The Mitrokhin Archive,  by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin





Defector revealed books of secrets

February 25, 2004 

Vasili Mitrokhin, KGB archivist, 1922-2004


Vasili Mitrokhin, who has died aged 81, was the KGB archivist whose defection to Britain in 1992 brought a treasure trove of Soviet secrets to the West.

Mitrokhin's archive consisted of material culled from tens of thousands of top-secret KGB files, which he had laboriously copied down over 12 years and hidden in tins and milk crates underneath his dacha. It contained detailed records of every operation the KGB had mounted from its inception in 1917 to Mitrokhin's retirement in 1984, demonstrating the extent to which the KGB had successfully infiltrated the West and the way in which it had oppressed the Russian people.

Among other revelations, the papers disclosed that more than half of Soviet weapons were based on designs stolen from America; that the KGB had tapped the telephones of American officials, such as Henry Kissinger, and had spies in almost all the country's big defence contractors.

In France, at least 35 senior politicians were shown to have worked for the KGB during the Cold War. In Germany, the KGB was shown to have infiltrated all the major political parties, the judiciary and the police.

Also fascinating was the insight given into the absurd lengths to which the Russians were prepared to go to discredit those they regarded as ideological enemies. There was a plan to break the legs of Rudolf Nureyev, the ballet dancer, after he defected in the West in 1961. On one occasion a team of 18 KGB operatives was dispatched to the Philippines with instructions to ensure that the Soviet world chess champion, Anatoly Karpov, was not defeated by the defector Victor Korchnoi in the World Chess Championship. The methods used included putting a hypnotist in the front row of the audience, who stared at Korchnoi throughout the matches.

On September 11, 1999, the archive suddenly became news when serialisation of The Mitrokhin Archive, the book written by Mitrokhin with the historian Christopher Andrew, began in The Times. The revelations that captured media attention were not so much the disclosures about KGB operations against NATO and the suppression of dissent within the Soviet Union, but human interest stories about Soviet spies in Britain. These included Melita Norwood, an 87-year-old great-grandmother from Bexleyheath - the "spy who came in from the Co-op" - who was exposed as having been the KGB's longest-serving agent in Britain.

The acquisition of the Mitrokhin archive was a huge coup for British intelligence, which had recognised the value of the material after it had been turned down by the Americans.

But the revelations proved an embarrassment to the authorities when it emerged that the identity of the spies had been known to the security services since 1992 when the Mitrokhin archive was handed over to the British authorities, but no action had been taken.

Mitrokhin's motives were the subject of much speculation. He did not defect for the money and was not being blackmailed; nor did he seem to enjoy his new life in the West. Some suggested he had become embittered after being transferred from operational duties for the KGB to archives. But it is possible that his own explanation was the genuine one. He simply decided Soviet Communism was evil and should be opposed.

In handing over his archive, the only condition he imposed was that his work should be made public as a record for the Russian people and as a warning to future generations.

The son of a decorator, Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin was born in Yurasovo, in the rural Rayazan province of Soviet Russia. He entered artillery school, then attended university in Kazakhstan, graduating in history and law. Towards the end of World War II, he took a job in the military procurator's office at Kharkov in the Ukraine.

Then an idealistic communist, Mitrokhin entered the Higher Diplomatic Academy in Moscow and, in 1948, was recruited into the KI (the Committee of Information), the Soviet external service which was absorbed into the newly formed KGB in 1954.

During the 1950s he served on various undercover assignments overseas. In 1956, for example, he accompanied the Soviet team to the Olympic Games in Australia. But later that year, after he had apparently mishandled an operational assignment, he was moved from operational duties to the archives of the KGB's First Chief (Foreign Intelligence) Directorate, and told he would never work in the field again.

Mitrokhin sometimes dated the beginnings of his disillusionment to Khrushchev's famous speech to the Communist Party congress denouncing Stalin, though it seems he may have had doubts for some time before that. For years he had listened to the BBC and Voice of America, noting the gulf between their reports and party propaganda.

Yet when he began looking into the archives, he claimed to have been shocked by what he discovered about the KGB's repression of the Russian people. "I could not believe such evil," he recalled. "It was all planned, prepared, thought out in advance. It was a terrible shock when I read things."

When, in 1972, the archives were moved from the Lubyanka in Moscow to a new repository on the city outskirts, Mitrokhin seized his chance. Given the responsibility of checking and sealing about 300,000 files, he began making notes on the documents, which he smuggled out of the building in his shoes, trousers or coat. Had he been caught, he would have been executed.

Mitrokhin continued his clandestine activities for 12 years until he retired in 1984, when his boss, Vladimir Kryuchkov, congratulated him for his success in transferring the archives and his "irreproachable service to the state security authorities".

In retirement, Mitrokhin watched and waited. His opportunity came when the Soviet Union fell apart. In 1992, he obtained permission to take a holiday in Latvia. Taking samples of his archive with him, he walked into the American embassy in Riga and asked if he could defect. CIA officials at the embassy, struggling to cope with hundreds of Russian exiles fleeing the crumbling Soviet Union, were not interested. They reasoned Mitrokhin was not a spy, just a librarian, and the handwritten documents were probably fakes.

Mitrokhin then tried the nearby British embassy, which recognised his importance and made arrangements to spirit him out of the country. These were initially hampered by the need to retrieve the rest of the archive, still buried under Mitrokhin's dacha. A plan was hatched involving six MI6 officers dressed as workmen, who unearthed six trunks of material and loaded them into a van. On September 7, 1992, Mitrokhin, his family and his archive arrived in Britain.

So successful was the MI6 operation that, for some time, it seems the Russian authorities were unaware he had gone. They then made a clumsy attempt to discredit the archive, by sending two apparent "defectors" to Western intelligence agencies who claimed that the KGB's successor, the SVR, had decided on a massive clear-out of superannuated agents and had chosen Mitrokhin to transmit their details to the West. By that time, though, it had become clear that Mitrokhin's material was too valuable for the SVR to have handed it over willingly, and the "defectors" were exposed as Russian plants.

The publication of The Mitrokhin Archive in 1999 was followed by other publications, including, in 2002, Mitrokhin's KGB Lexicon.

But life in exile was difficult for Mitrokhin, who lived in fear that he might be stalked by vengeful former comrades. He spoke little English, had few friends and was devastated when his wife, Nina, died in 1999. Interviewers noticed a sadness hanging over him.

The Mitrokhin archive led to resignations, arrests and a few prosecutions around the world, though there are believed to be about 300 Soviet sources still living in Britain and America who have not yet been publicly identified.

Mitrokhin is survived by his son.



Three steps from defection to exploitation

Analysis: How British intelligence kept its defector under wraps for seven years before letting him cash in

David Leigh
Monday September 13, 1999
The Guardian

The historically fascinating contents of the Mitrokhin archive were unveiled at the weekend, in just the same way as the files emerged of predecessors who defected to Britain, such as KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky in the 1980s and the Czech agent Josef Frolik back in 1969.

Gordievsky's dossiers brought about the arrest of a renegade British MI5 man, Michael Bettaney, and Frolik was responsible for the appearance at the Old Bailey of Labour MP Will Owen, who had been paid for information.

