Strategic Intelligence in the Cold War and Beyond

Title:                      Strategic Intelligence in the Cold War and Beyond

Author:                 Jefferson Adams

Adams, Jefferson (2015). Strategic Intelligence in the Cold War and Beyond. NewYork: Routledge

LCCN:    2014006326

JF1525.I6 A34 2015


  • “Covering the period since 1945 this book looks at the debates, controversies and events that have occurred in the field of intelligence and espionage. In this volume, Jefferson Adams places the events and discussions that have surrounded the history of espionage in their historical context”– Provided by publisher.


Date Posted:      September 10, 2015

Jefferson Adams is a professor of European history at Sarah Lawrence College. He has written many articles on intelligence history, and his recent book, the Historical Dictionary of German Intelligence[1], is among the best reference works on the subject. When teaching a course on the role of intelligence on the Cold War era, he found that there was no one volume that covered the subject. Strategic Intelligence in the Cold War and Beyond is intended to fill that gap.

By way of introduction, Adams reviews the origins of the major principal intelligence services in each of the player nations-members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, plus Israel and China. Then he discusses the major early Cold War operations and confrontations, from the time GRU code clerk Igor Gouzenko defected in Canada, to the development of US photo satellites. This is followed by a review of the strategic impact of intelligence in dealing with the Cuban regime, the Berlin crises, Vietnam, and the Prague Spring. Intermixed chronologically are discussions of periodic eruptions in the Middle East and of the Iranian hostage crisis. Then comes an examination of the KGB role in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and its aftermath. The latter includes several defector cases that influenced events before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites.

After looking at intelligence organizations and operations in the Cold War, Adams takes a step back to consider the motivations and actions of those in the field who made things happen. He presents three case studies toward that end. The first concerns Günter and Christel Guillaume, East German agents who spied on West Germany. The second discusses Robert Hanssen and what drove him to disloyalty. The third case reviews the contribution of Ryszard Kuklinski, the Polish army officer who informed the CIA about the Soviet threat to Poland and the Solidarity movement.

The end of the Cold War came suddenly, to the surprise of many, and the security services in the Warsaw Pact countries were powerless to prevent it. Adams looks at the reasons, including the role of the Vatican and the KGB and its satellite services, as they attempted to forestall it and discredit the United States.

Before considering the aftermath of these events, Adams digresses briefly to examine how Cold War espionage “entered the popular imagination through the medium of fiction, movies, and television.” (p. 85) He includes precedent-setting pre-WWI examples and ends, of course, with James Bond.

The final chapter on the upshot of the Cold War summarizes what happened to the many intelligence services previously mentioned. He concludes that “probably the most enduring legacy left by the Cold War was the realization that intelligence organizations play an indispensable role in the structure of a modern state.” (p. 141) Strategic Intelligence in the Cold War and Beyond is a valuable contribution to the intelligence literature.

[1] Adams, Jefferson (2009). Historical Dictionary of German Intelligence. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press

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