envy of the wealth of the West, without any grasp of the democracy, liberties or the rule of law that underpin that prosperity.
Anna Chapmans come to the West in their thousands; some are spies, political or industrial, but most are just unscrupulous adventurers. Compared to the old KGB, she was sloppy in her training and panicked when she realised the FBI was on to her. But she and her nine comrades were swiftly exchanged in Vienna for four of Putin's prisoners, enabling her to start a new and lucrative career in Russia: as a model (complete with her own-brand fashion products), a media presenter, computer game avatar and pin-up girl for the Young Guards, Putin's version of Lenin's Young Pioneers.