There is a well organised three-stage process in handling defectors such as Mitrokhin, who hope for resettlement in the west and - generally - a lot of money as a reward.

In Mitrokhin's case, the former KGB archivist has been kept under wraps for seven years, since he defected in 1992 with his cache of notes. For the first four years - during the Major government - he was locked away in silence by MI6, who brought him out of Moscow, while they debriefed him, analysed his files, followed up leads and identified Soviet agents who were still alive, such as Melita Norwood.

It was then that the official decisions should all have been taken as to what to do about elderly spies such as Mrs Norwood - whether to prosecute, interrogate in return for immunity, or simply to ignore them as being of only historical importance, long after the Cold War.


Once the British intelligence agencies had finished with Mitrokhin, they then briefed other friendly intelligence services, firstly the Americans.

With hindsight, we can now see Mitrokhin's hand in the sudden arrest by the FBI in February 1996 of Robert Lipka, a former employee of the super-secret code-breaking organisation, the National Security Agency. Long before in the 1960s, Lipka had, it turned out, been selling details of US troop movements in Vietnam to the Soviets.


The FBI went to some lengths to conceal their British-supplied source of information, organising a set-up to provoke Lipka into incriminating himself and spreading the story that Lipka's wife had betrayed him. Nevertheless, the rumour began to circulate that a super-defector had belatedly emerged from Russia. Lipka was jailed for 18 years.

The next western intelligence agencies to be passed a selection of Mitrokhin information were France, which was highly penetrated, and Germany. The German information, codenamed Weekend cast light on 50 outstanding espionage cases and prompted the authorities to begin 12 new investigations.

But the perils of sensationalised spy dossiers were instantly revealed. After misleading leaks to a German magazine in an election year, operation Weekend led to the Times in London publicising a completely bogus story that proof had at last emerged of longstanding allegations that former social democrat German Chancellor Willy Brandt was a Soviet agent - perhaps one of the most outrageous tall stories of the Cold War.

One of Mitrokhin's British handlers now says: "The wartime contacts of Willy Brandt were entirely misinterpreted in a partial leak of the Mitrokhin notes. Brandt was not a Soviet agent, but his wartime contacts were used by the KGB in an unsuccessful attempt to blackmail him in 1962."

Harold Wilson too, is exonerated by the Mitrokhin files, as being the target of an attempt at recruitment. Wilson made frequent visits to Moscow in the 1950s and 60s and the KGB made several attempts to get close to him, which were exploited by Wilson's political enemies. If Mitrokhin has further details, this will lay a second important historical issue to rest.

Possibly the least surprising revelations in Mitrokhin's files are details of the KGB recruitment of Labour MP Tim Driberg after being sexually compromised in Moscow. Driberg is well known to have supplied information to the British, the Czechs and the Russians, often simultaneously, but rarely reliably.

However, a third Labour MP is named by Mitrokhin. This was the late Ray Fletcher, MP for Ilkeston - a name which has never previously been sugggested by the professional mole-hunting world.

It may need to be treated with caution. Not only did backbench Labour MPs have very little genuinely secret information to pass to foreign intelligence services - but also, Eastern bloc intelligence officers were notorious for claiming to have recruited large numbers of "agents", for whom they could claim expenses.

The third and final stage in dealing with the Mitrokhin archive, once all western intelligence agencies had exhausted its possibilities, was to provide him with a biographer who could help fulfil the promise that the defector could retire in comfort.

He was turned over to Cambridge historian Christopher Andrew, who had successfully carried out the same exercise with Gordievsky, and the process began of turning Mitrokhin's recollections into hard cash.

Dr Andrew's book is tied in with a BBC TV series, due to start next Sunday. Serial rights were also sold to the Times. Naturally, the most marketable parts of the Mitrokhin archives are the spicy ones - about sexual entrapments, corrupt policemen, politicians, undiscovered minor agents and assassination plots.

Vicious operations

But some of this material - the unreal sabotage attempts and the zany schemes to disrupt Prince Charles' Caernarvon inauguration for example - are well known to specialists. So are the KGB's vicious operations against their own dissidents - men like Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov.

As the commercial bonanza continues, what historians will focus on are some still unsolved mysteries that may now be illuminated. For example, Mitrokhin claims that the reason behind the controversial British handover of Cossack prisoners to Russian vengeance after the war was a simple one - a British lieutenant-colonel was bribed by the Russians to agree to send the Cossacks to their deaths.

It is also becoming even clearer why the KGB, despite its extreme ruthlessness, was never ultimately successful. Mitrokhin confirms that the "Magnificent Five" - the British establishment spy-ring of Blunt, Philby, Burgess, Maclean and Caincross - were regarded with paranoid suspicion by the KGB.

For all the enormous resources devoted to the KGB, and the hundreds of agents it claimed to be running to penetrate every area of the west, political and economic, Mitrokhin's files, running up to his 1984 retirement, are a record of growing failure by the world's most powerful secret police.

KGB chief Yuri Andropov, who opposed the signing of the Helsinki agreement to respect human rights, unrealistically boasted in 1979 that they were destroying all internal dissent: "The KGB has learned to quash undesirable and hostile phenomena in their initial stages..Of the 15,560 people who were suppressed last year, only 107 showed themselves to be hostile a second time".

As the KGB frantically tried to discredit the new breed of progressive 'Eurocommunists', and the growing Polish opposition, Andropov claimed that the KGB's most important successful assassination ever was of the Afghan president Hafizullah Amin in 1979, which paved the way for the Soviet takeover of Afghanistan. This in fact proved to be one of the Soviet Union's most draining adventures, in a Cold War which, eventually and humiliatingly, they lost.



October 31, 1999

Secrets From the Lubyanka

A historian examines an archive of Soviet files smuggled to the West by a former K.G.B. agent.



The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB.
By Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin.
Illustrated. 700 pp. New York:
Basic Books. $32.50.


Collaborations between authors from opposite sides of the fallen Iron Curtain are becoming common enough to suggest a budding dacha industry. None, however, has enjoyed the blastoff of ''The Sword and the Shield'' -- a ''60 Minutes'' television segment, a full-page advertisement in The New York Times, a documentary on the History Channel and swift best sellerdom in this publication. All the attention arises from the book's reception as a fount of revelations about Soviet intelligence operations from the Russian Revolution through the cold war.

Here is its genesis: Vasili Mitrokhin, a veteran K.G.B. officer, becomes progressively disenchanted with the Soviet system. In 1972, he is made responsible for checking and sealing some 300,000 K.G.B. files in a move from the Lubyanka headquarters to a new building. He uses this privileged access to take longhand notes of the most sensitive files that pass through his hands. Over the next 12 years he hides thousands of pages of these notes at his dacha. In 1992, Mitrokhin defects to Britain, bringing his cache with him. He makes the smuggled archive available to British intelligence and teams up with Christopher Andrew, a leading writer on Soviet intelligence, to produce this volume.

