- During the history the Cold War, intelligence officers, diplomats, military personnel, and ordinary citizens crossed to the other side. However, for the most part it was Soviet citizens who fled westward. The Soviet intelligence services suffered a plague of defections, as hundreds of intelligence officers went over to the West between 1930 and 1991. In the late 1920s, approximately 60 Soviet officials concerned about the purge of Leon Trotsky’s followers sought contact with Western governments or with Trotsky himself. In the late 1930s, Stalin’s purge of the NKVD led several senior officers to defect, along with two Soviet ambassadors. Unfortunately for the West, much of their information was not acted on for a decade. During World War II, more Soviet officials defected rather than return to Moscow. Among them were Walter Krivitsky, Alexander Orlov, and Ignatz Poretsky.Despite defections to the West during the Great Patriotic War, no regular intelligence officer collaborated with the Nazis. During the war, a GRU officer of Turkic nationality, Ismail Akhmedov, refused to return to Moscow and remained in Turkey, fearing punishment for operational errors. Other officials sought to remain in the United States. The most important of these early defections occurred in September 1945, when Igor Gouzenko, a GRU code clerk in Canada, defected, providing critical information about the scope of Soviet intelligence operations in Canada and the United Kingdom.Defections continued through the post-Stalinist period as GRU and KGB officers crossed the lines. Often they came because of concerns about party or service bureaucratic rivalries. In January 1954, a week after Lavrenty Beria’s execution, Yuri Rastvorov, a KGB officer serving in Tokyo, defected to avoid recall to Moscow. Most of these men and women were also motivated by personal concerns—charges of poor performance, unhappy marriages, or simply a desire to live better in the West. Some, like Oleg Gordievskiy, defected for ideological reasons. The Western intelligence services also harvested defectors from Moscow’s East European satellites as military attachés, diplomats, and case officers sought sanctuary in the West through the course of the Cold War. The most important of these East Europeans was Michael Goleniewski, who exposed KGB operations throughout Europe. Anumber of Czech intelligence officers defected in 1968 following the Soviet intervention.Defectors provided Western counterintelligence services with important sources of information on Soviet intelligence agents and their tradecraft, as well as political and military information. They often, however, created major problems for their hosts, who found the handling of former intelligence officers difficult. Anatoli Golitsyn’s misleading information about KGB operations destroyed the careers of several senior Central Intelligence Agency officers and led to the illegal incarceration of another defector, Yuri Nosenko. The care and feeding of defectors was not easy for either the United States or the Soviet Union. Some of the British defectors, such as Kim Philby and Donald Maclean, believed they did not receive the respect or the work in Moscow that they deserved. A number of Soviet defectors in the West returned to the Soviet Union, most notably Vitaliy Yurchenko. Dealing with the egos and fears of those who changed sides was an art form neither side totally mastered.
Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. Robert W. Pringle. 2014.
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