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How A KGB Double Agent Saved Britain And Won The Cold War For The West
The Federalist ^ | October 26, 2018 | Tony Daniel

Posted on 10/26/2018 5:32:41 AM PDT by gattaca

Hstorian Ben MacIntyre's new book, 'The Spy and the Traitor,' tells the thrilling story of how the KGB's Oleg Gordievsky helped check the Soviet Union as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan fought communism.

In his new book The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, veteran espionage historian Ben MacIntyre confirms a troubling decision—or lack thereof—that some had suspected for years. This is the fact that in 1983 the man overseeing both British spy services MI6 and MI5, head of British Civil Service Robert Armstrong, knew that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s main opponent in the upcoming election was a KGB agent and did not tell her.

Labor Party leader, member of Parliament, and former employment secretary Michael Foot had been a paid KGB agent for decades, and was still on the KGB books as an agent of influence when he headed the British Labor Party and ran against Thatcher for leadership of England in 1983. Foot would have become prime minister if Labor had won.

MI6 told MI5, its domestic sister agency, and MI5 told Armstrong, but Armstrong kept Foot’s duplicity to himself. Nobody informed Thatcher. According to MacIntyre:

[Armstrong] did not tell Margaret Thatcher or her other top advisers; he did not tell anyone in the Civil Service, the Conservative Party, or the Labour Party. He did not tell the Americans, or any other of Britain’s allies. He did not tell a soul. Having been passed the unexploded bomb, the cabinet secretary put it in his pocket, and kept it there, in the hope that Foot would lose, and the problem would defuse itself. [MI6 operative] Veronica Price was blunt: ‘We buried it.’

With what seems in hindsight a misguided sense of higher duty and a display of undemocratic arrogance, Armstrong put the British Commonwealth in the position of possibly electing a genuine KGB agent as prime minister—a fact its intelligence services knew and did nothing about. MacIntyre confirms this state of affairs from multiple sources. Thankfully, Thatcher and the Tories won in 1983.

How did MI6 know Foot was a KGB agent? Because the KGB deputy station chief in London Oleg Gordievsky told MI6 he was. Not only that, Gordievsky accompanied the news with specific information from a fat file he’d examined at length in the Lubyanka, the KGB’s headquarters and torture prison, leaving no doubt that Foot was a rat. Why did Gordievsky do it? Because Oleg Gordievsky was a British spy. He’d been working for MI6 for years at that point.

Gordievsky learned that Foot had been paid large sums by the KGB in the 1960s, most of which he used to fund the Democratic Socialist magazine Tribune. In return, Foot delivered information on Labor Party activities along with government intelligence once he became privy to it, and put out whatever propaganda Moscow required of him. Foot’s traitorous complicity with Moscow was revealed in the mid-1990s, when Gordievsky published his highly readable memoir, Next Stop Execution.

When Gordievsky’s book came out in 1995, the British left, including its media adjuncts, stonewalled or soft-pedaled the story, downplaying the importance of the spying Foot did, and proclaimed in essence that he was more a fellow-traveler than a source of intelligence.

Right. If it could speak from where it is undoubtedly locked in Vladimir Putin’s GRU closet, Foot’s Lubyanka file might beg to differ. The fact that Thatcher and the British public weren’t told about Foot in 1983 is even more troubling. A Britain without Thatcher and with a KGB agent as prime minister would likely have led to a very different outcome for the Cold War.

Would Armstrong have mentioned the fact even then? And would it have mattered at that point? Thank God the West didn’t have to find out.

Troves of Information Yet this is only one portion of the astounding and inspiring story of KGB turncoat Oleg Gordievsky that MacIntyre tells in The Spy and the Traitor. Unlike much espionage history, which is often filled with sturm und drang signifying little, the information Gordievsky supplied MI6 was of worldwide political importance. He was a KGB deputy station chief in London who was a British double agent serving at the climax of the Cold War in the 1980s. Gordievsky provided troves of information to MI6, much of which was later shared with the CIA.