Though much of ''The Sword and the Shield'' is drawn from Andrew's earlier works and collaborations, the book does contain fresh revelations. It comes as unsettling news that the K.G.B. secretly subsidized several Western authors, for example, financing, without the writer's knowledge, some of the research for Mark Lane's 1966 best-selling conspiratorial treatment of the Kennedy assassination, ''Rush to Judgment.'' The K.G.B. sent forged letters to major American newspapers claiming that the F.B.I. Director, J. Edgar Hoover, ''not content with turning the F.B.I. into 'a den of faggots,' had also allegedly been engaged for several decades in a larger gay conspiracy to staff the C.I.A. and State Department with homosexuals.''

The authors pay an indirect tribute to the unsung importance of secretaries. The K.G.B., we learn, conducted a ''Romeo'' operation employing lotharios to seduce and compromise sensitively placed secretaries. Indeed, probably the longest-serving Soviet agent in Britain, spying from 1937 to 1972, was a secretary, unmasked here after more than 60 years. Melita Stedman Norwood, today an 87-year-old unrepentant great-grandmother, passed along atomic secrets from her job at the Non-Ferrous Metals Association, which helped the Soviets save time in developing their own bomb.

We learn that before World War II, Soviet agents had a plan in place for a sniper to shoot Hermann GRated PG-13ring; that another agent became the piano tuner for Gov. Nelson Rockefeller; and that Soviet agents succeeded in bugging the meeting room of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Several of the much-publicized revelations, however, hardly qualify as such. For instance, the authors tell how the K.G.B. forged a letter from Lee Harvey Oswald to E. Howard Hunt, the former C.I.A. officer and later Watergate conspirator, in order to implicate the C.I.A. in the Kennedy assassination. Actually, this story surfaced in Henry Hurt's ''Reasonable Doubt,'' written 13 years ago. Similarly, the story that the K.G.B. considered schemes for breaking the legs of the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev for defecting to the West was first reported in a book written six years ago.

Of course, the authors are not responsible for what the news media have chosen to emphasize. They copiously acknowledge their sources in the back of the book. Rather, the recycling seems to speed up the old publishing saw that any story can be retold every 20 years.

The real value of this work is not so much in its fresh or not-so-fresh revelations. Rather, it provides a sweeping, densely documented history of the K.G.B. and its predecessor incarnations that establishes four salient features of Soviet espionage: that the preponderance of Soviet intelligence operations, after striking successes during World War II, were ham-fisted failures; that paranoia rather than reality prompted numerous K.G.B. spy operations; that what successes the K.G.B. did achieve during the cold war were enabled mostly by the greed of American and other traitors; and that good intelligence was often neutered by a fear of upsetting the cherished preconceptions of Kremlin leaders.

It is difficult to imagine a clumsier operation than the one mounted against Senator Henry (Scoop) Jackson, an implacable foe of the Soviet Union. Overrating Jackson's prospects as a 1976 Presidential candidate, the K.G.B. forged bogus F.B.I. documents alleging that Jackson belonged to a gay sex club. More laughable was a 1974 attempt ordered by the K.G.B. chief, Yuri V. Andropov himself, in a display of his monumental ignorance of America, to recruit hard-liners like Pat Buchanan and William Safire as Soviet agents.

Paranoia was so endemic in Soviet intelligence that even the Kremlin's star spies, the Cambridge five -- Donald Maclean, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, John Cairncross and Anthony Blunt -- were temporarily shelved in the baseless belief that they were working for British intelligence. With the passing of this ideologically motivated generation, the K.G.B.'s later successes depended on windfalls, not conquests. Robert Lipka, a clerk with the National Security Agency, now identified through the Mitrokhin papers, walked into the Soviet Embassy in Washington, offering his services for pay. John Walker walked into the same embassy to sell United States naval codes. And the most flagrant walk-in, the C.I.A.'s Aldrich Ames, we learn, was probably the top earner, collecting nearly $3 million from the K.G.B. for betraying 20 Western agents, most of whom were shot.

Paranoia seems to have been a communicable disease in the Kremlin. In retrospect, it is frightening to learn how often Soviet intelligence operations were motivated by an absolute conviction that the United States intended a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union. At one point, the K.G.B. delivered an assessment to Nikita S. Khrushchev reporting, ''In the C.I.A. it is known that the leadership of the Pentagon is convinced of the need to initiate a war with the Soviet Union 'as soon as possible.' ''A K.G.B. officer later admitted, ''In order to please our superiors, we sent in falsified and biased information, acting on the principle 'Blame everything on the Americans, and everything will be O.K.' ''

Even the cream of Soviet intelligence was rendered useless if it did not fit the bosses' biases. K.G.B. historians recorded over 100 intelligence reports forwarded to Stalin in 1941 that foretold Germany's invasion of Russia. Stalin stubbornly remained convinced that Winston Churchill was his archenemy, not Hitler, and he dismissed intelligence that failed to fit this near-fatal prejudice.

One answer that the reader seeks in vain to find in the Mitrokhin papers is a final explanation of the still-cloudy 1982 plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II. A source note in the back of the book reveals that even within the K.G.B., opinion was divided, with roughly half the staff believing that the Soviet Union was not involved and the other half believing that it was.

There was one espionage arena in which the K.G.B. did excel -- stealing American science and technology (perhaps because technology intelligence is hard and factual, while political intelligence is subjective and elusive). I.B.M., McDonnell Douglas, T.R.W., the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Argonne National Laboratory at the University of Chicago were all penetrated by K.G.B. agents.

A persnickety reader could quibble that the Mitrokhin archive is hearsay since it is composed of notes excerpted from documents rather than the documents themselves. It does seem odd that a key K.G.B. archivist never had access to a copying machine, but had to copy thousands of pages in longhand. Still, the overall impact of this volume is convincing, though none of the material will send historians scurrying to rewrite their books. Indeed, one conclusion that the reader comes away with is that the shenanigans of the K.G.B. differed little from those of the C.I.A. and other nations' intelligence operations, except that, thanks to Comrade Mitrokhin, the K.G.B. and most who spied for it have been stripped naked.

Joseph E. Persico is a biographer and historian currently writing on Franklin D. Roosevelt's involvement in World War II espionage.





The Economist




The Mitrokhin archive

Pilfered piles

Oct 20th 2005
From The Economist print edition

THE story of the late Vasili Mitrokhin is rather more remarkable than the story he tells. As an archivist in the foreign intelligence service of the Soviet Union, he was in charge of shifting the KGB's most secret documents from the old headquarters in central Moscow to a new skyscraper on the southern outskirts of the city. It was a job for someone totally loyal to the system. But Mitrokhin wasn't. He had turned into a staunch anti-communist early on in his career, and he vowed to copy down all he could in the hope of, one day, doing the Kremlin as much damage as he could.

Which he did, thanks to a diplomat at the newly re-opened British embassy in Riga in 1992, to whom a scruffily dressed Mitrokhin offered a sample of his archive. The rest is history, of a kind. With an ingenuity and daring worthy of—or in truth rather better than—their fictional counterparts in the novels of John le Carré and Ian Fleming, officers of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6) retrieved the huge cache of documents buried beneath Mitrokhin's country cottage.

