Former KGB agent talks about peculiarities of Soviet and American special services
Hiring agents for adversary’s special services has always been the prime goal for intelligence services of various countries all over the world. What makes the agents of most secret special services of the world betray their duty and serve for their enemies? What makes secret agents act like that, although their reliability was tested over and over again? Former employee of the Foreign Counterintelligence Administration of USSR’s KGB, retired colonel Viktor Cherkashin, gave an interview on the matter to PRAVDA.Ru. Viktor Cherkashin was implicated in hiring a very valuable agent for KGB’s foreign intelligence department, Aldrich Ames.
Mr. Cherkashin, what did you think about the statement from your former colleague in the foreign counterintelligence department Oleg Kalugin? What did you think about his statement during the trial on Russia’s foreign intelligence agent, former colonel of the US Army, George Trofimov? Do you think that Kalugin’s statement regarding the activities of the Soviet and Russian special services deserve a serious attitude?
To my mind, it is the logical finish of the former USSR KGB general’s activities. Oleg Kalugin was the chairman of the Foreign Counterintelligence Administration of USSR’s KGB. This was the end of his activities as a democrat, a fighter for the truth, the unmasker of KGB’s plots. He was longing for the role of an expert for secret services affairs. This image of his was created with the help of several democratic mass media outlets. Kalugin knew what to say, where to say, and on which occasions. As a matter of fact, I believe that his speech regarding this and other cases are rather primitive. All of his unmasking statements were dictated with his personal ambition. It deems that it is profitable for someone to use such people like Oleg Kalugin on the air. The Cold War has not ended up yet, taking into consideration the fact that ideological diversions have always been arranged by Western special services and the CIA. They always used traitors from the Soviet Union’s KGB. There are certain people, who are still interested in promoting this general of many faces. I would rather not talk about the point of Kalugin’s statement regarding George Trofimov’s cooperation with USSR’s KGB and with Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. This is not my goal to estimate the honesty of his words, if there is any honesty about them at all. It is clear for me, which goal he wanted to pursue and why. Needless to mention that a servant will say exactly the things that his boss tells him to say. Oleg Kalugin had to work in order to obtain his American residence permit. Cynicism could be seen about his way of conduct, when he was making his statement regarding his meetings with George Trofimov on a beach in the United States of America in order to give him the money for documents that he obtained for the Soviet intelligence. Then he said that out loud: his activities were based on his wish to obtain the USA residence permit.
What do you think played an important role in the debacle of his career, and when did it start?
Back in the beginning of the 1980s he was very successful in his KGB service. He became the youngest of all generals. He took the position of the so-called “K” administration chairman, which was a counter-intelligence department. It goes without saying that he took that position with the help of his patrons, although on his part he believed that it was his personal achievement. Several years later he was dismissed from his top position. He turned out to be a man of feeble spirit. He did not have the strength to perceive such a grand change in his life with courage. He did not make any conclusions regarding the reasons, which actually caused his failure. Like I just said, he was a feeble man to analyze and comprehend his life. His megalomania that he obtained in the beginning of the 1990s, when he started unmasking KGB and backing up democrats, turned to another kind of mania. I would say that it was solely a change of medical character. Lawyers and adequate court instances will look into the matter of his speech at George Trofimov trial. Probably, there will be criminal proceedings instituted against him. However, l think that Kalugin’s case is supposed to be not in lawyers’ but in doctors’ competence.
What do you think is the reason why USSR’s KGB and Foreign Intelligence Service agents have been failing in the USA recently, although they went to America in their search of a better life? Is it probably because of the fact that Russia does not have a serious customs control? If a former CIA agent leaves the territory of the United States of America, he is supposed to request a departure permission from the FBI. An agent is supposed to make a detailed written statement on the route of his trip in other countries. However, even your colleagues from most secret intelligence and counterintelligence departments are allowed to go to any country without any restrictions absolutely. Do you think it is correct?
