Read: December 2022

Inspiration: Came across on Amazon’s bestseller list; wanted to learn more about the Cold War and the relationship between the West and the USSR


Written with the help of ChatGPT, below is a brief summary to understand what is covered in the book.

“The Spy and the Traitor”, published in 2018 by author and journalist Ben Macintyre, tells the story of Oleg Gordievsky, a Soviet intelligence officer who was recruited by the British and became one of the most valuable spies of the Cold War. The book covers Gordievsky’s career, including his work as a double agent and the risks he took to pass information to the British. It also discusses the ways in which Gordievsky’s information helped to shape the course of the Cold War, and the efforts of the Soviet authorities to catch and punish him. The Spy and the Traitor is a gripping and fascinating tale of espionage and international intrigue, and is a testament to the courage and dedication of one man who risked everything to serve his country.

Unedited Notes

Direct from my original book log, below are my unedited notes (abbreviations and misspellings included) to show how I take notes as I read.

Oleg Gordievsky was head of KGB london office, rose up ranks and was to be named head of KGB but was British spy recruited by MI6, grew up with father loyal to Stalin and partake in harsh killings, “Khrushchev Thaw” in 1953 when NK take over and condemn Stalin which was viewed favorably by Oleg (Oleg born 1938), KGB had legal spies as diplomats and then illegals which blend into cultures and hard to spot (Oleg’s older brother joined illegal branch), Prague Spring 1968 where Czechoslovakia protest communism shut down by soviet tanks and misinfo campaign—KGB work to sew violence to prevent western influence (300k flee during invasion), Gordievsky watch Prague Spring with disdain for soviet way (was in Denmark and saw vibrance there), Oleg’s brother died at 39 after stint in Czech and Oleg promoted thereafter, back to Denmark where MI6 and PET (danish intel) had heard from defector Kaplan that Oleg open minded, Bromhead run MI6 office in Copenhagen and slowly contact Oleg—after 8 months finally get commitment to switch sides, began operation of taking microfilm from Soviet embassy during lunch and passing to Guscott (case agent) to copy and then Oleg return (had code names, ops detail, etc), circle of who knew about Oleg kept incredibly small, Oleg reveal names of agents but have to strike balance as pick off b/c KGB would suspect traitor, 1978 oleg back to Moscow after second 3 year stint, wanted divorce from wife but that would hurt KGB standing ahead of potential promotion to head of Scandinavia, also hatched elaborate escape plan called Pimlico via Finland in case of emergency, MI6 not want to keep communication when Oleg return b/c risk of compromise and too good, let him lay low and rise ranks with monthly interactions only (despite Oleg wanting more active involvement), 1981 Gennadi Titov run Third Dept of First Chief Directorate require subservience so not eager to post Oleg in London but eventually give in, Michael Foot was leader of labour party MP 1980 poised to be PM if party won—kgb agent Oleg discover (Foot not really know he was considered agent but paid by KGB and gave political info, had dissented to soviet actions in Prague spring but KGB view as active even since then), Aldrich Ames rise in CIA early 70s as struggle post-Nixon watergate and Family Jewels reports (lose trust) and search for moles (blamed Kim Philby–famous soviet defector from MI6), once Oleg in London MI6 had to let MI5 know as they surveil domestically and didn’t want Oleg looked into—rare collab, Oleg reveal that KGB of ’82 much weaker/clumsier but still dangerous, Oleg conveyed that 1981 Chairman of KGB Yuri Andropov actively believed US/NATO to nuclear strike and create top priority operation to counter (imagined threat but nearly spark war), Operation RYAN and gather confirmatory evidence increasing paranoia in KGB, MI6 begin to share intel with CIA as needed—few in the loop on KGB intel in CIA but one was Ames, Oleg intel slowing on KGB side so MI6 help feed “chicken feed” so not sent back to moscow, Nov 1983 Able Archer was 10 day war game by US/NATO which soviets saw as true threat not exercise so soviets fit missiles etc, closest moment to nuclear war since cuban crisis (Oleg alert US/nato to soviet alarm and then west temper language to calm), Michael Bettany exposed as willing traitor within MI5 by Oleg as he tried to connect with soviets—jail sentence in 1984 (Bettaney showed bad signs which MI5 missed but still a win), Guk kicked out of London (MI6 assist this) so Oleg rise to Deputy head, Oleg help coordinate first meeting of Thatcher and rising star Gorbachev Dec ’84–went very well as Gorba likely next to lead KGB and Oleg in line for London rezident (head of station), Jan 85 Oleg become rezident, also CIA had dug to identify Oleg (Ames led search), Nikitenko bothered that Oleg pass over him for head, 12 days before Oleg confirmed was when Ames cross to KGB (for money), Ames mention British running senior KGB agent but not name Oleg he claims—Oleg nervous as summoned to Moscow, KGB honed in on Oleg as suspect and pieced together—slow play in moscow but soon drug him and interrogate Oleg, June 1985 Ames give list of 25 soviet spies from CIA including Oleg name but KGB still slow play (Ames got a lot of money and worry if not give all names then one could out him), Oleg eventually activate PIMLICO escape plan through Finland to Norway (finland difficult as had agreement with KGB), successfully made it back to Britain but some doubt story/think doubled back but then get corroboration of being drugged and loyalty from another KGB defector to US, live out life in Britain

Leave a Comment


Subscribe to my Newsletter for new reads & other updates!

About Me

Welcome to JeffReads, where I share summaries of the best books I’ve read on business, politics, science, technology and more.




Subscribe to my Newsletter for new reads & other updates!

Copyright 2023 JeffReads | All Rights Reserved