That, we are told, dealt a devastating blow to the KGB's remaining cold-war assets. It included details of operations old and new, and the “crown jewels”—lists of undercover agents living in the West under carefully constructed secret identities. But the Russian spymasters could not be certain exactly what had been copied and taken. Given that a compromised intelligence operation is a lethally dangerous one, shutters slammed down all over the world—including, probably, on some operations and agents whose identities were still secure. That, in itself, provided yet more useful clues for western spycatchers.

How much more confusion was sown when a filleted selection of information about KGB operations in the West was published under Mitrokhin's name in 1999, the non-secret world will never know. The same applies to this second volume, which details Kremlin dirty tricks in the third world. As with the first, Mitrokhin has a co-author, Christopher Andrew, an historian who enjoys close ties with Britain's security and intelligence services.

Despite being written by such insiders, this book is curiously unsatisfying. Much of it is an elegantly presented narrative of information already in the public domain about Soviet mischief-making during the cold war. That is worth having. The extent to which Soviet spooks sponsored terrorists and spread lies about the West is known, but is not common knowledge. The world tends to remember more about the misdeeds of the CIA.

In this nutritious but unexciting dough come little raisins of Mitrokhin's own revelations. Almost the first, a typical one, comes on page 50, where the reader learns that the Centre (ie, KGB headquarters) condemned the Nicaraguan Sandinistas' offensive in the summer of 1967 as premature. That is footnoted to “vol 6, chap 13, part 3”. But what the context might be, the reader can't know. The Mitrokhin archive is hidden deep in the green glass SIS fortress on the banks of the Thames in London. And that is where it is likely to stay.

That's a problem for a book that wants to be a serious history. A reader needs to feel that he or she can go to the source material and check to see if it is used fairly and accurately. Few do, but the knowledge of that scrutiny keeps historians honest. With this book there are three kinds of uncheckable possible distortion.

First, the KGB documents themselves must be true. Given the way that the Soviet Union was founded on lies and deceit, and given the incompetence of its bureaucracy, that is a big, though not ludicrous, assumption. Then the reader must be sure that Mitrokhin, writing in a great hurry, in great secrecy and in great danger, copied everything down right. And thirdly, we have to believe that MI6's chiefs wholly withstood the temptation to use the material even slightly selectively, for the purposes of disinformation. But then that's the problem with all factual books about intelligence. Secrets and lies may be fascinating to many, but they are hard to hammer into truthful form.


Why the KGB went on a shopping spree
(Filed: 16/10/2005)

Alan Judd reviews The Mitrokhin Archive II by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin.

Vasili Mitrokhin was the senior KGB archivist who was given the task of moving the files of the First Chief Directorate - the KGB's foreign intelligence arm - to their new headquarters. This lengthy process gave him uninhibited access to those files until his retirement 12 years later.

He took secret notes and extracts of what he read and smuggled them out to create his own, very private, archive. When, years later, MI6 revealed this archive to the FBI and CIA they described it as "the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source… the biggest counter- intelligence bonanza of the post-war period." It would have cost Mitrokhin his life if he had been caught.

The disaffection that led him to risk his life daily in this manner had begun long before. The 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was a significant milestone in what he called his "intellectual odyssey", as was his later discovery of how the Soviet government had lied to its own people over Afghanistan. Frustrated in his desire to write an official history of the KGB, he determined to compile his own and publish it in the West.

In 1992 Mitrokhin put on shabby clothes, so as not to attract the attention of border guards, and took a train to one of the newly independent Baltic states. Hidden beneath the sausages in his rucksack was a sample of his notes. His approach to the British Embassy led to contact with MI6 and eventually to the secret exfiltration from Moscow of himself, his family and his entire archive (which filled six large containers).

Espionage necessarily in-volves deceit but it may also, paradoxically, be the midwife of truth. Mitrokhin was passionate for truth; he wanted the Russian people and the world to know the truth about the oppression and deceit practised upon them by the organisation in which he had spent his working life. Essential to his agreement with MI6 was that the truths he had unearthed should not simply be transferred from one secret registry to another but that they should be published for all to see. Mitrokhin is now dead, but MI6 is keeping its bargain.

Volume I (Allen Lane, 1999) dealt with the KGB's activities in Europe and the West and was written, like this new volume, by Christopher Andrew. Revelations in the first volume such as the identity of the "Granny spy", Melita Norwood, and details of the KGB cultivation of Harold Wilson (whom they never actually recruited), attracted a great deal of media attention. But that temporary fuss rather obscured the book's major themes - the KGB's manipulation of Western media, its highly successful thefts of Western technology, its obsessive fear of subversion and the inability of its own government to take full advantage of the often excellent political intelligence it acquired. This volume traces those themes throughout the rest of the world, with the important addition of KGB dealings with Third World leaders.

Already it has been headline news throughout India because of its exposure of KGB penetration of Indian governments and political parties, particularly the Congress Party of Mrs Gandhi's period. A KGB director frankly admitted that it had "scores of sources throughout the Indian Government… It seemed as if the entire country was for sale." Elections were swung, major deals concluded or prevented and suitcases full of banknotes delivered in secret to Mrs Gandhi's house at night (she never returned the empties). In 1975 alone the KGB calculated that its Active Measures operations brought about 5,510 anti-Western or pro-Soviet stories in the Indian media. Among its best agents was one of Mrs Gandhi's senior ministers; yet all the while it was the threat of CIA subversion that worried her.

Indira Gandhi herself was never an agent, however. The KGB had relations with many world leaders but it generally sought to enlist them as "confidential contacts" whom they could support and influence rather than recruit as agents. Relations with President Allende of Chile, for example, began in 1953 and were elevated to "systematic contact" after 1961. During his years of power meetings were often arranged through his favourite mistress, along with sex films and associated cavortings. On one occasion he was personally given $30,000 in order to "solidify trusted relations", on another $400 for "valuable information".

Relations with Castro were more troubled. To start with, he was an affluent landowner who took no interest in Communism until in power (although his brother Raul was more sympathetic). Then, having sided with the Soviet Union, he became embarrassingly supportive, comparing the election of President Reagan with that of Hitler and suggesting the redeployment of Soviet missiles to Cuba if US cruise missiles were sent to Europe. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the coup plotters against Gorbachev.

Meanwhile, KGB Active Measures campaigns flourished throughout the world's media, ranging from the widely-believed CIA-started-Aids story to the alleged kidnapping of Latin American children for US spare part surgery (a story taken up by the Jehovah's Witnesses).

There is much else in this well-written and often ironically amusing work, making it as great a credit to the scholarship of its author as to the dedication and courage of its originator. It convincingly demonstrates that any assessment of 20th-century international relations that does not include the intelligence dimension is one-legged, at best. And, as Christopher Andrew points out, the SVR - the KGB's successor - flourishes still.

Alan Judd's books include ''The Quest for C: Mansfield Cumming and the Founding of the Secret Service' (HarperCollins)



Russia's daily online

October 12, 2005

Arch-Important Witness

The Mitrokhin Archive, the most scandalous book about the KGB, was published six years ago. The continuation of the story of the KGB’s secret operations has been just released, after the author’s death, to bring more sensations.

