Soviet Espionage

Title:                  Soviet Espionage

Author:                 David J. Dallin

Dallin, David J.[1] (1955). Soviet Espionage. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press

LCCN:    55009437

UB271.R9 D3


Date Updated: March 23, 2017

Reviewed by Igor Gouzenko[1]

To analyze the Soviet Union’s secret activities we have to rely on our specialists. One specialist, David J. Dallin, the author of eight books on Russia, undertook such a study during the last five years [1950-1955]. Sacked by the Foundation for Foreign Affairs in Chicago, he made extensive trips to and about Europe, conducted research at the locations of Soviet spy activities, collected data and documents, had interviews with the security officers and former spies themselves and, with great care for accuracy, reconstructed all this in a big volume of 558 pages. Soviet Espionage is undoubtedly the major work on Soviet spy activities.

There is a class of writers on Russia who start by quoting Churchill’s words about “enigma wrapped up in mystery”[2] and then proceed to give it another wrapping. Mr. Dallin does not belong to this category. He emphasizes that there are enough available facts to make quite clear the characteristics of Soviet espionage in the West, And in stressing the need for such clarity he writes: “In the framework of Soviet foreign policy, espionage is more than the usual activity of foreign Intelligence as practiced by other powers. Indeed, its importance is so great that no adequate understanding of the Soviet course in foreign affairs is possible as long as this phase of Soviet activity remains obscure.”

Studying the Soviet “new look” from this viewpoint, the reader will not be misled by the theory that the Soviet leaders have “changed their minds,” or have “realized the catastrophic character of an atomic war”; rather they will see clearly the Soviets’ desire to turn the Western world back to 1945 and to widen the basis of their secret activities (directed toward the conquest of the remaining islands of democracy). In the atomic age, when the element of surprise coupled with general public apathy may be decisive, the rule of a fifth column in Soviet strategy becomes more important than ever.

The facts of Soviet espionage are available to us through its casualties and failures. This leads many people to see even obviously successful bits of Soviet intelligence through negative tenses. It is as if some observer, some Martian, who knew nothing about the world situation, had been brought to the Stalingrad battlefield to give an estimate of the strength of the armies that had fought there. Seeing before him heaps of killed and wounded, with the ratio of same twenty Russians to one German, he would unhesitantly conclude that the Nazi army was victorious.

It is a credit to Mr. Dallin that he cornea out of this severe test with generally good judgment. Reading his book one never forgets that, though the available facts testify to an enormous activity, they are only part of the greater whole of the Soviet espionage system, which is hidden from us. After all, Zabotin’s disclosed spy ring[3] was only one of several in Canada. And the opening of Czech and Polish Embassies in Canada may well signify the broadening of the Soviet bass of espionage operations

In the presentation of the facts Mr. Dallin is masterly. The book reads like a thriller. Often in the simply told incidents we see genuine human drama—the conflicts of loyalties, the tragedy of lost souls. But, above all, we sense the ever-increasing danger resulting from the inept attempts of Western authorities to deal with this danger. We read the names of the agents, the places of their work, and suddenly It strikes us that what we are reading about is more than spy work—it is an account of the Soviet Government operating within the democratic government.

What are the factors that brought us to such an incredible situation? Have Soviet spies penetrated our security agencies so completely that they have paralyzed them? Mr. Dallin cites the testimony of Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, former head of Central Intelligence Agency, who said in September, 1953: “I believe the Communists are so adroit and adept that they have infiltrated practically every security agency of the Government.”[4]

According to Mr. Dallin, however, the main trouble Is in our faulty approach to the whole question of Soviet espionage. Analysis of the facts leads to one unhappy conclusion—that our security people act like the man in the fairy-tale who tried to pull the oak tree out by its leaves: one leaf here, one there, but the oak still stands, well rooted in Its base.

The basis of Soviet espionage is Communist ideology. We all know the superiority of our system. What we often don’t know is how to make this superiority work for us in so important a matter as dealing with Soviet espionage. I believe that with its moral and material resources the United States could destroy the roots of the Soviet fifth column. But to achieve this it is necessary for new sweeping actions, not only by the security organizations but by our whole society.

