Dmitry Medvedev has made his name talking up liberal ideas and blasting corrupt bureaucrats. But when his nation’s pride is at stake, Russia’s president sounds like his hard-nosed mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. As Medvedev revealed last week that the 10 Russian spies arrested in the U.S. last June were betrayed by a mole inside Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, and that the turncoat had since fled to America, the usually mild--mannered president added with relish that a “Mercader” had already been sent to deal with the traitor—a chilling reference to Ramón Mercader, the secret agent sent by Joseph Stalin to kill archrival Leon Trotsky with an ice pick.
The arrest of the sleeper agents and the defection of their boss is the “biggest failure of Russian intelligence in 90 years,” says Gennady Gudkov, a former KGB colonel who now heads the Russian Parliament’s Security Committee. “It shows that our spies are losing their ideals.” No wonder Medvedev is peeved. Still, ordering a murder on U.S. soil seems out of line with Russia and America’s new “reset” relations. In aping the Soviet era’s brutal methods, Medvedev could be losing his own ideals.