Any literary critic will say that a sequel is normally inferior to the first book in both content and reader’s attention. Publishers of the UK version The Mitrokhin Archive, Volume 2: The KGB and the World and The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World US edition had good reasons to be afraid that KGB officer Vasily Mitrokhin and British intelligence historian Christopher Andrew’s joint work would have a similar fate. The amazing success of the first Mitrokhin Archive was, after all, the result of quite a fancy story [see the article below].

The publishers’ apprehensions did not come true, though. Many events described in the book have been widely covered long before. But they get some evidence only now. The book greatly broadens the view on the KGB’s role in the international policy. Many national heroes of emerging countries are now seen in a drastically different light.


The first and, probably, the main victim of the second volume of The Mitrokhin Archive is Indira Gandhi, code-named “Vano”. The documents disclosed in London state that India’s most famous woman was a KGB agent. It is quite obvious that she was under practically unlimited influence of the Soviet intelligence.

The KGB started paying attention to Indira Gandhi as early as in the mid-50s but at that time, she played an insignificant part of someone who could influence her father Jawaharlal Nehru, the first leader of the independent India. The first present that the KGB gave to Indira in 1955 was a fur coat. Gifts were getting more and more valuable. In the 1960s, the Soviet secret service bankrolled the election campaign of some prominent leaders of India’s ruling party, and after the party split up the Soviet supported Gandhi’s faction. From this moment, the Soviet influence on Indira Gandhi and her party became total. The KBG papers say that the Soviet intelligence service deliberately fostered the Indian’s distrust to the United States by constantly providing her with materials on the links of the opposition with the stateside intelligence. Gandhi’s fear of conspiracies ended up in paranoia.

Meanwhile, the KGB still financed the ruling party of India. Suitcases full of money were sent right to the prime minister’s residence. By late 1970s, the Soviet secret service funded several ministers, many regional leaders, ten newspapers and one news agency. Not a single step in India’s foreign policy was at odds with the Soviet diplomacy. Here is an example that could show how many spies worked for the USSR in the country. When an Indian minister offered a KGB against to sell important information and charged $50,000 for it, he got a refusal since this information was no longer a secret for the Soviet Union. It would be certainly impossible without the leadership of “dear Ms. Indira Gandhi”, aka “contact Vano”.


In contrast, the KGB’s efforts in Latin America were not that successful. Judging by the document published in the second volume of The Mitrokhin Archive, a major victory of the Soviet secret service was Chile’s Salvador Allende’s rise to power in early 1970s. The Soviet gave him the code name “Leader”.

Allende’s victory cost the KGB $420,000. The documents published in London do not answer the question whether Allende knew where the money for his election campaign was coming from. But even if he did not, he must be suspecting. It was not the Soviet Ambassador to Santiago that he regularly met as the main Soviet representative after assuming power but it was a KBG chief in Chile, Svyatoslav Kuznetsov, who personally “guided” Allende. The president’s lover, Miria Kontrereas Bell, known in Moscow as “Marta”, organized the meetings. It was at the first date with Kuznetsov that the Chilean leader agreed to launch the military and intelligence service reform to strengthen the mutual understanding between the two countries.

The KGB, however, soon realized that Allende was not the best candidate to contest the CIA in Chile. He was quite diligent in realizing all Soviet recommendations but he evidently lacked the rigidity. He was unwilling to turn Chile into a second Cuba. What is more, he was sure that the people would back him without the Soviet’s support, and evidently took pride in being the first Marxist to rise to power in Latin America democratically.

The KGB’s work halted when the new Soviet Ambassador to Chile, who would not play the part of the mission’s nominal head, arrived in 1972. The opposition between the member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee Alexander Basov and the KGB chief in Chile Svyatoslav Kuznetsov drowned the idea on the creation of the pro-Soviet regime in Chile. In September 1973, unreformed units of the Chilean army rebelled, and Salvador Allende shot himself with the rifle Fidel Castro had given him as a present.


The project to turn Nicaragua into a socialist state was somewhat more successful for the KGB. The documents that Mitrokhin made public have it that Carlos Fonseca, the founder of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, who countered the pro-US regime and finally rose to power, was an active KGB agent, known as “Hydrologist”.

The Front was initially created not only to seize power in Nicaragua but also as to form sabotage groups to act throughout the whole of Northern and Central America. At the end of the 1960s, that a Sandinist group was sent to Mexico to examine the region with the view to carry out sabotage operations in the United States. Almost all operations of the Sandinists were fulfilled under the control or, at least, with the agreement of the KGB chiefs in Chile. It was the case in 1978 when a group led by Eden Pastora, another Sandinist and a future leader of contras, seized the building of the Nicaraguan Parliament and took the deputies hostages. Beforehand, Pastora agreed upon the details of the operation, aimed to release the imprisoned Sandinist leaders, with the KGB chief in Managua. The undertaking went off well. Pastora, the released leaders and a $500,000 ransom arrived in Cuba. The island was still the base of the KGB’s activities in the regions, and was called “Outpost” in the state committee’s documents.

The Second Caribbean Crisis

Fidel Castro did not catch the eye of the Soviet intelligence straightaway, in defiance of the popular opinion. According to the papers of Mitrokhin’s archive, the Soviet made first contacts with Castro only after he assumed office. It took the KGB some time to examine him until they let him make the island the Soviet outpost in the Western hemisphere.

The documents on Cuba are perhaps the tritest from Mitrokhin’s archive. Many things published now have been already widely known for a long time. And yet, the book contains some new and interesting details. For one, when Raul Castro, the younger brother of Fidel Castro went to Czechoslovakia to buy armaments, KGB agents in Prague reported that the second man in Cuba slept in his shoes and showed an exceptional fastidiousness in relationships with women demanding that all prostitutes who visited him be blond.

Readers of the second volume of The Mitrokhin Archive will naturally be surprised to learn that Cuba could have become the reason for the third world war twice, not only once, as was earlier thought. The book cites a report on the meeting between Fidel Castro and some Soviet general who went to Havana on inspection in 1982. The Cuban leader offered his country’s territory as a base to station nuclear missiles, which, as he claimed, was an adequate response to the basing of American missiles in Europe. The Mitrokhin Archive does not describe the reaction of the Soviet. This time was the beginning of constant reshuffles of General Secretaries in the USSR, and the KGB, as all other parts of the system, probably had to time to consider Cuba’s proposal.

The Fate of the Re-Writer

Vasily Mitrokhin was born in 1922 in the village of Yurasovo, Ryazan Region. After the graduation from the university and a short-lived job in the military prosecutor’s office in Kharkov, he entered the MGB in 1948. He served various assignments overseas during the 1950s. In 1956, for example, he accompanied the Soviet national team at the Olympics in Sydney. The same year he was accused of negligence and was moved from the operational duties to the archives of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate. As Mitrokhin said, he got disillusioned in the Communist ideas after the Khrushchev’s speech at the close-door plenary session of the party’s Central Committee. The officer started gathering the documents in 1972 when the archives of the First Directorate were moved from the Lubyanka headquarters to a new building in Yasenevo. Mitrokhin buried his personal archive at his dacha outside Moscow.

