Tuesday, December 18, 2007

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

Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War
Pete Earley
Putnam, Jan 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399154393

The Wall and the Curtain are down as the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union break apart. However, Russia continued its espionage efforts in America even as Yeltsin and the West became allies of a sort. Pete Early (author of true espionages like FAMILY OF SPIES) provides the biography of Russian spy Sergei Tretyakov, code-named Comrade J, who ultimately defected to the West in 2000. In the late 1990s until he defected Tretyakov was assigned to the Russian embassy in New York; from there he led covert operations across the United States, but became disenchanted with Yeltsin and Putin, who he blames for saddling him with inept political cronies (sounds familiar) and a "corrupt political system" that made Communism seem pure. He also had a personal selfish rationale; desiring a better life for his daughter. Tretyakov became an American double agent before finally publicly defecting. The fascination with this memoir is with the more questionable allegations that Tretyakov makes in his numerous interviews with Pete Earley including accusations inside the State Department that probably brings smiles to Nixon and McCarthy; many as far as this reviewer knows have been verified by an independent third party. Well written and entreating with no shockers as Tretyakov’s message is that Putin, after looking into the eyes of Bush to see his soul, believes America is no friend of Russia and reacts accordingly.

Harriet Klausner