I think that the departure order for former KGB agents, defense enterprises workers, or scientific and technical institutes employees is more of a social event, because our citizens were forced to look for jobs after the events of the year 1991 in the Soviet Union (the crush of the communist regime). They had to do that in order to survive, no matter how trivial that might sound. It is very hard to talk about patriotism, when the most important thing for you to do is to maintain and feed your family, your children. There is nothing surprising about the fact that the people of various professions will go to work to any country, where they will be in demand. The people that I just mentioned are valued a lot in the countries of Western Europe, or in the United States, for those countries have always been paying special attention to talented minds from all over the world. Although, such emigration eventually resulted in the brain drain situation for Russia. The country experienced irretrievable consequences. You said it right, when you mentioned that the USA practices certain departure restrictions for its secret agents or for the citizens that are aware of any state secrets.
We had such rules in Russia too, although they were not observed after August of 1991. In addition to departure restrictions, the USA practices the law, pursuant to which a person, who requests a residence permit in this country, is obliged to tell the secrets of the field, in which he was employed in his former fatherland. Our mass media were so happy to report about the fact that a son of the Communist Party Central Committee, a “great” scientist, was granted an American residence permit. They forgot to mention that the “great scientist” was not only a son of a Communist Party Secretary, but an employee of a secret missile institute. No one mentioned that he had to report the details of his secret activities in the USSR to American special services. Believe me that they used his knowledge. If a nuclear weapons specialist is going to live in the United States, everyone should understand that all of his works and secrets will get into the USA’s possession too. There were a lot of such scientists, who changed their Russian residence to the American one. They should understand that they dismantle Russia’s defensive shield with their decisions like that. Furthermore, they increase the power of our enemies, which is much more important. Speaking about Foreign Intelligence Service and KGB agents’ failures, I would not consider this issue on the basis of your question. Secret agents can not fail for certain mathematical or psychological peculiarities of counterintelligence activities. It is a very hard goal to achieve – to unmask a secret agent of any special service. A special service can obtain the information about this or that foreign agent only with the help of an agent that works in the special service of an opposing country. This happens in 99% of cases. That is why, when a news message says that the FBI managed to unmask a KGB or Foreign Intelligence Service agent in an American city, it means that it became possible not as a result of the investigation against a CIA agent, which turned out to be a KGB one. Such things never happen as a result of shadowing or spying. Such statements are made for the public. As a matter of fact, it happens when their counterintelligence obtains the information from their agent in Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. I can affirm that with one hundred percent guarantee. Such things happen in Russian special services the same way, when Federal Security Bureau arrests a Russia-based foreign agent. This is basically the achievement of our intelligence officer that works for the special services of a foreign country. Unmasking Soviet secret agents in the USA is the result of special services’ work against each other. This is a normal process for intelligence and counterintelligence services to run their activities. This should not be praised, one should not make a policy of it. When the American president gets irritated about the fact that Russian Foreign Intelligence Service hires agents in the USA amid senior officials, his statements on the subject do not sound serious. This kind of special services activity does not come up onto the political level.
However, phenomenal events happen sometimes too. For example, the year 1985 entered the history of struggle between Soviet and American intelligence services as the spy year. In 1985 the FBI managed to unmask seven agents of the Soviet intelligence, while KGB managed to unmask nearly the same number of CIA and FBI agents. The two sides arrested rather valuable agents, who had very important information at their disposal. As it turned out, the American side hired its agents, while the USSR entered the process of its slow collapse. This may explain, why Soviet citizens succumbed to the pressure on the part of American special services. Some of them stepped on the way of treason on account of the fact that they lost the certainty of their future. Their ideological ground was destroyed, which played a very important role in their decision to betray their own Fatherland. On the other hand, why did CIA and FBI agents started their cooperation with Russian special services, when the USA had some progress in its major goal – the collapse of the Soviet Union. Why did American agents cooperate with Soviet and Russian special forces despite all kinds of progress in the American economy? I think that such questions are the peculiarity of special services activities. I think that hiring foreign agents is much more than just material or political interests.