He went to Latvia with the archive in 1992 to place it at the disposal of the US intelligence. Yet, CIA officers did not consider Mitrokhin credible and thought that his archive, which was mainly made up of handwritten copies of top-secret documents, was fake. Mitrokhin, his family and the whole of his archive, which covers the operations of the Soviet secret service from the 1930s to the late 20th century, were taken to Britain. The authenticity of the archive was confirmed. As Christopher Andrew, historian and Mitrokhin’s co-writer says, “Forging dozens of thousands of documents so that none of them contradict any other that we have is so difficult that seems to be utterly impossible.”

The first part of Mitrokhin’ archive which includes documents on the KGB’s operations against the countries of the West was published in 1999. The world learnt about the taping of Kissinger’s calls, about Soviet spies at US major companies contracted with the Pentagon, about the fact that at least 35 high-ranking officials in France were KGB agents and that Soviet agents got into governing bodies of all parties, courts and the police in Germany.

Mitrokhin died in the UK on January 23, 2004.

by Vyacheslav Belash


Russian Article as of Oct. 10, 2005


October 02, 2005

The Sunday Times - Books

The Mitrokhin Archive II by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin



by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin 

Allen Lane £30 pp677

After the death of Stalin, with the Soviet empire secured as far west as the Oder and Danube, the Soviet Union’s apparently formidable secret police and intelligence service became committed to realising Lenin’s dream of global revolution — rallying the comrades, in the words of the Internationale, for the “last fight to unite the human race”. This long-awaited second tranche from the 2,000-folio KGB archive smuggled out of Russia by its archivist Vasili Mitrokhin reveals a classic case of hubris and nemesis.

Having denounced Stalin’s Cult of Personality at the 20th party congress in 1956, Khrushchev also disposed of his policy of “socialism in one country”. He announced instead that “the new period in world history that Lenin predicted has arrived, and the peoples of the East are playing an active part in deciding the destinies of the whole world — are becoming a new mighty factor in international relations”. So credulous were the supposed hard men of the Kremlin that for a quarter of a century they believed the Third World was the arena in which they could win the cold war. This illuminating book, co-authored by Christopher Andrew, our leading authority on the secret machinations of the Evil Empire, is the measure of their progressive disillusionment.

Andrew pays tribute to the courage of Mitrokhin, who died here last year aged 82, in secure exile. He reminds us that had the KGB learnt that their plots were being betrayed to the West by one of their own most trusted officers, “the odds are that after a secret trial Mitrokhin would have ended up in the execution cellar with a bullet in the back of the head”.

Of those peoples of the East envisaged by Khrushchev as the storm troops of the final phase of world revolution, none were so assiduously courted by his intelligence service as the Indians. Among revelations that have already made sensational headlines in the Indian press is the disclosure that Indira Gandhi — code-named “Vano” — was fed details of bogus CIA conspiracies, as well as forged documents that purported to show that Pakistan was behind the growth of Sikh separatism. The KGB claimed that Afghan refugees had been contracted to murder her. However, as Andrew says, Gandhi “tragically underestimated the threat posed by her own Sikh bodyguard” — and the invasion of the Golden Temple of Amritsar signed her death warrant.

If the head of the KGB’s counterintelligence, Oleg Kalugin, regarded India as a “model of infiltration of a Third World government”, it was to the West, four years after the 20th-congress speech, that his mercurial leader Khrushchev turned to establish a “bridgehead” against the “main adversary”, the United States. The famous bear-hug exchanged at the United Nations in 1960 with the charismatic “maximum leader” of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro, was intended principally as a rapier thrust at the Americans on their own turf. Actually, at first the Russians were sceptical of Castro’s Marxist commitment and Khrushchev accused him of “adventurism”. Nevertheless, Khrushchev’s brinkmanship carried the relationship onward, to the verge of Armageddon, in the missile crisis of 1962.

As Andrew points out, the Americans’ dirty tricks on the Latin American front did give the KGB a string of first-class propaganda coups, from the Bay of Pigs to the Iran-Contra affair. In fact, he calls Reagan’s campaign against the Sandinistas “a public relations disaster on a global scale”. Elsewhere, America became paired in Mexican eyes with Pinochet’s Chile as the two “most unappealing countries” after KGB black propaganda put it about that Mexican children were routinely being kidnapped, spirited across the American border and murdered for their vital organs.

Pinochet’s predecessor Salvador Allende was given the code name Leader by Moscow Control — an inappropriate choice as his total incompetence soon raised doubts about his survival prospects. This idol of the left, with a penchant for good wines and sexual voyeurism, ignored repeated warnings from the KGB to suppress the rising tide of disaffection in his army’s ranks. After the inevitable CIA- inspired coup of 1973, the Kremlin was left with a single champion in the New World, Castro, who continued to hurl defiance — and take its economic aid.

The other promising area for undermining western influence was in the Middle East — yet it would ultimately prove the graveyard of the Soviet empire. Russian intelligence was already aware of the threat from militant Islam signalled by the Iranian revolution, but it was Yuri Andropov’s KGB that fanned the flames, advising Brezhnev to intervene in Afghanistan. As part of their global propaganda campaign they also put out a story that Jimmy Carter’s security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, had developed an “Islamic Kriegspiel against the Soviet Union, to create an Islamic ‘bomb’ in Central Asia”. The “bomb” exploded under them in Chechnya, with consequences that are still reverberating.

As soon as he took power Gorbachev issued a diktat against “the impermissibility of distortions of the factual state of affairs in messages and informational reports sent to the central committee”. It was too late. As Andrew says, the ruinously expensive flow of arms and military hardware to the Third World had fatally undermined the creaking Soviet economy — and “fantastic conspiracy theories reflected the state of disorientation and denial within KGB Centre’s leadership produced by the collapse and global humiliation of the political system of which they were part. The Soviet Union had nothing of importance to offer the Third World save for arms which most of the recipients couldn’t afford to buy and Moscow could no longer afford to subsidise”. It sums up the essence of this important book, which, while it casts a baleful light on a crazed political experiment, still has lessons for our present confused world scene.


The statesman  





The Mitrokhin Archive II ~ An Indian Perspective




The Mitrokhin Archive II by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, Allen Lane, 2005.

