Translation: Why was Ryan Fogle such a Dunce?

Russian blogger Anton Nossik speculates on why Ryan Fogle’s attempts to recruit Russian intelligence officers seemed to be so amateurish.

Why was the American Spy such a Dunce?

In Soviet times, there was the following anecdote:

An American spends 15 years at spying school getting ready to infiltrate the deep Soviet rear. He studies the Black Earth dialects, memorizes local maps, the manner of dress and local folklore…

Finally, he is dropped off at Kostroma oblast. Burying his parachute in the woods, he walks out onto the country road and meets an elderly village woman.

“Mother, please tell me, how far is it to the village council?” the CIA agent earnestly asks her.

“But you, my dear, are an American spy,” she replies.


“We don’t have any Negroes in Kostroma oblast.”

The explanation of this latest spy story given by former GRU operative Viktor Suvorov on TV channel “Dozhd”repeats this anecdote almost word for word.

In Suvorov’s opinion, the CIA had its work cut out of them as far as human intelligence was concerned. That was because first, the lion’s share of intelligence was collected through electronic means – satellite photograph, communications interception, etc. – as opposed to from real people. Second, the most effective American agents were foreigners, spying on their own countries, who don’t need to be taught disguises or wear makeup and wigs, as their biggest disguise was a real biography and official position. As regards this, Suvorov mentioned Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, about whom he had recently written a thriller, but we can also name the fugitive Poteyev (who had uncovered an entire rezident network for the Americans) and Alexander Litvinenko, and also a great many examples from the Soviet past, including – for that matter – Suvorov himself (who says that did not cooperate with foreign intelligence services until he fled to the West, but who knows…)

I don’t know if Suvorov’s explanation is correct, but it is at least consistent with the known facts about the man with the compass and the two wigs who was caught on the outskirts of Vorontsov Park giving a reprint of a Google Translated Nigerian spam letter to a Chekist.

The only alternative suggestion that comes to my mind is that the guy was just feeling fucked over by the Moscow winter, and he found a 100% reliable means of securing himself repatriation at the government’s expense. Maybe had he left the diplomatic service on his own accord he’d have lost any compensations and insurance, whereas the State Department could not fine him for failing the mission.

Reader comments

julie0109: Maybe the guy wasn’t fucked over by Moscow’s winter, but by life in Moscow in general.

johnbmw [replying to above]: The true dunces are the FSB who thought up this clown show.

mezanmam [replying to julie0109]: Or maybe it was you Julie who fucked him? Go on, admit it, where was your room, what did he tell you about the Agency?

izvpadini61 [replying to julie0109]: The guy isn’t a spy, he’s a Kremlin project!

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.