Col. Alexander Poteyev, who betrayed a Russian spy ring that included the beautiful and celebrated Anna Chapman, has been obliged to leave Russia one step ahead of an arrest warrant. He presumed to be in the United States under an assumed name.
Apparently Poteyev, a veteran of the KGB during the Cold War, was recruited by the CIA in the 1990s and had been betraying Russian spies like Chapman ever since. The ten person haul that occurred last year was the biggest spy catch since the Cold War. Indeed, the whole episode had a Cold War air to it, complete with a beautiful femme fatale looking agent and the final swap for four Western agents held in Russia.
Chapman, her espionage days over, has landed firmly on her feet back in Russia. She has done a lingerie picture shoot for a magazine, has become the celebrity face of a well known bank, has her own TV program, and has become the political ally for Vladimir Putin, running the youth wing of his party.
In the meanwhile, Poteyev has been obliged to leave everything he loved behind, including his country, his wife, and his family, and live in a foreign country for the rest of his life under another name and identity, wondering at any moment whether a Russian wet work team might locate him and come to call on him.
The story has the seedy elegance of a Le Carre spy novel. All the elements are there. There were the betrayals for obscure reasons. There is the sad, certainly Russian-like fate of Poteyev as a reward for his betrayals. The only element that Le Carre likely would not have imagined was how Anna Chapman turned out, having returned to her country as a hero with fame and fortune, all for having been caught spying in a foreign country. Of course Chapman is young and there are lots of years left for tragedy to occur.
The Potreyev/Chapman story is a spy tale stripped of the glamour that sometimes infuses that sort of thing on TV and in the movies. It is real life, one part tragedy one part irony.