Vasili Mitrokhin’s defection from the former Soviet Union to Britain in 1992 caused a treasure-trove to reach MI-6 and the CIA and FBI, because he exposed many dozens of Soviet agents and their plots and intrigues around the world. But the fact that his material greatly helped Anglo-American counter-Intelligence does not per se make it a source of accurate evidence with which a historian’s history book can be created. Rather, what this monumental and informative volume amounts to being is a vast documentation, from an Anglo-American perspective, of what MI-6 and its allies have agreed to make public about what they now know of Soviet foreign policy and KGB practices, and of how Russian diplomacy and the KGB’s successors might function in the future.
That this is not a detached and disinterested history of Intelligence is revealed by the three chapters on the subcontinent which have been causing a stir in India for the wrong reasons. Everyone in the 1970s and through the 1980s knew of the tight grip around New Delhi’s policy- making circles of senior bureaucrats, academics and journalists who were blatantly and incorrigibly pro-Soviet, some being active Communists or fellow-travellers. Some of those complaining today know fully well that a cardinal implicit reason the CPI-M broke from its parent party had to do precisely with Moscow’s control of the CPI.
Moreover, while it might have been newsworthy when the KGB honey-trapped a senior diplomat or a junior cipher clerk in the Indian Embassy now and then, there were also hundreds of public sector bureaucrats, military personnel, journalists, technology professors, writers, artists, dancers et al who were treated most hospitably by the Soviet state – getting freebies flying to Soviet cities, being greeted by singing Young Pioneers, touring L’Hermitage with Intourist, receiving dollar honoraria and splendid gifts, sitting in on “technical training”, even receiving bogus Soviet doctoral degrees to allow themselves to be called “Dr” etc.
Purchasing influence in New Delhi or any other capital city has never been merely a crude matter of cash-filled suitcases sloshing around in the middle of the night. Much of what Mitrokhin’s material says about the KGB’s penetration of India should, candidly speaking, generate but a desultory yawn from us – although even this book seems not to know that Narasimha Rao’s infamous, catastrophically damaging remarks in August 1991, in favour of the abortive KGB coupled by Kryuchkov against Gorbachev and Yeltsin, had been prompted by a staunchly pro-Soviet retired Indian diplomat at his side long-associated with the CPI.
Yes there are many titbits in this book that may be of interest from an Indian perspective – such as that Sanjay Gandhi’s entourage contained both a Soviet and an American mole in it (where are they now?). But what may be far more interesting to us today is what can be deduced from what Mitrokhin is silent about. For example, India and the Soviets were close allies in 1971 when Kissinger had teamed up with Yahya Khan and Bhutto to send Nixon to China. It is well known our Army chief, General Maneckshaw, had demanded and received from Indira Gandhi and Jagjivan Ram enough time to prepare to go to war, and when Maneckshaw finally did move to liberate Bangladesh in December, it surprised Yahya and the Americans. Were the Soviets also quite surprised?

If so, it would mean that although the Indian establishment was as porous as a sieve with respect to arms’ deals and the like, on a matter of paramount national interest, namely, the just war on our own against Yahya Khan and Tikka Khan’s brutality in East Pakistan condoned by Nixon and Kissinger, India had kept her secrets secure. If, as seems likely, Indira Gandhi and her overtly Communistic advisers had kept India’s war plans from not leaking to the KGB between March and December 1971, we may not have been in fact too badly compromised despite the widespread “shallow” penetration that occurred through corruption all around in the bureaucracy, academic institutions, media and political parties. Mitrokhin’s material describes this kind of shallow corrupt penetration that everyone knew was (and still remains) part of the lobbying process in Delhi.
But there is no evidence in the book that the KGB knew of General Maneckshaw’s military preparations or plan of action until the lights went out in a blackout in Delhi on the night of 2 December, 1971 – that at least is something of which Indians may be slightly proud today. The same goes for the Pokhran nuclear tests. It is well known the CIA was caught by surprise by Pokhran-II in 1998; was the KGB caught by surprise by Pokhran-I in 1974? Probably so. Equally, the book says the KGB had at one point cracked Pakistani codes; did the Soviets share this information with India? Almost certainly not.
Our government’s chummery with the Soviets during the Cold War probably stopped well short of complete incest. Unfortunately, many questions of interest to India or other countries have simply not been asked in the book. The Soviets (and Harold Wilson) had seemed to broker the India-Pakistan ceasefire in 1965, and Lal Bahadur Shastri died the day after he signed the Tashkent Declaration. What is the inside KGB information on that? We do not know from this book.
What do Soviet archives say about Communist influence through the 1940s in Jammu & Kashmir (upon some of the very names who became Indira Gandhi’s inner circle later in Delhi)? Or about the uncritical adoption in the 1950s of Sovietesque economic models by the Planning Commission (and the suppression of Milton Friedman’s November 1955 memorandum to the Government of India, as well as the tarnishing of BR Shenoy as a CIA agent)?

The answers are not present in this book because these and analogous questions of interest to India or many other countries simply have not been asked. Mitrokhin’s material has been mined only from an Anglo-American point of view, and until it is thrown open completely to everyone, a detached and disinterested history of permanent and universal interest on the important matters it touches upon is not available.
Several factual and methodological problems result as a consequence, and these need to be identified for purposes of future progress in understanding. For example, the book speaks many times of the KGB having forged or fabricated documents around the world as a technique of spreading disinformation. Doubtless this was standard operating procedure for Intelligence agencies but it is left completely impossible for the average reader to come to any assessment whether a given document mentioned was genuine or forged.
Consider a case in Iran. The book states that in February 1958, the KGB ***“forged a letter from the American Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, to his ambassador in Teheran belittling the Shah’s ability and implying that the USA was plotting his overthrow. The Teheran residency circulated copies of the letter to influential Iranian parliamentarians and editors in the confident expectation that one would come to the attention of the Shah — which it duly did.
According to the KGB files on the operation, the Shah was completely taken in by the fabricated Dulles letter and instructed that a copy be sent to the US embassy with a demand for an explanation. “Though the embassy dismissed it as a forgery, the Teheran residency reported that its denials were disbelieved. Dulles’s supposedly slighting references to the Shah were said to be a frequent topic of whispered conversation among the Iranian elite.” (p.171)
It is impossible for anyone who has not seen this document or other supporting evidence to come to any assessment of what actually happened here. Matters are made worse by a note that says the KGB “claimed improbably that the Americans blamed the forgery not on the KGB but the British, who were said to be jealous of the strength of US influence in Iran”.
Was the document genuine or was it forged and if so by whom? If forged, must we believe the KGB was so astute in 1958 in its knowledge of American idiom that it could achieve the tremendous deception of mimicking the greatest of Cold Warriors writing to his own ambassador, enough to fool the Shah of Iran who had been placed in power by the very same Americans? No one can really tell unless the documents are opened up completely.
{Indeed an allied problem is also revealed. MI-6, the FBI, CIA etc belong to the most advanced of nations and freest of societies yet even they have been known to make catastrophic blunders, be filled with organisational ineptitude and political, administrative and technical incompetence. Is there any reason to think the KGB was not similarly bumbling, especially belonging as it did to a one-party totalitarian state in a closed and repressive society? Yet this book seems to make what can be called the Ian Fleming Fallacy of Overestimating an Enemy, namely, that the KGB (“the Centre”) was possessed of a super-rational omniscience and diabolical intent and capacity which caused history to be made or unmade around the world almost as easily as playing a game of chess. Why think the KGB was such a genius of an organisation when the whole Soviet state itself was so creaky? Doubtless, foreign embassies while doing normal diplomatic work also try to manipulate events in their host countries, but there may be a universal tendency to exaggerate their own (and their enemies’) prowess and success.}

