THE SPY WHO SAVED THE WORLD By Jerrold L. Schecter and Peter S. Deriabin, `25 00 Chfirlp5
Oleg Penkovsky, a colonel in Soviet Military Intelligence (GRU), was a key source for the CIA during the Cold War. He supplied information on his country’s strategy and military secrets to
Penkovsky was also a hero. In providing data on Soviet nuclear strength-which was channeled to President John F. Kennedy-he was instrumental in assuring
Schecter and Deriabin are also great storytellers. They combine this quality with their insider knowledge to focus on Penkovsky’s feats of derring-do, treason and drama. Weaving together historical vignettes, they tell a tale that creates and sustains the Penkovsky legend.
This book entertains and follows with a sense of realism the tribulations of an agent working against his own country. Schecter and Deriabin document how the desire for revenge moved Penkovsky to play a pivotal role in enhancing
Penkovsky’s career in the military had been stalled because his father had fought against the Bolsheviks during the 1917 Revolution.
But there’s a drawback: The authors have overreached themselves with the thesis-implied in the title-that “Penkovsky was the spy who saved the world from nuclear war.” Indeed, he was a key figure in intelligence-gathering efforts that clearly revealed Soviet military intentions in 1961 and ’62. These led to photographs that persuaded President Kennedy that
However, there is no need to gild the lily. Penkovsky provided information long before the confrontation, which made it possible for
In later years, CIA officers would ask, “What is the ideal Soviet agent?” The answer from those with institutional recall: “a GRU colonel whose father-in-law was a general with access to data on strategic rocket forces.” This officer, of course, is Penkovsky. The response is a more accurate tribute than that offered in the authors’ title.
Theodore G. Shackley, a past contributor to Chief Executive, is former CIA associate deputy director for operations and CEO of Research Associates International,