They couldn’t have been spies. Look what she did with the hydrangeas.”And even President Obama has expressed dismay about the timing of the arrests, coming as it does just days after hanging out for burgers with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and "pushing the reset button" on US-Russian relations. But the real way to understand all of this is not through politics, but literature. Americans love them a good romance or even an adventure story. We like good guys and bad guys. We like unilinear narratives where a story progresses and is resolved. We are a country that believes in renewal and even "resetting" foreign policy. Russia is not. In fact, Russian literature is full of competing truths, contradictions, a circular notion of history that does not so much progress as move around and around. There are not heroes in white cowboy hats as much as characters who must reach some state of utter debasement (padeni'e) that then and only then can they understand the true absurdity of it all. So when the Cold War ended in the US, we Americans rewrote our foreign policy narratives to turn the bad guys, the Soviets, into good guys, the newly "democratic" Russians. The Russians, meanwhile, continued to have very complicated feelings toward the US. For ordinary Russians as well as policy makers, the US was powerful and therefore had to be taken into account. But the US was also still seen as imperialistic (although primarily cultural imperialism after the Soviet Union), too simplistic, and far too arrogant. When I was writing my first book, Queer in Russia, I was struck at the simplistic nature of Western notions of sexuality. One was either gay or straight. And many Western gays saw it as their mission to convert Russians to seeing things in the same way. The Westerners would patiently explain to the Russians that it was their job to "progress" and "come out" so they could be "liberated." The Russians, offended not just by the assumption of superiority on the part of the Westerners but also by what they saw as Western rules and regulations around desire, often complained bitterly about the Westerners/colonizers. "What do they think? We drink vodka and dance with bears and it is their job to civilize us?" they'd ask me. Yes, they kinda did and we as a country kinda do. The hubris of Empire is that we truly and really believe that the way we do things is the most evolved way and thus all the world wishes to be like us. We missed the part that while we were living out a John Wayne fantasy of liberating the Russkis from the Commies, the Russian government and people were writing something far more like Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov." Remember the scene where the Grand Inquisitor is speaking with Jesus Christ who has returned to save the people? As they talk the Inquisitor - who is Russia - explains to Jesus - who is the US - that it is truly the Inquisitor who cares about the people since what the people really want is an easy set of rules to follow in this life, not some impossible set of standards to ascend into Heaven in the hereafter. At some point, Jesus/the US understands that his righteousness is not really what the masses need and he kisses the Grand Inquisitor to show that he understands the error of his ways. Let the US kiss the Russian government in forgiveness over the spy scandal. The Americans were the ones that said the Cold War was over and that Russia was suddenly a democracy. All the Russians ever said is they would utilize other ideologies - like neoliberal economics and Christian Orthodoxy - to move the people to do the state's bidding.