A satire, by Stepan Bulbenko, in МИР И МЫ
June 17, 2015
Translated by Tom Winter
Gloomy morning, Ambassador John Tefft!
It was a burdensome wake-up for US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft: headache, aching temples, and a mouth so dry, as if, just before the process of waking up, a herd of wild mustangs, frightened with the eruption of the wastes his life, had been galloping over it.
The previous evening started out very well for the ambassador: getting home from the Bolshoi, he gladly drank four glasses of whiskey, took a long look out his window at the Moscow night, and then went to bed with a sense of having well fulfilled his duty and done his job.
However, what roused him was a 2 a.m. phone call on the secret government line. It was US Secretary of State John Kerry, who had broken his leg a few days before.
Right away, Kerry’s voice revealed repressed anger, masking the most genuine irritation, episodes that were happening with increasing frequency to the Secretary of State …
“Say Tefft, how are you feeling there?” – the Secretary of State began. Tefft immediately felt signs of the storm in the boss’s tone. “I think” – Kerry began answering his own question – “you don’t just feel bad, even very bad, but real bad … you’ve started suffering from obesity. They tell me, the last three months you have put on about two kilos …”
Tefft had a decision to make: either answer the rhetorical questions, or to keep on listening to the Secretary of State so as not to encourage the Secretary’s storm of negative feelings. The Ambassador chose the latter.
Kerry continued: “I’m getting the strong impression that you are a complete slacker. Look at Geoffrey R. Pyatt in Ukraine; now there is a real diplomat. Last year, he got a a coup going, eh? And then he helped organize the hot fighting in eastern Ukraine, eh? Of course, I understand that you were laying the groundwork for him, but anyway, he’s the one got the job done, right?”
Tefft kept humbly silent, and Kerry flamed him more and more:-
“You were in charge of organizing mass unrest in Russia, uniting the opposition, bringing it to power. Where are the results, I ask you, where are they? Why is the US budget laying out money if there are no results, eh? When nothing was working in Moscow, it was on you to to organize the triumphant processions of the opposition in those other Russian cities. And what came of that? What have you been doing? Screwing around?”
Tefft made an attempt to insert a word in the Secretary of State’s rant:
“Listen, John, the work is going according to plan, all the assigned money is getting to our recipients and our supporters …”
Right off, Kerry interrupted him “Ah” and again “ah…” – “They got the money and so what? The demonstration was completely overwhelmed. So far they haven’t been able to organize a popular revolution in support of the opera “Tannhauser!” You promised that Siberians in Novosibirsk would go to the barricades in support of “Tannhauser!” So, did they?”
Some strange sounds were heard coming out of the handset, and the ambassador understood that the Secretary was angry enough to spit.
“Did you see how our Kasyanov’s visit to Novosibirsk came out?” Kerry was getting less and less pleased. – “The plan was ten thousand opponents of the regime would greet him and follow him around the town! Where were they? Where did you hide them? And Kasyanov himself — good, oh good! … It was plain even on sight of him that he’s got everything already. He’s as far from the people, as the intelligence of a paramecium is from the intelligence of Einstein. And what was that nonsense he brought? Why are his only words about Novosibirsk “As for the streets here, all the same: bad. As for the people, they’re sullen… “?
“And that’s what a guy says who wants them to vote for him? He got there, spat in their face and left. Good leader! With nothing to say! … Couldn’t he talk about the brilliant prospects of the “Parnassus” party winning the election? In Ukraine don’t they still believe in a brighter future? Together with the EU and NATO? What? Are Ukrainians sometimes dumber than Siberians? And your Kasyanov even began to talk about those rakes that were put under his car back in 2008, and even suggested that it amounted to an attempt on his life! This is the top of idiocy … How can you kill a man in an armored car with a rake, can you tell me?”
“What no? Me neither … So tell me about this Kasyanov and get going on his preparation, for real. You know my principle: Results – money. No results – no money. So fill him in.
“And about the further developments, well it would be better if I didn’t say anything at all, Tefft, but I have to say … Tell me, why did Alexei Navalny go to Novosibirsk? We agreed. You and I had it settled, only at first to pelt him with eggs, and then be sure go at him with rocks.
And what happened? For Navalny there were nothing but eggs! Where were the rocks, Tefft? I ask you, where were the rocks? Where are Navalny’s bruises and injuries to make him the victim of the brutal regime and to mobilize the outrage of the world community, followed by the tightening of sanctions against Russia …
“John,” – timidly Tefft ventured a reply.”John – everything was organized as well as possible, but due to the habitual traffic jams in Novosibirsk they just couldn’t deliver the rocks in time.”
“Yes, the the rocks didn’t get there in time, but the money for throwing them did, didn’t it?” – Kerry’s voice dripped with sarcasm. – “You better just shut up and listen…
“If you have already decided to promote the Russian democratic opposition in Siberia with the help of “primaries”, at least do it with some competence. Why have you set up “primaries” in drinking joints? You’re just interested in the votes of alcoholics?
“The primaries weren’t even over yet, and we here at the State Department broke out laughing. Want to know why? You could not even provide normal participant numbers or even submit photos with thousands of Novosibirskis in lines waiting to vote for the opposition! Do I have to tell you how it’s done?
“Tell me what can be said about any prospects of democratic coalition if your Navalny said 1104 voters, and the democratic coalition site reported 2580? Not only are those numbers ridiculous, so they also are not the same!
“But that’s not all: Tell me, why was there any need to ask to ask stupid questions in voting areas like “What do you know about the last Russian tsar?” Or “How do you feel about the history of Russia?” … You figure that, there in Moscow, that’s a brilliant PR move? It’s the acme of idiocy to ask questions like that in the election, even a primary. Asking such questions, right off you made it clear you consider the voters illiterates and idiots! Finally, to complete the picture Novosibirsk leaders on the “Parnassus” ballot bickered among themselves and started accusing each other of big-time fraud.
“You know, Tefft, when I found out about this, I got an upset stomach from laughing added on top of my broken leg. What’s your problem with fixing a few hundred votes? If agents like that can’t count right to a thousand or two thousand, how are voters supposed to believe they can lead?
“In a word, Tefft” – concluded the Secretary with a mocking threat – “if you don’t get the right outcomes, you will either be dismissed or you will be sent as ambassador to some African country. And I really hope that it’s a place where cannibals are hiding in the woods… Have a nice day.”
Remembering all the details of the night’s conversation, John Tefft drank some whiskey and decided to summon all the activists of the Democratic Coalition to the Embassy. Overhead, the clouds began to thicken, rolling in from the banks of the Potomac.