Oleg Penkovsky's Spy Handler

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When thinking about massive intelligence agencies, such as the KGB and the CIA, people tend to look at them as unitary organizations with clear goals and procedures, forgetting about the humans that stand behind the covert operations. In reality, it is impossible not to consider the role of human nature in an environment that demands the estrangement from humanity in order to be most successful. Through the recollection of his work with the Soviet security agency in Spy Handler: Memoir of a KGB Officer, Victor Cherkashin provides a great insight into the secret world of counterintelligence, focusing particularly on the faces behind the organization. The author’s relationship with the Soviet Regime starts even before his birth. His father,…show more content…
Oleg was considered an outstanding intelligence officer. He was a member of the Chief Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the General Staff, had travelling privileges which allowed him to go to London and Paris, and he “circulated the highest circles of the military and political elite”. Apparently, there was no reason why such a reputable man would betray his country and sell secrets to the CIA. Eventually Cherkashin and his colleagues found that Penkovsky’s father died fighting against the Bolsheviks in the White Army making him a “bona fide counterrevolutionary”(59). Yet, Cherkashin insists on saying that “ideology very rarely, if ever, motivates treason” and it is usually a secondary factor to “private and immediate motivations” (63). With this in mind, he considers how Penkovsky’s ambition, in contrast to his almost stagnated career, eventually led to his “delusions of grandeur”. Because of his frustrations at work, he “saw himself taking a major part in international relations” by directing the interactions between the Soviets and the Kennedy administration

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