Near and Distant Neighbours: A New History of Soviet Intelligence by Jonathan Haslam - review by Oleg Gordievsky

Oleg Gordievsky

Power Lines

Near and Distant Neighbours: A New History of Soviet Intelligence

By

Oxford University Press 366pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

I should advise readers at the outset that this important monograph gets off to a bad start. A list of Russian intelligence jargon contains at least half a dozen disconcerting mistakes of one sort or another. The text was obviously completed in too much of a hurry, with little regard for consistency. An additional problem is that Jonathan Haslam seems to treat all the sources he uses as equally reliable, including books written by ‘former’ KGB operatives, sometimes with Western coauthors who lack the essential language skills. This is particularly relevant because, despite the blurb, Haslam has disappointingly little to say about the massive Soviet and post-1991 disinformation operations that are currently becoming almost as aggressive and dangerous as they were during the Cold War.

That said, Near and Distant Neighbours is worth reading for two reasons. Haslam rightly mentions that previous books on the subject have failed to cover in sufficient detail the activities of the Soviet military espionage agencies, notably what he calls ‘the Fourth’ and the GRU, and link them up with

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