This new approach must rest on the firm understanding that our system has tremendous appeal to any man on Earth. We have actual and potential allies In the Communist camp and nothing could be more harmful to us than to ignore them. Unfortunately that is done again and again. For example, that the Geneva conference might ultimately have proved to have been a failure (in spite of a temporary illusion) seemed to me apparent at the moment when western representatives yielded to Soviet pressure end withdrew from the agenda the question of the enslaved peoples behind the Iron Curtain. If we ever hope to come out of this struggle victorious, we must ally ourselves not with the Soviets but with their victims. The first job of our security people must be to find potential allies inside Soviet spy rings, and make It possible for them to come to our camp and help us.

To do this, the cement of the Soviet fifth column—Communist Indoctrination—must be dissolved. The start has to be made with propaganda, in the best sense of the word. Communists, knowing the importance of the movies, press and radio, spare no efforts to infiltrate them. We must learn to use these media for our own benefit—to portray accurately our free society for others to see and understand. In using the phrase “propaganda, in the best sense of the word,” I was thinking of achieving a healthy realism about ourselves in our communications media—avoiding both the vapid self-glorification that is bad propaganda and the overemphasis on the squalid and brutal that is false realism.

Another step that we need to take is a legal one. We should enact a special law welch would guarantee security to the men who bring documentary evidence to us about Soviet espionage activities. Such a law was suggested to the United States and Canadian Governments last year [1954]. The Petrov case in Australia Illustrates how urgent is the need for such a security guarantee[5]. At one point the Australian undercover agent Dr. Bialoguski reached a stalemate. Petrov wanted to help the Australian authorities long before he did, but he was worried about his future, What would happen to him after Australian security officers collected all his information? Would he be protected? Would he receive assistance in settling down to his new, unfamiliar life? Would he be thrown out is a squeezed lemon, and find himself at the mercy of Soviet revenge? All these are vital questions—and the fear of being humiliated is worse than the fear of death. But undercover agent Bialoguski could give him no guarantees.

How It that America, while giving to the world a shining sample of bold and daring innovations in business, engineering, and science, acts in its dealings with the Soviet fifth column with ouch caution, with such a lack of imagination? Mr. Dallin’s facts show that our leaders are not yet accustomed to treat the mattes of fighting the Soviet fifth column as their private and intimate business

The facts described by Mr. Dallin, not only speak, but cry for strong measures, The historical significance of his book is that it indicates the grand total of totalitarian Soviet espionage. From now on there can be no room for doubts or misunderstandings.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[6]

One of the more important contributions of Dallin’s study was that it put a scholarly spotlight on the subject covered. The expert on Soviet affairs became a missionary, driven by the conviction that U.S. political science’s neglect had caused the United States to minimize the significance of Soviet espionage for two decades and equally that the Soviets could not be adequately understood without an understanding of the role of Soviet espionage. It is hard to say how profound and lasting was the effect of Dallin’s observation that Soviet intelligence was “one of the most remarkable phenomena of our times.” Soviet Espionage did not deal with Soviet operations against émigrés and defectors, a topic the author meant to cover in a second volume devoted to what he called Soviet police operations abroad.

Dallin was of the view it was impossible for one man to deal with anything but the most important areas due to the “global dimensions of Soviet intelligence.” But that opinion did not explain his choice or emphasis of material; the perspective of the last twenty-five years, as well as new knowledge, allows us to make observations on Dallin’s choices, to spot errors, and to question some judgments. There is little on the Gouzenko case despite its importance and known effect on U.S. and Western postwar perceptions of the Soviets and Soviet espionage. Krivitsky is not treated; in fact, he is mentioned only twice in passing. Dallin fails to delve into the Sorge case. Conversely, some two hundred pages are devoted to the Lucy and Red Orchestra networks. By comparing this section to the CIA’s The Rote Kapelle we can identify errors and areas in which Dallin was weak. His view that the Soviet intelligence services were qualitatively inferior to other services is not supported by the record of espionage success he provided. He did not discuss how good the Soviet evaluative and estimative machinery was. An early try to deal with an important subject, this book must nevertheless be regarded as dated and hardly “…the present document is cogent, scholarly and definitive….”, as the Kirkus review[7] at the time called it.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[8]

