This is a fascinating book written by retired KGB agent Alexander Feklisov with Sergei Kostin. The book begins with an interesting description of Feklisov’s life in the Soviet Union as a youngster and his eventual acceptance into the INO, or Soviet Foreign Intelligence. He is sent to the United States early in World War II and spends four years sending and receiving messages without being involved in espionage. He is a capable and loyal employee and he eventually enters the world of the “illegals” with the assignment of recruiting spies from the many Americans who sympathized with the Communism and the Soviet cause. I found it interesting that Feklisov ardently defended his contacts as being “anti-fascist activists” and not Communist spies.
Feklisov’s advancement in Soviet intelligence was enhanced by the remarkable fact there were few older agents when he began his training. Feklisov was surprised there “…was only one older officer in our section…” He “…later learned that the Stalinist purges had not spared the intelligence services. The leadership of the INO had been decimated as much as the Red Army by the end of the 1930s.” It is difficult to understand Feklisov’s dedicated loyalty to the Stalinist system after such a revelation.
Feklisov was almost prohibited from receiving a foreign assignment because he wasn’t married. He was told, “How can you recruit any agents if you can’t even recruit a wife?” His immediate supervisor praised his abilities and recommended him for an overseas assignment. He even complimented him with the comment, “If you want my opinion, it’s rather good that he didn’t get married on command. It goes to prove he’s a serious sort of fellow.” That and the fact the NKVD was short of people in the United States led to his assignment in New York as a communication specialist.
He became Alexander Fomin with the code name “Kalistrat” and was assigned to establish a clandestine radio link. The announcement of the Nazi attack on the USSR revealed some attitudes that disturbed Feklisov, or Fomin. Senator Harry Truman announced that Russia should be helped if the Germans were winning or the Germans should be helped if the Russians were winning. “The first prize for bluntness would go to the New York Daily News, which published a cartoon depicting the USSR and Germany as two snakes fighting each other. The caption read, ‘Let’s let them eat each other!’” Feklisov felt Roosevelt was fairer in his assessment. “His attitude toward the USSR in general, now that it was bearing the brunt of the war effort was favorable.” (My reading of history says that FDR’s attitude went far beyond “favorable.) Continue reading