Don’t Play Dumb, America!

The United States is all worked up. If not a single bit of filth on Russia gets announced over the course of a day, then it may as well have passed in vain.

This time, they have accused Russian diplomats working in the United States of fraud.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara — who, incidentally, is included in the “anti-Magnitsky” list for his previous dirty tricks against Russian citizens — has stated that 49 diplomats from Russia and members of their families bilked the American government of $1.5 million.

The Russians illegally made use of childbirth benefits from the assistance program for the low-income, Medicaid. The diplomats passed themselves off as low-income parents and their children as U.S. citizens and received benefits from the United States.

They did not have the right to do so because the program is reserved exclusively for U.S. citizens and immigrants. In addition, their income was above the level that would have allowed them to depend on benefits.

Widening his eyes in horror, Bharara spoke at a press conference about how the diplomats “bought luxury items at Tiffany’s, Bloomingdale’s and Jimmy Choo and went on Caribbean cruises while receiving these benefits.”

Burning with righteous indignation, the attorney said that, of the 49 suspects, 11 still live and work in the United States. While their diplomatic status does not allow them to be brought to justice, he did not exclude the possibility that Russia might waive their diplomatic immunity at a U.S. request.

As we say in Russia — just a second, we’ll get right on that. I just imagined Sergei Lavrov giving his American colleagues the middle finger. After the Bout case and other incidents involving the capture of Russian citizens worldwide, Russia is hardly about to waive a diplomat’s immunity, even if he publicly gives one of the American senators a swift kick in the rear.

However, that is beside the point. As one Foreign Ministry employee told me, from the standpoint of unspoken diplomatic rules, one does not air out these sorts of things in public. Rather, they are quietly resolved in closed-door consultations.

“Once you open the box, you will no longer be able to close it,” explained the diplomat. “As far as American diplomats in Moscow go, one could point to thousands of different exploits — from a love for cultural valuables not for export to a sexual appetite for the underage. So, all you have to do is be drawn into an exchange of these disclosures, and the world’s entire diplomatic life would be reminiscent of ‘Dom-2.'”*

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the same thing, only more diplomatically, to RIA Novosti: “If our American partners want to clear up some circumstances or issues concerning the family or personal lives of our employees in the United States, they can do it quietly through diplomatic channels and not through indictments or the public sphere.”

In addition, a question comes up that the American side does not answer: How and on what grounds was access to Russian diplomats’ accounts obtained? Does “the freest country in the world” continue to practice its total worldwide surveillance, about which “Sheremetyevo dweller” Edward Snowden spoke?

Yet, if these disclosures are able to horrify someone in the United States, in Russia there is an altogether different attitude toward them. Judge for yourselves: Forty-nine diplomats and their family members illegally received $1.5 million from the U.S. over nine years. That ends up being slightly more than $30,000 per diplomat.

Here, in Russia, the head of a municipal office steals more than that in a month! If you divide it over nine years, it turns out that, on average, the self-interested Russian diplomat robbed the U.S. government of less than $3,500 a year — and they bought luxury items and went on Caribbean cruises with it? And, at a time when gold-plated pistols are tumbling out of the pockets of parliament deputies in hallway fights! Our members of parliament and government officials will simply scornfully laugh at diplomats, and Serdyukov and Vasilyeva risk dying from hysterical laughter.**

However, we have to thank Bharara for one thing: He gave us a clue about where we can look for parliament and government personnel — among diplomats working in the United States, of course. With such modest demands, they will cost Russia several times less than its current ministers and deputies.

This way, you see, we will patch all the holes in the budget, and, as for the $1.5 million, do not play dumb, America! In your banks are those who steal from us and hold on to such sums of money that $1.5 million seems like pocket change for coffee. It is all among friends!

*Translator’s note: “Dom-2” (“House 2”) is a Russian reality television show notorious for sexual content and scenes of physical violence.

**Translator’s note: The author is referring to former Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and former head of the Defense Ministry’s property department and Serdyukov’s alleged mistress Yevgenia Vasilyeva, both implicated in a multimillion-dollar fraud scandal.

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About Jeffrey Fredrich 199 Articles
Jeffrey studied Russian language at Northwestern University and at the Russian State University for the Humanities. He spent one year in Moscow doing independent research as a Fulbright fellow from 2007 to 2008.

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