Another example is of more topical interest, and also reveals that this book must be seen as a contribution to a continuing (if friendly and academic) battle between rival Intelligence agencies.
Yevgeny Primakov, the former KGB chief and reformist Prime Minister (and Soviet Ambassador to India) is quoted as saying about the American help to the Pakistan-based guerrillas against the Soviets in Afghanistan: “the idea of deploying the Stingers (shoulder-held ground-to- air-missiles) was supplied by Osama bin Laden, who had been cooperating closely with the CIA at the time.” (Russian Crossroads, Yale University Press, 2004.) Professor Andrew denies this flatly: “There is no support in the Mitrokhin material (or any other reliable source) for the claim that the CIA funded Bin Laden or any of the other Arab volunteers who came to support the Mujahideen. Most were funded through charities and mosques in West Asia, especially Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and were frequently viewed with suspicion by the Afghan mujahideen.” (p. 579)
It is obvious why this question is important: if Primakov is right and Andrew is wrong the Americans must be acutely embarrassed in having been allies or supporters or financiers not long ago of the very same Bin Laden who has now become their most bitter enemy. The US government’s “9/11 Commission” in 2004 made a much weaker statement than Professor Andrew: “Saudi Arabia and the USA supplied billions of dollars worth of secret assistance to rebel groups in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet occupation. This assistance was funnelled through Pakistan: the Pakistani military Intelligence (ISID) helped train rebels and distribute arms. But Bin Laden and his associates had their own sources of support and training and they received little or no assistance from the USA…. In his memoirs, (Bin Laden’s deputy) Ayman al Zawahiri contemptuously rejects the claim that the Arab mujahideen were financed (even “one penny”) or trained by the USA…CIA officials involved in aiding the Afghan resistance regarded Bin Laden and his ‘Arab Afghans’ as having been militarily insignificant in the war and recall having little to do with him.”
Bin Laden was a callow youth when he got to Afghanistan shortly after the Soviet invasion in December 1979. Yet his contributions of funds, military effort and religious zealotry made him emerge at age 33-34 as the “Emir” of Al-Qaida by the time the Soviets were compelled to withdraw in 1989, having suffered 14,500 dead.
The Americans then began to lose interest in the region and in their Pakistani clients, and it was in that atmosphere that Pakistan decided to declare its independence in the world with its clandestine nuclear programme (never having felt part of the nationalist movement which led to Indian independence in 1947). It was in the same period that Bin Laden and Al-Qaida grew to become implacable and formidable enemies of the West, which culminated in the 9/11 mass murders in 2001.
The claim that while the CIA certainly supported “Afghan” jihadists, it did not support Arab or African ones like Bin Laden and his friends is highly implausible.
The New Yorker and Washington Post reported in 1986 that the CIA is supplying and training Hekmatyar’s “Hizbe-Islami” in the use of Stinger missiles to bring down Soviet aircraft. It is impossible to imagine the admittedly myopic American policy at the time included checking passports of these trainee-beneficiaries, saying “OK, you’re an Afghan resistance fighter you get a Stinger, you’re an Arab/African terrorist-of-the-future-who-may-attack-New York, you don’t”. Professor Andrew quotes positively the work on Bhutto of Raza Anwar, the Pakistani socialist, but he may have been unaware of Anwar’s The Tragedy of Afghanistan (Verso, 1988) where the precise nature of the American, Chinese and Arab support for the thousands of guerrillas in the dozens of camps in Zia’s Pakistan is quite fully and objectively documented.

Foreign jihadists in Jammu and Kashmir came to be known as “Afghans” because they were veterans of the Afghan conflicts, not because they were Afghan nationals. Unlike Britain’s MI-6, the US government’s 9/11 Commission has made no bones about the connection between Bin Laden and the Pakistani ISI whose intent has been to attack India: “Pakistan’s rulers found these multitudes of ardent young ‘Afghans’ a source of potential trouble at home but potentially useful abroad. Those who joined the Taliban movement, espousing a ruthless version of Islamic law, perhaps could bring order in chaotic Afghanistan and make it a cooperative ally. They thus might give Pakistan greater security on one of the several borders where Pakistani military officers hoped for what they called ‘strategic depth’ (…. Pakistan’s need for a friendly, pliable neighbour on the west due to its hostile relationship with India on the east.)… It is unlikely that Bin Laden could have returned to Afghanistan (in 1996) had Pakistan disapproved. The Pakistani military Intelligence service probably had advance knowledge of his coming, and its officers may have facilitated his travel. During his entire time in Sudan, he had maintained guesthouses and training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These were part of a larger network used by diverse organisations for recruiting and training fighters for Islamic insurgencies in such places as Tajikistan, Kashmir and Chechnya. Pakistani Intelligence officers reportedly introduced Bin Laden to Taliban leaders in Kandahar, their main base of power, to aid his reassertion of control over camps near Khowst, out of an apparent hope that he would now expand the camps and make them available for training of Kashmiri militants.”
Regardless of the fondness of the very strong lobby of British apologists (led by a former British High Commissioner to Pakistan) for the ISI and Pakistani Army, no detached history of modern Intelligence in our part of the world can be written which whitewashes the misdeeds of Pakistan’s Generals over several decades.
Aside from what The Mitrokhin Archive II signifies about our region, there is a great amount of invaluable material on other parts of the world too, from Chile and Peru to Cuba and Nicaragua, to South Africa and Egypt and Israel, to China and Korea and Japan. Indeed the keenest pages have to do with the internecine tensions between Communists, like Castro and Gorbachev, or Khrushchev and Mao Zedong, in which no Anglo-American interests were involved. We in India have had our share of academic apologists and fellow travellers for totalitarian Communist China, but the roots of the Sino-Soviet split have never come to be aired in Indian discussion.

Professor Andrew is a leading member of the vitally important Cold War International History Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, whose website displays new and vitally important data from formerly Communist countries (like Mongolia, Russia and East Germany) about how Chinese Communists saw and felt about India, Pakistan, Tibet etc, which needs urgent attention from serious Indian observers. The Mitrokhin Archive II gives us a privileged glimpse of some of what happened:
“The Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s brought to an acrimonious end the deference from the PRC which Stalin had taken for granted. The first public attack on Moscow was made by Mao’s veteran security chief, Kang Sheng, whose ferocious purges during Mao’s Great Leap Forward were largely modelled on techniques he had learned in Moscow during the Great Terror. On the Soviet side, the ideological dispute with China was compounded by personal loathing for Mao — the ‘Great Helmsman’ — and a more general dislike of the Chinese population as a whole, Khrushchev ‘repeatedly’ told a Romanian delegation shortly before his overthrow in 1964 that ‘Mao Zedong is sick, crazy, that he should be taken to an asylum, etc. An assessment of Chinese national character circulated to KGB residencies by the Centre 12 years later claimed that the Chinese were ‘noted for their spitefulness’. What most outraged both the Kremlin and the Centre was Beijing’s impudence in setting itself up as a rival capital of world Communism, attempting to seduce other Communist parties from their rightful allegiance to the Soviet Union. Moscow blamed the horrors of Pol Pot’s regime… on the takeover of the Cambodian Communist Party by ‘an anti-popular, pro-Beijing clique’.
If nothing else, The Mitrokhin Archive II provides an honest opportunity for India’s Left to come clean with their frank and non-ideological opinions about Soviet, Chinese and other Communist histories, and hence to candidly gain self-knowledge. Will they take it? Are there any George Orwells out there?

(The author is a highly regarded economist, academician and author of several books who, between September 1990 and May 1991, contributed to the origins of India’s economic reforms as a senior advisor to Rajiv Gandhi. He is also an Old Member of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where Christopher Andrew is president.)