An authoritative source on Soviet espionage operations and systems, the book provides one of the most comprehensive treatments of the subject. It is limited, however, to the period prior to the mid-fifties. The book is organized in a chronological format—first the main pre-WWII and wartime targets of Soviet espionage are discussed: France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland. Next comes the postwar era and the emergence of the United States as the “main enemy” and target, the role of Soviet satellite countries in intelligence/reconnaissance operations, and discussion of espionage activities in Central Europe.

Dallin follows the development of Russia’s post-1917 espionage system, steers clear of sensationalism, and seizes upon the inner workings of Soviet spy rings. These consist of the philosophy, training and emotional make-up of agents; the ingenious apparats they found; the commercial and diplomatic channels they use; their tie-ups with political sympathizers and often with industrialists seeking to curry favor with the Kremlin. Above all, the author communicates the Russian concept of espionage, which may only be called a governmental branch, as formally established and replete with protocol as the Foreign Office. A massed array of facts and details reveal the private ethical code to which the Russian spy adheres, his methods and occasions for using brute force and conspiracy, his seduction of potential subversives, his personal idiosyncrasies and intellectual beliefs. The full effectiveness of these agents may be seen in the fact that their disclosures “directly caused the Soviet-Japanese pact of 1941, the Stalingrad victory, the attitude toward the atom-bombing of Hiroshima, and the present-day controversies within the United Nations over atomic weapons.” Just as in his previous titles – Soviet Russia’s Foreign Policy and the co-authored Forced Labor in Soviet Russia, the present book is cogent, scholarly and definitive, and should find a market among those concerned with the political reality and the threat of Communist expansion.

Nigel West is a author and consultant on counterintelligence matters. I had the privilege of hearing a series of his lectures about the Queen Mary II in the summer of 2010. This book was one of the ten best books on the Spying Game.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[9]

A leading authority on Soviet Russia discusses in detail the Soviet espionage system, with special emphasis on operations in Europe and North America. A comprehensive and authoritative study free of the Cold War propaganda which characterizes most books on the subject, although Dallin occasionally fails to distinguish between NKVD and GRU networks.

[1] Igor Gouzenko, “The Operations of a Fifth Column,” The New York Times (October 30, 1955. Pp. 30-31). At the time of writing (1955) Mr. Goosenke was the former Soviet cipher clerk whose defection led to the discovery of a Russian spy-ring in Canada in 1945. [See Testimony of former Russian code clerk relating to the internal security of the United States] He is author of the novel Fog of it Titan.

[2] A form of Winston Churchill’s quotation, made in a radio broadcast in October 1939: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”

[3] Here Gouzenko is referring to the spy ring disclosed in Canada. See, for example, Canada (1946). The Report of The Royal Commission Appointed under Order in Council P. C. 411 of February 5, 1946 to Investigate The Facts Relating to and The Circumstances Surrounding The Communication, by Public Officials and Other Persons In Positions of Trust, of Secret and Confidential Information to Agents of A Foreign Power, June 27, 1946. Ottawa: E. Cloutier, Printer to the King

[4] See the testimony of Gen. Walter Bedell Smith. Mr. Tavenner: What organizations of the Government in the United States did you have reference to when you said: “I believe that they are so adroit and adept that they have infiltrated practically every security organization of Government.”? Smith further explains his statement. See Testimony of Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Hearing before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session, October 13, 1952, p. 4290

[5] See Bialoguski, Michael (1955). The Case of Colonel Petrov: How I Weaned A High MVD Official From Communism. New York: McGraw-Hill

[6] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 146-147

[7] Kirkus Review

[8] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature (7th ed Rev.). Washington, DD: Defense Intelligence School, p. 19

[9] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 149



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