A KGB archivist named Vasili Mitrokhin defected to Britain in 1992.
The British helped him smuggle six trunks full of notes out of Russia.
These notes detail KGB operations against the West prior to 1985. Most
of the information offered by Mitrokhin has been known or suspected for
Mitrokhin did not originally intend on defecting to Britain. His
first choice was America. He tried to get the Americans to listen to him
on more than one occasion. He even took the dangerous step of going to
the American Embassy in Riga, Latvia. According to Paul Redmond, former
chief of CIA
counterintelligence, the CIA had no interest in Mitrokhin. In fact, they
turned him away. "It was a very breathtaking and stupid thing," admitted
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Some British officials have claimed that Mitrokhin is the most
important defector of the 20th century. This is certainly an
exaggeration. The current media excitement over Mitrokhin involves the
exploitation of sensational claims which are not all that sensational.
One has to remember that Mitrokhin's book, "The Sword and Shield," is
being mass marketed. In this context, who will read the book if it
doesn't contain "shocking" revelations?
But some people are genuinely shocked by Mitrokhin's information. The
establishment liberals of the 1970s are still with us, and these people
often had a naïve view of Soviet Russia and the KGB. In those days it
was fashionable to say that Communism had "mellowed" into something
almost benign. It was also fashionable to accuse the United States of
evil deeds and intentions. Of course, some voices in the media are not
shocked by Mitrokhin's testimony. Ted Koppel, for example, said that
he'd heard most of Mitrokhin's information 25 years ago. This is proof
that some reporters do their homework.
For all the media trumpeting of Mitrokhin's revelations, Ted Koppel
is right. Mitrokhin is not giving us news. Some journalists in the West may
express surprise that they have been duped, but the planting of
disinformation by the KGB is an old story, and KGB attempts to exploit
America's racial divide has been documented before. For that matter, KGB
support for terrorist groups, including the existence of secret
explosives caches in Western countries has been known about since 1971.
And the KGB was always a nursery for terrorists. It trained them and
equipped them. The KGB indirectly funneled guns and bombs to
organizations like the Irish Republican Army, the Palestinian Liberation
Organization and the African National Congress.
Today the Kremlin frequently supplies terrorist states with weapons.
This is reported in the papers, but it is rarely made into an issue.
Nobody seems to regard Russia's current actions as sufficiently
newsworthy. The theme of Russia's ongoing treachery and subterfuge
rarely breaks through the
five-second attention span of our glorious shopping mall regime. Our
shock and surprise always seems to come after the passing of decades,
when Russia's outrages are then marketed by publishers who seeks to
titillate the public.
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Andrei Navrozov was the first writer to notice that it is rarely
fashionable to discuss the Kremlin's current abuses. Instead, it is
fashionable to talk about such things when the abuses have become stale
and moldy. In his 1991 pamphlet, "The Coming Order," Navrozov reminds us
that mainstream Western historians didn't write of Stalin's bloody
crimes until after he was denounced by Khrushchev in 1956. Sadly, we are
always behind the times when it comes to Russia.
In this context, our naïve liberals ought to be experiencing
something akin to guilt. After all, they ruthlessly ridiculed the
anti-Communists for imagining that the Soviets were a threat during the
Cold War. Liberals refused to believe that Communism was murderous, that
it represented a grave danger to freedom and to our national security.
When Reagan called Soviet Russia "the evil empire," these same liberals
heaped such scorn and abuse on the president that he dared not repeat
Today it is vaguely comforting to see the liberals emerge from their
coma. Unfortunately, the liberals now imagine that the collapse of the
Soviet Union means that the military threat from Russia is no longer a
problem. Perhaps we should simply tell them to roll over and go back to
sleep. Of course, in the present instance they are joined in
semi-consciousness by many conservatives and right-wingers.
But returning to Mitrokhin's information, we have to admit that his
data is not without value, even if it is stale and moldy. For example,
the vulnerability of Italian diplomats to sexy Russian agents is
something he demonstrates, and this should remind us of the
vulnerability of our own elected officials. Related to this, we have
long known about the Romeos of the East German secret police, and the
"honeytraps" of the Romanians. We should remember that Moscow taught its
satellites how to play the espionage and subversion game, and sometimes
the satellites offered lessons in return.
There should also be no surprise that West German Chancellor Willy
Brandt was hounded by KGB recruiters who attempted to blackmail him.
Anyone who has read widely about the KGB's mission and methods knows
that Western politicians have always been prime targets of blackmail and
"false flag" recruitment operations. Perhaps cynics will be mildly
surprised at Mitrokhin's claim that Jimmy Carter's Secretary of State,
Cyrus Vance, refused to work for the KGB, or that Kissinger also refused
to climb on board the red espionage wagon. Be that as it may, the fact
that the Russians were trying all the doors is quite suggestive. We
ought to ask how the officials of the Clinton administration would react
to similar approaches from the Chinese, the Cubans and others.
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The strangest fact to emerge from the Mitrokhin material, however, is
not the material itself. The strangest thing is the support that
Mitrokhin's celebrity has received from retired KGB Gen. Oleg Kalugin,
who appeared on ABC's Nightline in order to praise the value of
Mitrokhin's revelations. It
is downright odd that the former deputy chief of KGB foreign
intelligence should publicly bolster the credibility of a KGB traitor.
Gen. Kalugin, after all, is no defector. His memoirs do not give away
any secrets. His disagreement with the old KGB is largely confined to a
personality clash with
his former boss, Vladimir Kryuchkov. In fact, Gen. Kalugin's memoirs
contain brilliant examples of disinformation. As the former head of the
KGB's foreign counterintelligence directorate, his recollections
artfully create the impression that the KGB never penetrated the CIA in
way. He puts out the standard KGB propaganda about the Kennedy
assassination. He slyly bolsters the credibility of the false defector,
Yuri Nosenko, and he insists on the impossibility of ideological
defectors to the USSR after 1971. It is too bad for Kalugin's
credibility that such defectors clearly existed, as in the case of Glenn
Souther, the man who stole the U.S. Navy's nuclear war plan in the mid
Given all of this, KGB Gen. Kalugin's appearance on ABC's Nightline
program may have a sinister significance. The cautious analyst must be
careful. A defector who brings us old news may be feeding us accusations
against persons who were innocent of espionage. He might also be
covering the tracks of some who were guilty.
Looking beyond the media's fixation on the moldy facts in Mitrokhin's
six trunks of notes, we must admit that he never quite takes us outside
the "wilderness of mirrors" that has always baffled American
intelligence. The great game between America and Russia continues, and
we must do our best to avoid the kind of useful idiocy that Lenin liked
to joke about.