Summary: gripping account of a small portion of the Cold War that gives considerable insight into some of the wider issues
Sub-titled, “The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War” McIntyre’s account of the career of Oleg Gordievsky does make for fascinating reading.
Gordievsky came from a KGB family – both his father and brother had been officers. But, Gordievsky says, he lost the faith. Disgust at the Soviet system, particularly the crushing of the Prague Spring, led to a momentous decision: in 1972, while posted in Copenhagen, he became a double-agent for MI6.
He described his choice as an act of dissidence, in the spirit of great Russian dissidents like Solzhenitsyn. But where Solzhenitsyn could protest through art Gordievsky could only protest with the information and secrets that were his stock in trade.
McIntyre credits Gordievsky with a number of decisive interventions in the Cold War. Most importantly, he argues that warnings from Gordievsky led to Nato changing military exercises that the Soviet leadership had come to believe were cover for an actual nuclear assault on the Warsaw Pact, thus averting the most dangerous moment in world history since the Cuban Missiles Crisis. Gordievsky also played a key role, the book argues, in the developing of good working relationships between Thatcher and Gorbachev, and the US decision to escalate military spending in the belief that this would eventually bankrupt the Soviet Union and lead to its collapse,
Eventually, in spite of MI6’s best efforts to guard Gordievsky’s identity, he was betrayed by a traitor in the CIA, recalled to Moscow and investigated by Soviet counter-intelligence. Convinced that his days were numbered if he did nothing he triggered an MI6 plan to exfiltrate him. The unfolding of this operation, led by future Liberal Democrat peer, Ray Asquith – called Roy Ascot in this book – at the time head of the MI6 station in Moscow, provides a gripping climax to this wholly satisfying account of Cold War combatants.
Oh – and Donald Trump is almost certainly a KGB asset since the 1980s.