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The “Quiet Americans” in Kiev

US flag on SBU building in Kiev

An American flag flies at the main office of the SBU (Ukraine’s State Security Service) in a photo from 2014.

by Systematic

 […] Kiev is filled with “quiet Americans” from the famous novel of the same name by the English writer Graham Greene. One of the heroes of the novel, US intelligence officer Pyle, constantly launches into lengthy speeches, proclaiming himself to be a fighter for democracy. While fighting for “just causes” and creating the so-called “third force”, which, in his opinion, would lead Vietnam to prosperity and democracy, Pyle organizes a bombing in a crowded area. This action leads to the deaths of many women and children not involved in politics. For the CIA agent they are only “biomass”, to quote Yulia Tymoshenko…

Graham’s novel could have been written about modern-day Ukraine as well. Today’s “quiet Americans” arrive in their company cars at exactly ten minutes to nine to the SBU [State Security Service] main office. They are thirty to forty years old, dressed in suits and street jackets of various, often very bright, colors. All with shopping bags, paper cups, none of them smoke, all speak English loudly. This American show (and they are impossible to confuse with anyone else) can also be seen when they take a lunch break from 12 to 1pm, as well as when they get a break at four. Many stay late.

Restaurants and bars within two hundred meters from the SBU have dramatically changed their selection of dishes. Now they serve latte with skim milk, ribs in barbecue sauce and a variety of vegetarian dishes. A similar pattern can be seen on Tarasovskaya street, where this abrupt change of dishes happened near the office of the State Security Directorate of Military Intelligence. Even such secluded places as “Forest” (complex of buildings under the Foreign Intelligence Service, near Bilogorodka) and “Island” (Army Intelligence center on Rybalskiy island) underwent Americanization. A telltale sign of mass American presence is a sharp spike in pizza and sushi deliveries in these areas. […]

Read in full Alexander Yablokov’s “Quiet Americans” in Kiev at Fort Russ


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