"Soviet officials are pleased. Said Oleg Smoliensky, director of the government organization that oversees live entertainment: "We did not make a mistake in choosing {Billy Joel}. You have achieved a lot in this field. Our cultural exchange will help us to catch you." -- USA Today

Imagine that you're a mid-level functionary on the anti-Soviet team at the super-secret National Security Agency. It's lunch time, and you're shoving a microwave burrito into your food vacuole when a frantic supervisor slams this news item on your desk, and yells, "Well, what about it?!" I know what I'd do. First, I'd eye the clip grimly and say, "Hmmm, I may not come up with all the answers on this one, A-X2EN$6, but I can help frame the proper questions," then I'd red-dog it to the library to find out what the hell he's talking about. Billy Joel was in Russia? And they liked him? And now their goal is to produce entah- tainers who play piano-glissando- soaked "rock" songs that are even more stupefying than "Just the Way You Are"?

Strange . . . And, as it turns out, not quite true: I wasn't looking at the big picture. Yes, Billy Joel was in the Soviet Union, on one of those cultural- bridge things during which he 1) shamelessly begged for applause by bad-mouthing Uncle Sam; 2) badgered his audiences into dancing and singing along; and 3) played "Back in the U.S.S.R." after promising he wouldn't. But all that is a matter for the Senate's Citizenship-Stripping Committee. The point -- as has been made clear in several recent articles -- is that the Soviets have their eyes on a bigger prize: world rock domination by the year 2000. See, they've decided rock is inevitable, and now they want to be Top Nation at it. "I was at an Elvis Presley show in Paris," said Smoliensky in another USA Today story, "and at that time the audience was breaking chairs. We will also learn how to do this, and I'm sure we will do it even better than you."

The wheels are in motion, and by now you should know what's next. Earlier this summer, soon after they launched their Olympic baseball program, the Soviets claimed they invented the sport, saying that baseball's predecessor was a Russian game called lapta, brought to our shores 200 years ago. Next they started rounding up grade-schoolers who looked as if they might be able to administer vigorous punishment to the horsehide orb with the ol' wagon tongue -- in short, baseball-camp prospects. Rock-wise, they're already edging toward step one. Spin magazine quoted a Russian deejay named Igor, who said: "Once a week I perform with my mobile diskotjoke in Riga. It can happen that someone does a breakdance. It's quite similar to our Cossack dancing." Step two can't be far off, with the Soviets holding a massive Star Search, then taking their slope- shouldered, ack-faced little teen grouches away from home, issuing barracks-metal-gray electric guitars and amps, and ordering them, "So! Mek viff de rockink."

Which brings us to the proper questions. Can they do it? Should we stop them? Frankly, I'm not worried. Sports is one thing, pop style is another, and if you've ever seen a big-butted Soviet Embassy employe waddling around the Georgetown Safeway in his Jordache jeans -- well, there are some things Russians just can't get right. Rock's gonna be one of them. They can't even decide which one of our decades they want to rip off -- their polyglot rock scene includes greasers, mods, hippies, Jesus freaks, metalheads, new wavers, peaceniks and punks. Furthermore, everything they're saying and doing is just . . . off. "I've joined the punks because it's good to throw things over," one kid told Spin magazine. "On our way back from the concert we unscrewed the lightbulbs in the subway. Then we all yelled 'Darkness!' 'Darkness!' " Supertuff! Roll over, Starland Vocal Band.

Still, for reasons of patriotism, and the fact that I now live near the Russki spy- embassy compound and they're messing up my TV reception, I think we should sabotage 'em by sending our worst stuff. Right now, Smoliensky is negotiating for a Michael Jackson tour. A few years ago, I'd have been against this, but now that Michael has completed his metamorphosis into a bizarre, Bambi-esque Diana Ross clone, I say: Send him. And while we're at it, why not send along a few million copies of the following 45s? The Captain & Tennille's "Muskrat Love." "Shake Your Booty" by K.C. and the Sunshine Band. And "You're Having My Baby" by Paul Anka.

That'll do it. Russians, to paraphrase something Nikita Khrushchev might have said if he'd been lead singer in the glitter-rock band Queen: "We will, we will bury you." ::