He supplied MI6 with lists of KGB operatives (including sleeper agents) in the UK. He outed all KGB agents in Britain (including the MI6’s own nascent spy, Michael John Bettany), one in France, and two in Denmark—which led to multiple arrests and the thwarting of much damage to the West. He explained to MI6 exactly how Soviet intelligence worked and how people within its labyrinthine walls thought. Most importantly, Gordievsky was able to lucidly report on the mindset of supreme Soviet leadership, including Yuri Andropov and later Mikhail Gorbachev, and his reports had a significant influence on Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Thatcher called him “Mr. Collins.” She eagerly read his reports and worried about him in his precarious position in the Soviet embassy. The Soviets did not merely imprison their traitors in the ranks. One slip, and Thatcher’s Mr. Collins would be dead. As MacIntyre reminds us, the rumor has always been that MI6-CIA agent Oleg Penkovsky, betrayed by British-spy-turned-Soviet-agent George Blake, had been cremated alive in 1963 by the KGB after they were done torturing him.

In December 1984, Gorbachev made a state visit to England, where he met with Thatcher for extended sessions at the prime minister’s country estate, Chequers. Gordievsky as KGB intelligence point-man in England was feeding British-supplied talking points to Gorbachev and his staff the whole time. These were adopted sometimes word-for-word, allowing Thatcher to shape the diplomatic agenda for the Chequers meetings, get her desires addressed, and avoid pitfalls and problematic areas with the Soviet delegation.

MI6 obtained the Foreign Office briefing document drawn up for Geoffrey Howe, the foreign secretary, listing the points he would be raising with Gorbachev and his team. This was then handed over to Gordievsky, who dashed back to the KGB station, hurriedly typed it up into Russian, and handed it over to the reports officer to put into the daily memorandum.

‘Yes!’ said [KGB London station chief Leonid] Nikitenko, when he read it. ‘This is just what we need.’

Geoffrey Howe’s Foreign Office briefing had become Mikhail Gorbachev’s KGB briefing. ‘In it went, verbatim.’

Gordievsky also played a significant part in British internal politics.

At the height of the miners’ strike in 1984–85, Gordievsky learned that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had contacted Moscow to request financial support. The KGB opposed funding the miners. . . But the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party thought otherwise, and approved the transfer of more than $1 million from the Soviet Foreign Trade Bank (in the end, the Swiss receiving bank became suspicious, and the transfer never happened).

KGB-funded or not, Thatcher knew the miners’ leadership had asked for covert Soviet aid, and this no doubt increased her resolve to face down the radical strikers.

Nuclear Showdown Gordievsky was also essential in the development of Thatcher and Reagan’s understanding of the Soviet mentality toward nuclear weapons. The current received wisdom (I recently came across it in the history book of my ninth-grade daughter, for example) is that Reagan moderated his stance toward the Soviet Union after being scared by a war game exercise that went wrong.

According to this historian’s conjecture and disarmament lobby talking point, a poorly identified unit in the NATO war game code-named ABLE ARCHER seemed to be headed toward Soviet territory. This caused the Soviets to believe that the United States was launching a disguised nuclear attack, and almost led to a retaliatory strike and World War III, if the Russians hadn’t been so forbearing. The reasoning goes that the Russian reaction to ABLE ARCHER caused Reagan to back down from his bellicose rhetoric and take a more conciliatory approach to the Soviet Union.

The truth is more interesting, if less fraught. Gordievsky’s intelligence proved to Western leaders that former KGB head and professional paranoid Yuri Andropov had believed in his heart that the West might strike first with nuclear weapons and was even preparing to do so. After Andropov’s death, his obsession lingered in the Moscow bowels of the institution he had directed, even though, as Gordievsky also reported, no agent on the ground thought the West had any intention to strike first. Thatcher and Reagan understood their Soviet counterparts far better than they were understood in turn. And this put them in a position to win the Cold War.

Gordievsky was directly consulted about these matters. In September 1986, prior to the October Reykjavík summit between Reagan and Gorbachev, CIA director Bill Casey flew to London to ask Gordievsky what he thought the Soviet reaction would be to a proposal by Reagan to share Strategic Defense Initiative technology, once it was developed, with Russia.

‘You are Gorbachev,’ [Casey] said. ‘And I am Reagan. We would like to get rid of nuclear weapons. To inspire confidence, we will give you access to Star Wars. What do you say?’

“Nyet!” Gordievsky responded with the certainty of a long-experienced KGB man. The Soviets would always believe the United States was holding something back to give themselves an advantage. Casey replied that Reagan was going forward with the SDI regardless.

