- From 1947 to 1962, the German city of Berlin was the front line of the intelligence Cold War. The KGB and the GRU maintained large rezidenturas in Berlin. The KGB had be- tween 2,000 and 3,000 staff officers in East Germany. The rezidentura in the Karlshorst district of East Berlin had a staff of 350 intelligence officers, the largest Soviet intelligence agency outside the Soviet Union. Two KGB components maintained an important presence in Karlshorst: the First (Foreign Intelligence) and Third (Military Counterintelligence) Chief Directorates. From Karlshorst, the KGB worked very closely with the East German Stasi, which had a large stable of agents in West Germany.Soviet intelligence objectives in Berlin were to ensure the security of the East German regime and the Group of Soviet Forces Germany (GSFG), penetrate the West German regime and its allies, and disrupt Western intelligence operations. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the “battle for Berlin” was violent: MGB squads kidnapped Russian émigré and anti-Soviet German politicians. With the assignment of Yevgeni Pitovranov in 1953 to head the Berlin rezidentura, Soviet operations became more sophisticated.During the struggle for Berlin, both Soviet services used Berlin as a launching pad for illegals. In the 1950s, the Soviet services assigned some of their most experienced illegal support officers to Berlin, including KGB Major General Aleksandr Korotkov. The Third (Illegal Support) Department was the largest KGB component at Karlshorst, responsible for producing and checking candidates and their documents. The GRU also dispatched illegals from Berlin to Europe and the United States.The KGB played a critical part in Nikita Khrushchev’s decision to build the Berlin Wall. KGB Chair Aleksandr Shelepin and his deputy Petr Ivashutin repeatedly warned the political leadership that the mass defections of young, educated East Germans weakened the regime. When Khrushchev made the decision to build the wall (codenamed “Rose”) in August 1961, he gave the KGB, the Red Army, and the East German authorities less than 96 hours to prepare the closing of the interzone barrier. This decision and all the preparations for the division of Berlin were taken without any information leaking to alert the West.Following the building of the Berlin Wall, Karlshorst remained an important center of Soviet intelligence activity. Soviet cooperation with the Stasi became increasingly close, as the East German service delivered 80 percent of all intelligence on NATO. In the last decade of the Cold War, the KGB in Berlin was able to recruit and run agents within the U.S. military such as James Hall. KGB/Stasi operations paid dividends to the very end of the Cold War.
Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. Robert W. Pringle. 2014.
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