The Mitrokhin Archive Vol. 2: The KGB and the World Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin is the book I just finished and taking inspiration from my sister’s blog I’m going to post a bit about it. It is a history of the First Chief Directorate (FCD) charged with foreign intelligence and its role in the Third World mainly during the Cold War. Mitrokhin was the FCD archivist and made notes while moving the archives to a new location. The notes were hidden in his Dacha floor until after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He then offered them first to the CIA and then to the SIS.
Even though there had been some successes for the FCD most of the resulting information was reduced to pablum to meet the political correctness or paranoias of the Soviet leadership. Some of the FCD activity was comical with them chasing ghosts or ignoring the obvious signs of being duped. A letter from Halle Selassie to Stalin couldn’t be translated because the only translator had been killed defending Moscow.
Most of the activity of FCD in the Third World was divided between spreading ‘Revolution’ and misinformation. The spread of revolution was usually in the form of weapons and money. So many conflicts today are a result of Cold War secret funding by one side or the other. Also many of the persistant conspiracy theories in the world today have roots in Service A – Active Measures (bulls shit) propaganda.
There are lessons I take from this book, first a foreign intelligence service needs to be built on ethics, speaking truth to power, democratic oversight and aware of long term consequences. Although foreign intelligence is essential for a country to protect itself it cannot protect against over extension, military adventurism and domestic problems of political, economic stagnation or devolution. Western countries that are blindly, fanatically adhering to archaic forms of capitalism and feudalistic management systems are heading the same direction as the Soviet Union.
I recommend both Volumes of The Mitrokhin Archives for those interested in history and intelligence. They provide a better understanding of some of the world’s events. Next I’m reading Semper Paratus: The History of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment) 1862-1977. This is the reserve unit I was briefly a member of and the book has an interesting quote:
Our God and soldiers we alike adore
Ev’n at the brink of danger; not before:
After deliverance, both alike requited,
Our God’s forgotten, and our soldiers slighted
~Francis Quarles 1592-1644