Think the Cold War is over? Think Russia is our ally, our friend? Think it's just U.S. incompetence that leads to major stories about U.S. incompetence? Did you think nuclear winter was true and not just propaganda? Think Russia doesn't spy on us anymore?
Well, have I got a book for you.
Comrade J: The Untold Story of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War is a fascinating read about ongoing espionage between the Russians and the U.S. Sergei Tretyakov was a high-level SVR (formerly KGB) agent who had worked in Canada and the U.S. spying and recruiting for the Soviet Union and, after the breakup of the U.S.S.R., Russia.
Tretyakov tells a fascinating and believable tale about the procedures and theories behind spying and how recruiting typically worked. For example, spies typically work with "unofficial contacts," who may not have any idea that they are giving useful information to the Russians, but who believe they are just exchanging information with an "ally." Former Deputy Department of State head Strobe Talbott was named as one of these. Tretyakov was quick to point out that Talbott was not a spy. Most of us would recognize Tretyakov's description of Talbott as a useful idiot (my word, not Tretyakov's), and that description fits many, if not most liberals and their attitude toward the U.S. with regards to foreign policy.
Indeed, so much of the information in Comrade J confirms what most conservatives would tell you about our enemies both inside and outside the U.S.: they wish to destroy the United States as a superpower. Short of that, they will embarrass the U.S. at any opportunity to damage U.S. credibility. Shockingly, Tretyakov frequently recruited informants who were not from the U.S., but from supposed U.S. allies like Canada, Germany and Japan. These were people who would never betray secrets about their own countries, but who felt justified to betray the U.S., which has helped countries around the world for more than half a century.
Tretyakov explains a variety of techniques used by Russians to spy on the U.S., most of which require research skills as opposed to James Bond-style intelligence. Much of the intelligence business was about reading U.S. newspapers and other publications (I'm sure in 2008, this includes American bloggers, particularly on the Left). Tretyakov even used the Freedom of Information Act to gain reports from Congressional committees. These reports contained information Tretyakov used to make other deductions about U.S. military strength and positioning.
What made Tretyakov turn on Russia, spy for the U.S. and, eventually, defect? Tretyakov says that his disaffection with Russia became absolute during the presidencies of Boris Yeltsin and Vladamir Putin, a period which brought in the thugocracy that now controls Russia. It was one thing to spy for the Soviet Union when he was protecting the people, according to Tretyakov. It was another thing to spy for corrupt officials who were lining their own pockets while millions of common Russians struggled to get by. My problem with this explanation is that I don't really believe Russia today is any different from the former Soviet Union in this regard. Top officials always lived much, much better than the common Russian. The real difference I see is in the level of crime aimed at ordinary citizens.
The second reason Tretyakov gave is more plausible to me: he wanted his daughter to have a better life and didn't think it was possible in Russia. After so many years in the West, it is doubtful to me that Tretyakov and his family would have adjusted well to life in Moscow (his daughter even says this). Certainly, the opportunities might not be there. I can understand someone defecting for the sake of his children.
There are, of course, those who are skeptical about Tretyakov's claims of recruitment and success, and there is a place for that. There may be places where Tretyakov plays up his own importance or role in various events to bolster his story. But overall, Comrade J is most believable and should give Americans pause about what they say or think about their own country. It certainly justifies questioning the patriotism of some people, particularly those who think patriotism is defined as opposing our country.
Here is an example of the useful idiot zone:
Sergei Tretyakov has been interviewed on CSPAN and NPR's Fresh Air and elsewhere this week, and I have had such mixed feelings about him. How has he helped his countrymen by betraying his country and defecting to the US? How would Americans view someone who defected from Bush's America, in a similar intelligence position, to Putin's Russia?
The moral relativism of the Left is incredible to behold. What was the solution, according to this commenter? To continue spying for a corrupt Russian government which could--and would--kill you for any or no reason? There's simply no comparison between Russia and the United States. Our critics do not have to worry about being gunned down in the street for disagreeing with American policy or exposing corruption. Perhaps that would be a difference these moonbats could understand, but don't count on it.