A revelatory and pathbreaking account of the highly secretive world of the Soviet intelligence services
A uniquely comprehensive and rich account of the Soviet intelligence services, Jonathan Haslam's Near and Distant Neighbors charts the labyrinthine story of Soviet intelligence from the October Revolution to the end of the Cold War.
Previous histories have focused on the KGB, leaving military intelligence and the special service—which specialized in codes and ciphers—lurking in the shadows. Drawing on previously neglected Russian sources, Haslam reveals how both were in fact crucial to the survival of the Soviet state. This was especially true after Stalin's death in 1953, as the Cold War heated up and dedicated Communist agents the regime had relied upon—Klaus Fuchs, the Rosenbergs, Donald Maclean—were betrayed. In the wake of these failures, Khrushchev and his successors discarded ideological recruitment in favor of blackmail and bribery. The tactical turn was so successful that we can draw only one conclusion: the West ultimately triumphed despite, not because of, the espionage war.
In bringing to light the obscure inhabitants of an undercover intelligence world, Haslam offers a surprising and unprecedented portrayal of Soviet success that is not only fascinating but also essential to understanding Vladimir Putin's power today.
Mining newly published Russian documents and other sources, Haslam, a Cambridge University professor of history and international relations, delivers an intricate appraisal of how the Soviets handled foreign and undercover operations in Europe and the U.S. Not long after the 1917 Communist takeover, Soviet intelligence organs developed a reputation for cunning and ruthlessness, especially after the internal jockeying for power that left Josef Stalin in firm control of the country. The most gripping chapters focus on the chaos that the Soviet leader unleashed. Intensely paranoid and diabolical, Stalin valued human intelligence over cryptography and other communications expertise, and he had no qualms about exiling or executing valuable operatives. As a result, Stalin failed to discern or understand Hitler's intentions on the eve of World War II or during the ensuing cataclysm. Nevertheless, the U.S.S.R. scored some of the most devastating triumphs in recruitment of foreign agents, such as the Cambridge Five, led by the arch-turncoat Kim Philby, who funneled Britain's secrets to the Communists for decades. Haslam provides revealing insights into the motivations of the operatives who toiled in this dangerous universe during the Soviet period and after the collapse of Communism. This complex and thematically dense book is only for those with a strong grasp of Soviet and post-WWII history.