Pepe Warezabar here once again at Sheremetyeov Airport and beyond, that old Beatles song in my head: I'm back in the USSR! You don't know how lucky you are, boy. Back in the USSR!
Of course I mean I'm back in today's Russia and newfound bastion for liberty lovers who must flee their governments!
I couldn't find Mr. Snowden at the airport, however. Nowhere to be seen, so I hotfooted downtown to Club Formulation and enquired after him with Alison Anastazi, the club's main pole dancer.
Alison was somewhat cool, nostrils narrowing, as though her charms had not worked the usual male's brain-lock and confusion over appetizing female anatomy. She seemed irritated to have had no effect.
As to Anna Chapman she only said, "I get him first."
Then--and this was a sphincter-twitching surprise, given it was only 2:00 p.m. on a sultry summer afternoon--who should I find in a private alcove beckoning to me but the maestro of all Russia conundrae Mr. Vladimir Putin!
The alcove was up a short flight of stairs in very dark wood, with a small room inset where people could sit around a table and look out their bamboo door onto the landing.
Vladimir had been observing me with Alison, then crooked his finger. Of course I ran headlong toward Great Power.
He sat there gravely across from me, stirring endlessly what could have been some kind of tea with a very small spoon.
"I've been following your work in The Guard Dog," he said, "and it's a good thing you've been restraining yourself from any further groundbreaking and disturbing stories coming out of Mr. Snowden."
"But Vladimir," I said. "How can you say that in the position you're in? You have annoyed the American President and much of the Congress, especially people like Lindsay Graham and Nancy Pelosi."
"True," he said--more stirring of his tea or whatever it was. "Unfortunately they do not see my empathy. Very unfortunate. I mean we are partners!"
"Isn't this situation exactly where we Russians were thirty years ago? As Soviet Russia? Didn't we have spies who wanted to run to America?"
"Well, yes, and wouldn't America have returned them immediately--"
"No, no, of course not. It's all realpolitik, Pepe. Can you imagine America thirty years ago saying, 'Yes, we're going to return this whistle-blower who has exposed corruption in the Russian government and fled across the oceans to America for sanctuary?' It wouldn't sell, especially if it were close to any election season. It's not realistic, Pepe."
His eyes were fixed gravely onto me and seemed to moisten. I haven't seen so much sympathy in the eyes of another since my grandmother died.
"Well," I said, "possibly this dustup with Mr. Obama-- Maybe you could get on the phone--"
"No, you see, we all have to play the game. Now, Pepe, even you are playing the game, are you not? The game of being a reporter for mainstream news in America. The entire world knows the American MSM is now state propaganda coordinated with the government. As it is here."
"Well, yes, but I've been working with this new GGSR program--"
"Ah, yes, Mr. Greenwald's spine-building for reporters program. Well, the world will always have its zealots and fruitless seekers of justice. I mean why waste the time? Here we have Pussy Riot. Mr. Greenwald is the equivalent of Pussy Riot in the West."
"You know, Vladimir, you really do sound a lot like--"
"Brothers really. Or I should say family. Mr. Obama, Mr. Cameron, Mr. Hollande, Ms. Merkel, on and on, including the US Congress with the exception of those few who must make noises to assist their own election."
He smiled. It was the one and only smile of the afternoon, and it rendered his face into a moon-like cherub full of benevolence.
"Yes, but corruption, Vladimir. I mean after all corruption is a disintegrating force--"
"No, really, Pepe, please. Let's not wander from the point. You see, those of us in power, we have a common mission."
"World peace, you mean."
"Well, yes, that would be nice. But commerce, Pepe, is really most important. And as part of that making sure we leaders make everything go smoothly, comfortably. Of course for ourselves also."
"Even if most of the people you're ruling are uninformed and unaware."
"Isn't that exactly the universal prescription for a happy life? We have a duty, you see."
It was those eyes, those sympathetic eyes on me throughout the afternoon while he stirred his tea that I shall never forget.
But, everybody, what about this asylum in Russia thing? Well, you know, it's got me thinking.
And that well-known Beatles song is running through my mind again!
I'm back in the USSR!
You don't know how lucky you are, boy.
Back in the US
Back in the US
Back in the USSR!