‘All right,’ said Gordievsky. ‘Then keep it up. You keep up the pressure. Gorbachev and his people know they can’t outspend you. Your technology is better than theirs. Keep it up.’ Moscow would beggar itself trying to match Star Wars, he added, pouring money into a technological arms race it could never win. ‘In the long term SDI will ruin the Soviet leadership.’

Gordievsky was, of course, dead right in his assessment, as subsequent events showed. What’s more, by tipping off Casey (and thus Reagan) to the exact cards the Soviets held in the geopolitical poker game at Reykjavík, Gordievsky contributed in an important manner to the downfall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Dead Drops, Car Chases, and Radioactive Dust Gordievsky’s betrayal to the Russians and subsequent flight across the eastern Soviet Union is the subject of the final chapters of the book. They are riveting, especially if you don’t know the outcome (you might want to stop reading here if you don’t).

The escape operation was called Operation PIMLICO and MI6 operatives in the U.S.S.R. had been practicing it for years in anticipation of one day exfiltrating Gordievsky. Still, much depended on luck and timing. What’s more, Gordievsky had to make the heartbreaking choice of whether to leave behind his wife and two young daughters. It was years later that Western intelligence and Gordievsky learned that he had been sold out by American CIA officer and traitor Aldrich Ames—who, as Ames would be the first to admit, was spying entirely for money.

Gordievsky never took a penny from MI6 until after he had defected to the U.K. His actions were motivated by a hatred of the tyranny of the Soviet system, and the degraded condition in which it left its citizens. His doubts began when Russian tanks crushed the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia, and grew stronger the more contact he had with the West.

Gordievsky, now a British citizen, is a bit of a cultural snob, a lover of great classical music and good books—things denied to the citizens of the U.S.S.R. This denial led to a downtrodden state of the soul, a state of being that Gordievsky terms “Homo sovieticus” in his memoir. Gordievsky wanted the nation of his birth to be free. He at least helped to end its slavery to Marxism, if not to KGB thug rule.

After six years, Gordievsky’s wife and children were able to leave Russia and join him, but the betrayal was too severe and the separation too long for his marriage to survive. Unfortunately Gordievsky’s previously happy family was yet another victim of Cold War espionage and communism.

Gordievsky’s escape via Finland is wonderfully chronicled by MacIntyre. It includes dead drops, car chases, and even radioactive dust sprinkled on shoes. Toward the end, MacIntyre gives his own impression of Gordievsky, with whom he spent countless hours in interviews and conversation.

He is sometimes hard to like, and impossible not to admire. He has no regrets, he says, but from time to time he will break off in mid-conversation and stare darkly into a distance only he can see. He is one of the bravest people I have ever met, and one of the loneliest.

TOPICS: Chit/Chat
KEYWORDS: coldwar; espionage; kgb

1 posted on 10/26/2018 5:32:41 AM PDT by gattaca
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To: gattaca

>>Labor Party leader, member of Parliament, and former employment secretary Michael Foot had been a paid KGB agent for decades, and was still on the KGB books as an agent of influence when he headed the British Labor Party and ran against Thatcher for leadership of England in 1983. Foot would have become prime minister if Labor had won.

and yet the Left in England likes to spin that it was a silent coup that prevented them from taking power

A Very British Coup is a 1982 novel by British politician Chris Mullin. The novel has twice been adapted for television; as A Very British Coup in 1988 and as Secret State in 2012.


Harry Perkins is the left-wing Leader of the Labour Party and Member of Parliament for Sheffield Central. Beating all the odds, Harry becomes Prime Minister and he sets out to dismantle media monopolies, withdraw from NATO, carry out unilateral nuclear disarmament, and create an open government. Many people in the media, financial services, and the intelligence services are deeply unhappy with Harry’s win and his policies, and they unite to stop him by any means.

The book was written in 1981, at a time when Tony Benn looked likely to become deputy leader of the Labour Party which at the time was strongly challenging the government of Margaret Thatcher in the opinion polls. It also has strong echoes of the persistent rumours that have circulated over the years about attempts by members of the British security services, and other wings of the British Establishment, to undermine and depose Harold Wilson’s Labour government of the mid-1970s.[3] This first became widespread public knowledge around 1986 with the controversy over Spycatcher, after the publication of the novel but before the broadcast of the TV version. The story also has echoes of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis in which there was alleged CIA involvement to remove a government proposing to close US military bases on Australian soil.