There are a lot of reasons for a person to break his views and to start working for a foreign special service. For example, Aldrich Ames, the chief of the Russian department. He was about to become the CIA deputy director. So many things were ascribed to him after he was unmasked as an agent of the Soviet intelligence. He was said to be a ladies’ man, an alcoholic, a completely degraded person, who had a big debt of 50 thousand dollars for his house. It was said that he had to clear that debt quickly, which actually made him work for the Russian intelligence. I would like to make the following statement as a professional, who knew him in person. All attacks against Aldrich Ames come from the aggrieved national factor. It was really hard to believe that an American citizen of a senior position would start cooperating with the Soviet intelligence, providing Soviet Union agents with secret information. The things that you can read in newspaper are often misleading. Everything that was connected with that person was a lot deeper than was actually written about him.
What happened to him then, or was he that attracted with big money?
I have to say that he was a very wealthy man, when he was taking a senior post at the CIA. American media reported with FBI’s help that he acquired a big house in Washington’s prestigious area, as if no other CIA agents lived there, or none of them had Jaguar cars. They have fancier houses and more expensive cars. He made pretty good living himself. His wife, a woman for the Colombian origin, had a very good financial position too. The reason why he started working for the Soviet and then for the Russian intelligence is about the fact that he wanted to come to the realization of his own destination in this life. Working in American special services, Ames was trying to understand, why the CIA administration portrayed the USSR as an aggressive monster that was ready to attack America at any moment. As a matter of fact, the CIA administration had the true information about the situation in the Soviet Union, about the weak points of its economy. The USSR would never attack the United States first. Yet, the CIA administration used the lie propaganda about the USSR in order to achieve its goals and to obtain another billion dollars from the US Congress. The administration of this powerful special service deceived the American president, the arms race was intensified in connection with the USSR’s imaginary menace, which eventually resulted in the increase of taxes and in tax-payers’ dissatisfaction. People like Aldrich Ames were aware of the things that were actually going on. They could not accept those lies. They realized the possible development of relations between the USSR and the USA. By the way, the collapse of the Soviet Union was far from being a gift for a lot of countries of West Europe and for the United States.
Did terrorism, drug mafia, criminality on the post-Soviet territory affect the USA?
Aldrich Ames was a bright analyst. He foresaw those events, he was aware of the future outcome. The Foreign Intelligence Service will always have its reasons to hire foreign agents, until we have such things as human factor. Everything depends on a lot of circumstances and personal attitude of a candidate.
How did FBI agents feel about those of your colleagues, who betrayed their Fatherland, having agreed to work for American secret services?
It is not about a personal attitude of a special service to its agent. A lot of things depend on the circumstances, on the ground of which they started their cooperation. Relations can be businesslike or even friendly, if an agent started his cooperation with a special service on the base of his ideological views. There can be a situation, when an agent has to work under pressure. This is quite possible, if an agent works for the sake of the material profit only. It stands the reason that there are such people, who step over the line of human dignity, ignore all human values imaginable. This happened to Oleg Kalugin, when he started abusing his own country and hid own colleagues, although he called them his friends before. In 1989, when he stood up against KGB, he vilified not the socialistic system, but the people, who he worked with in one and the same department. Only a very vile and mean person can act like that. Furthermore, lots of people were unhappy with the socialistic system in the Soviet Union back in those years. Such a person can not be apprehended in the USA by those FBI agents, who work with him as colleagues. They feel the way that he treats people around him. It means that he treats them the same way he treats all others. I do not envy them as my special service colleagues. I heard a lot of demeaning comments about Kalugin from my friends, former CIA agents. They knew Kalugin in person. They were aware of the situation around him, and I do not doubt that he did not evoke the feeling of respect in them.
So, you think that Kalugin’s phenomenon becomes dangerous for the people, who work with him at present?
A man like him can treat FBI agents the same way that he did about his former KGB agents. A man like Kalugin can not give a damn about them. Such a person might think that they are not worth anything, so they will never be an authority. On the other hand, those people gave him the welfare that not every American citizen has. However, he can betray them easily and go to another place, where he can get more money.
Viktor Cherkashin was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
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