Benedict Arlen Learns That Traitors Never Prosper

Then there's the case of George Koval, a U.S.-born Soviet spy who managed to steal critical nuclear secrets for the Soviets back in the 1940s. Despite his assistance,

Koval's postwar life in Russia was apparently uneventful. "I'm afraid that you will be disappointed to learn that I did not receive any high awards upon my return," he wrote to Kramish in May 2003. "Life in the Soviet Union was such that my activities, instead of bringing me awards, had an opposite, very strong negative effect on my life." When he left the Soviet military in 1949, he wrote, "I received discharge papers as an untrained rifleman in the rank of private -- with nine years of service in the armed forces!" This lackluster record, coupled with his academic and foreign background, "made me a very suspicious character," he wrote, especially amid "the terrible government-instigated-and-carried-out anti-Semitic campaign, which was at its peak in the early fifties." He sought work as a researcher or teacher, but "no one wanted to risk hiring me" -- partly, he believed, because someone with his record might be an American spy.


During Koval's decades as an academic in Moscow, the fact that his service to his adopted homeland went unacknowledged rankled him. In 2003 he wrote to Kramish that he had received a minor medal after he returned to Russia, but bigger rewards "went to the career men." Fuchs "got his award, not a very high-ranking one (and was disgruntled about that) only when he was already released and was working as a physicist" in East Germany. And "only quite recently, when Lota began digging in the archives and brought my story to light, was I presented with a rarely awarded medal" for service in foreign intelligence, at a closed ceremony.

Still, despite the perceived slights and his uneasy return to Soviet life, George Koval ended his email on a stoic note: "Maybe I should not complain (and I am not complaining -- just describing how things were in the Soviet Union at that time), but be thankful that I did not find myself in a Gulag, as might well have happened."

Neither Arnold nor Koval was known to have ever expressed regret for his respective betrayal, but neither reaped the rewards he thought due him and they were both treated warily and with some degree of contempt by those they served with their betrayals.

According to the Smithsonian article cited above, Koval believed in communism to the end, which explains his complicity as a spy. On the other hand, Arnold was bitter because he didn't get what he thought was his due from his compatriots and switched sides in order to further his own interests. Sound familiar?

But regardless of the reasons, neither Koval nor Arnold found complete acceptance or a utopian existence as a result of his perfidy. The fact that Arlen Specter actually expected the Democrats to give him what he thought was his "due" speaks more to his penchant for navel-gazing than any sense of reality.

The moral of this story? If you're going to play traitor, go in with eyes wide open. And don't expect too much in the way of gratitude or trust from those you aided. Because if you betrayed your own so easily, who's to say you won't betray your new friends as well?