Accessibility links

Breaking News

Former KGB General Charged With Treason in Russia - 2002-06-12

A major trial for treason is under way in Moscow. Only the accused is missing and happens to be in America. Former KGB General Oleg Kalugin was a Soviet master spy who gave up on the system and is now helping the West, where his vast experience as a one-time enemy is highly valued.

With the spring thaw, skeletons regularly popped up in a field outside Leningrad - the remains of some 70,000 victims of Stalin buried in a mass grave. With equal regularity, a KGB team appeared to rebury the offending skeletons so they could not be seen by the Russian people.

Many other skeletons of Soviet times have been unearthed by former KGB General Oleg Kalugin in his book, The First Directorate, including his own involvement in a 1978 assassination of a Bulgarian broadcaster for Radio Liberty-Radio Free Europe - death by poisoned umbrella tip.

Mr. Kalugin operated skillfully in what is aptly called a wilderness of mirrors and scored many espionage successes for the Soviet Union, until he became disillusioned, turned against it and joined, at considerable risk, the democratic movement.

Like many others, he chose a KGB career for idealistic reasons. "In the early years of the Soviet Union," he said, "the Soviet model of socialism as the future of humanity appealed to many intellectuals, to many people actually worldwide. And that is what made the Soviet intelligence service so successful."

Mr. Kalugin said the KGB also had the virtue of patience. It was willing to wait a long time for espionage to pay off. "A guy may be picked up at an early age and gradually nurtured, guided, financed if necessary with the ultimate goal of penetration," he continued. "He has nothing behind, but he has everything ahead of him, his future, and we help him build his future. Take Kim Philby, a guy who was nobody and almost became chief of British intelligence.

Posing as a journalist in Washington, Mr. Kalugin recruited his share of spies among American newsmen, military officers and academicians. His biggest catch was John Walker, a naval officer who provided the Soviets with detailed U.S. ship movements, including nuclear submarines, for 18 years.

While this information was vital to Soviet planning, it also allayed fears of a U.S. attack. Mutual spying, said Mr. Kalugin, paradoxically kept a cold war from becoming hot.

In the post-Soviet era, he said, spies are busier than ever, but their motivation differs. "Money always played a role," he said, "but now it has become a major element. Since ideological barriers fell down, people often consider espionage as a kind of business. They do not see a mortal danger to their country's national security if they spy or give information to someone."

Mr. Kalugin added there is a new Russian recruitment tool; namely, growing anti-Americanism. People may hate America enough to spy on it. Mr. Kalugin said, "Spying is needed more than ever to make up for the loss of Soviet territory. "Russia has now to be prepared to face even smaller nations, international terrorism or the seeds of separatism, which are a fact of life in Russia today, particularly among the Muslim people, not only in the Caucasus but even in Tatarstan in the heart of Russia."

To what extent will neighboring Muslim states like Turkey and Iran encourage this separatism? Spies must find out.

If Russia's new association with NATO advances peace, said Mr. Kalugin, it also offers access to information. "The former friends of the Warsaw Pact, Poland and Czech Republic, are now members of NATO," he said. "The Russians claim that the Baltic states, which are now independent, are used by the Western intelligence services to penetrate Russia. True or not, the Russian intelligence now operates in these countries as well."

As for the United States, Mr. Kalugin said it is no longer Moscow's number one enemy, only its number one priority.

Mr. Kalugin is also a priority. He was recently issued a subpoena to return to Moscow to face trial for treason. Paul Joyal, publisher of the Daily Report on Russia, said he is targeted because he has been such an effective critic of Russia, past and present.

With no plans to return to the country he once served, Mr. Kalugin has framed the subpoena and put it on display at the international spy museum in Washington.