Victor Cherkashin's incredible career in the KGB spanned thirty-eight years, from Stalin's death in 1953 to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. In this riveting memoir, Cherkashin provides a remarkable insider's view of the KGB's prolonged conflict with the United States, from his recruitment through his rising career in counterintelligence to his prime spot as the KGB's number- two man at the Soviet Embassy in Washington. Victor Cherkashin's story will shed stark new light on the KGB's inner workings over four decades and reveal new details about its major cases. Cherkashin's story is rich in episode and drama. He took part in some of the highest-profile Cold War cases, including tracking down U.S. and British spies around the world. He was posted to stations in the U.S., Australia, India, and Lebanon and traveled the globe for operations in England, Europe, and the Middle East. But it was in 1985, known as "the Year of the Spy," that Cherkashin scored two of the biggest coups of the Cold War. In April of that year, he recruited disgruntled CIA officer Aldrich Ames, becoming his principal handler. Refuting and clarifying other published versions, Cherkashin will offer the most complete account on how and why Ames turned against his country. Cherkashin will also reveal new details about Robert Hanssen's recruitment and later exposure, as only he can. And he will address whether there is an undiscovered KGB spy-another Hanssen or Ames-still at large. Spy Handler will be a major addition to Cold War history, told by one of its key participants.
It's not surprising that a book on spying would be tinged with irony. Midway through this gripping but soberly written expose on the Cold War spy game, the author, a former KGB agent, recalls some advice he gave back in the 1990s to former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, who wanted to know how Cherkashin was able to recruit CIA agents like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen as KGB spies and whether it was possible to prevent treason. "The only way to be entirely safe is to remove people from intelligence gathering," Cherkashin offered-an intriguing comment given the recent renewed emphasis on human intelligence. But throughout the book, Cherkashin proves his point, showing just how porous these agencies are and how operatives deftly remain effective as spies for both sides. Recruited in 1985, Ames and Hanssen made the initial overtures to the KGB, and Cherkashin was there to receive them and their boilerplate motivations for wanting to cross over-money and a sort of renegade patriotism that resolves itself by punishing the very country they serve. While Cherkashin's relationships with Ames and Hanssen are explained, almost more intriguing is the picture he paints of a time when spying was predominantly a human intelligence affair ripe with sex and blackmail. The author, who clearly believes in respect for the enemy, sometimes sounds like an apologist for his country's actions, as well as the actions of Ames and Hanssen. But this lack of sentimentality is what makes the book stand out. 16 page photo pull-out.