THE MAGAZINE

Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War

By Pete Earley; Reviewed by G. Ernest Govea, CPP

***** Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia’s Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War. By Pete Earley; published by Penguin Books, www.penguin.com (Web); 340 pages; $25.95.

This is an account of the career and defection of Sergei Tretyakov, an intelligence officer in the Soviet KGB and its Russian successor, the SVR. Born to a KGB mother and grandmother who worked for the Soviet Union’s political secret police, the NKVD, his career was nearly inevitable. As a KGB officer, his life was one of deception, intrigue, and deceit. Then, as a high-ranking officer, he had a strategic view of KGB operations in Canada and the United States; he viewed his profession as an unquestioned necessity for his beloved Mother Russia.

Tretyakov describes to author Pete Earley the deterioration of the KGB after the fall of the Soviet Union, but he explains that Moscow never ceased its intelligence operations against the United States, which he describes as SVR’s “main target,” followed by NATO and China.

The book is filled with revelations from the late Cold War and post-Soviet era. Tretyakov discloses for the first time the names and identities of many people who worked for Soviet and Russian intelligence against their own countries, and he discusses how easy it was to recruit people to work against the United States because of their hatred for it.

Perhaps most astonishing is Tretyakov’s account of how Russia placed an SVR officer within the United Nations where he siphoned off half a billion dollars from the Iraqi “Oil for Food” program to recipients in Russia, including former and current Russian presidents Boris Yeltzin and Vladimir Putin. When one dishonest SVR officer was awarded the Russian Federation’s Order of Honor, Tretyakov was disgusted. He knew Russia had become a place where “Thieves are more respected and appreciated by Moscow…than hard working SVR operatives” and where “only fools dared to be honest.”

Tretyakov’s defection resulted from his disgust and disillusionment with the corruption and greed that has swept through Russia’s leadership and business community—it remains that way today, he tells Earley.

Comrade J is a must-read for those involved in counterintelligence, national security, and the protection of classified information.


G. Ernest Govea, CPP, is facility security officer and security director of government security for Parsons in Pasadena, California. He has been responsible for the protection of classified information for 33 years with the military and the defense contracting sector.  He is a Vietnam veteran and a member of ASIS International.

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