2 posted on 10/26/2018 5:36:43 AM PDT by a fool in paradise (Denounce DUAC - The Democrats Un-American Activists Committee)
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To: gattaca

Fascinating story. Just finished MacIntyre’s book. Highly recommended. Heck, all of his books are great.

3 posted on 10/26/2018 5:43:01 AM PDT by BillyBonebrake
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4 posted on 10/26/2018 6:00:12 AM PDT by prairiebreeze (Don't be afraid to see what you see. -- Ronald Reagan)
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To: gattaca


5 posted on 10/26/2018 6:08:49 AM PDT by 4everontheRight (And the story began with..."Once there was a great nation......)
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To: gattaca

Books sounds very interesting - thanks for posting this.
The title, “The Spy and the Traitor” leaves ambiguity on who was which, among a surfeit of candidates.
Does MacEntyre offer any real explanation for Robert Armstrong’s failure to inform the head of the government he served? His behavior was that of a Russian agent — perhaps GRU outside Gordievski’s ambit. Another question would be why the head of British Civil Service would be informed by MI5, instead of the PM directly, and why they would not have made a second attempt to inform her when a response to the first was obviously absent. Surely the UK does not use the head of Civil Service to do it’s intel briefings.

6 posted on 10/26/2018 6:17:12 AM PDT by Chewbarkah
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To: gattaca


7 posted on 10/26/2018 6:21:22 AM PDT by gaijin
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To: prairiebreeze


8 posted on 10/26/2018 6:26:55 AM PDT by Former Proud Canadian (Trudeau never saw a gay pride parade he didn't want to join.)
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To: gattaca

He is sometimes hard to like, and impossible not to admire. He has no regrets, he says, but from time to time he will break off in mid-conversation and stare darkly into a distance only he can see. He is one of the bravest people I have ever met, and one of the loneliest.

Men of honor are rare and pay a heavy cost.................

9 posted on 10/26/2018 6:27:10 AM PDT by PeterPrinciple (Thinking Caps are no longer being issued but there must be a warehouse full of them somewhere.)
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To: gattaca
Meanwhile the Democrats Presidents:

The Clintons gave the Chinese Communists our most guarded nuclear secrets which led then to leap 60 years of development in their nuclear weapons

Jimmy Carter gAve North Korea nuclear tech & uranium, tons of food, fuel and money for the promise Not to develop nukes or long range rockets - which they did without any fears of reprisal or punishment anyways. Now they posses both.

Obama gave the Iranians mullahs a carte Blanche door to do anything they want without fear of punishment for breaking the promise not to develop nukes and lifted all embargoes against them, the European companies leaped at the chance to do business with them, and in a final insult the mullahs are give the green light by the UN atomic agency to inspect themselves for nuclear compliance!

Democrats are enemies of the free world!

10 posted on 10/26/2018 6:40:25 AM PDT by prophetic (Trump is today's DANIEL. Shut the mouth of lions Lord, let his enemies be the Cat Food instead.)
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To: VR-21


11 posted on 10/26/2018 6:49:33 AM PDT by VR-21
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To: Army Air Corps


12 posted on 10/26/2018 7:05:46 AM PDT by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
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To: gattaca

Literal bookmark

13 posted on 10/26/2018 7:11:00 AM PDT by bonfire
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To: gattaca

How much money is being received by the AFL-CIO, UAW, SEIU from overseas?

14 posted on 10/26/2018 8:01:40 AM PDT by ealgeone (SCRIPTURE DOES NOT CHANGE!)
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To: a fool in paradise; All
Prime Minister and he sets out to dismantle media monopolies, withdraw from NATO, carry out unilateral nuclear disarmament, and create an open government.

Interesting. Other than unilateral nuclear disarmament all these things today would be applauded by the conservative and libertarian right. I suspect most Brexit supporters would find leaving NATO to be a good idea. Trump partisans would cheer these things as well. That shows how far politics have changed in three decades.

15 posted on 10/26/2018 11:16:34 AM PDT by robowombat (Orthodox)
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