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The Illegals’ “paymaster,” Christopher Metsos (an alias, the S.V.R. agent having assumed the identity of a deceased Canadian), escaped the F.B.I. dragnet on June 27, 2010. Two days later, police in Cyprus arrested him on an Interpol warrant, as he boarded a flight to Budapest. A Cypriot court quickly granted Metsos bail, infuriating U.S. officials, who suspected Russian influence.
The Russian oil and gas giants Lukoil and Gazprom have invested deeply in Cyprus, while as much as $15 billion flows monthly from Russia to the island’s tax-haven banks. The only Communist leader in the European Union, Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias, who had received a Ph.D. in the Soviet Union in 1974, bristled at the suggestion of Russian manipulation. Shortly after making bail, Metsos disappeared from his Cyprus hotel room, leaving behind his slippers, along with a hint of Cold War fidelity.
Staniford realized that he was involved in something more substantial than pillow talk, and at the Subway Inn, he continued checking over his shoulder. He appeared to have something to say. When I pressed him, he balked, ordering another round. “They could kill me,” he said. “They could kill us both.”
It was hard to tell whether he was on the level. I tried to soften him up, offering him another entry point to the discussion. I told him that in Moscow, Chapman had said that she had been in love once during her American holiday.
At that, Staniford’s companion broke in. “She probably used him,” Ganesh said, intrigue sparking her eyes. “Then she fell in love, even though she didn’t mean to.”
Staniford shot her a withering glance.
The night wound down. I got Staniford out of the bar, and he staggered onto Lexington Avenue. Steadying himself against a rack of scaffolding, he grabbed the lapels of my jacket and pulled me close.
“If you bust me, man, I’ll kill you,” he said. “And I’m really good at killing people.”
ARRIVING IN NEW YORK IN 2010, CHAPMAN moved into a 52nd-floor apartment one block south of the New York Stock Exchange. She claimed to run an Internet real-estate firm valued at $2 million. Yet her American activities were principally confined to forging male acquaintances, posting tourist pictures to her Facebook account, and composing the valueless communiqués that she fed weekly and wirelessly to Russian officials while sitting with her laptop in bookstores and coffee shops like any time-killing New Yorker.
Once apprehended, just six months into her assignment, Chapman’s luxurious existence in New York was at an end; it had always been a sham, a cover story with just enough to back it up. The U.S. District Court reviewed her finances, deemed her unable to afford a lawyer, and appointed her a public defender. Things were bad and they were about to get weird. Chapman was wallowing in an orange jumpsuit in Solitary in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, when fame, as she told me, “dropped on my head.”
Her New York defense attorney, Baum, delivered her newspapers, including the New York Post, which ran her photo on its front page seven times during her 11-day internment in the summer of 2010. She began to understand that her life was being diverted to a new course.
“I remember this moment,” Chapman told me, “and it’s a very precious moment.”
Following her layover in Austria, Chapman returned to Russia behind a veil of mystery, and has remained unwilling to substantiate or refute the many rumors about her that started proliferating immediately upon her arrest. Did her father run guns in Africa? Was she close to Prince William? Was she a certified marksman?
Chapman calls herself an entrepreneur, and that is indeed what she has become in Russia, the achievement having escaped her in New York. She has been aided in this transformation by her proximity to power, and the transitive desire of others on the make. By the time I first encountered Chapman, she had been back in Russia for a few months, and she had spent her time wisely. When she and the other spies met with Vladimir Putin in July of 2010, shortly after their return, the former K.G.B. middle manager led them in a chorus of patriotic song. (Where does Motherland come from? From the oath that you swear to her in your youthful heart.)
One person who has done business with Chapman told me that she had spent time with the other Illegals at Putin’s Black Sea villa later, but that Chapman alone had been singled out for a ride in Putin’s personal submarine beneath the surface of Lake Baikal. The dear leader had taken a shine to Chapman.
“Anna is Putin’s girl,” the associate told me.
Contrary to conventional belief, the Russians are largely not angry about having lost the Cold War. They like their foreign cars, like traveling to the First World. They really like Louis Vuitton. They don’t experience nostalgia over washing their socks in the sink. Would you like to instigate a ceaseless discussion? Ask them about the ’90s, the period in which the United States NATO-ized the Warsaw bloc, sold Russia on cankerous political and market reforms, bombed brother Belgrade—events that most American citizens, regrettably, comprehend very little.
Once Yeltsin drank himself out of a job, it fell to Putin to avenge this proud country of dwindling millions. What to do with the Illegals, then, their flop telecast across oceans and continents, such a failure hardly suiting the image of a potent state? It turns out that there is an easy fix, as Russian security expert Andrei Soldatov explained to me. Soldatov recently published a book, The New Nobility, a superior tutorial on the unbreakable bonds between the Kremlin, Russian business, and the K.G.B.’s old guard (none of whom, it should be noted, were arrested following the fall of the Communist regime.
“Nobody here thinks the Illegals were a failure,” Soldatov told me over coffee in Moscow. “It’s a victory. Because it shows we can still compete with America. We are a great power. We can do everything we want to do.”
But to make that idea stick, Anna Chapman must be made a success story, even if only after the fact.
“We need to show the American public that Anna Chapman is a hero,” said Soldatov.
“If I want to meet anyone—the C.E.O. of the biggest company—really, I can,” she told me one evening as we walked down a Moscow street together after dinner. “I can just call them up, and they are happy to meet with me.”
So far, despite such confidence, she has shied away from big business, preferring projects that capitalize on her “personal brand.” She is developing a science-fiction cartoon series starring a red-headed girl who is not named Anna. She has released a poker app for the mobile web, talks sometimes about her ideas for an Anna-branded perfume, says she wants to find a ghostwriter to compose a book about business, all the while sifting through the hundreds of requests for friendship that she receives on her Facebook account each day.
Opportunities have also originated from the country of her incarceration. Jessica Alba, the actress, wanted to buy the rights to her story and adapt it for film. William Morris Endeavor, the L.A. talent agency, called Chapman’s attorney, Baum, continuously for several months, seeking the right to represent his client. Vivid Entertainment asked if she was interested in appearing in a pornographic film. And predictably, Playboy called from Chicago, offering several hundred thousand dollars, sources in magazine publishing tell me, to shoot a full pictorial.
But these deals and offers disintegrated when the lawyers started thumbing through Chapman’s plea bargain, which forbids her from profiting from her story. Technically the deal bars her from profiting in Russia, too, but that’s an impossible agreement to enforce; not so here in the United States.
Dismissed from the U.S. with nothing but the clothes she wore, Chapman could have used some of that entertainment-world money. But no matter. She now cruises Moscow in a new Porsche Cayenne, black.