No doubt many of those related to MI6 agents in the German theatre who died because MI6 officer George Blake betrayed them will have cause for jubilation, though, as the Russians say, “the years took him” rather than a bullet or the gallows.
When the British decided to burrow under East Berlin to cut into the communication lines of the Soviet authorities in occupation of Eastern Germany after the death of Stalin, Soviet foreign intelligence was at a low ebb. The notorious Cambridge spy ring had folded with the open defection of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean. Kim Philby was interrogated and only his naive best friends in MI6 believed him innocent. John Cairncross fled and the keeper of the Queen’s pictures, Anthony Blunt, kept his nerve and carried on as though nothing had happened. But it left the Russians at a dead point. They had an important officer under cover in the United States, William Fisher (known later as “Colonel Abel”), working on nuclear weapons systems, and the GRU was about to introduce agent “Maisie” into New York, where she would spy on the wives of high-ups attending her beauty parlour. In Britain they were working on anti-American sentiment to make further recruitments along the same lines as they were doing in France, but the pay-off was still “music of the future”.
In contrast George Blake had the notes of the meetings for a Berlin tunnel, including those with the Americans who were roped in to finance the operation (they have since claimed, wrongly, that they initiated it). For the Russians it must have been an exquisite moment to be able to foil the plans of their two main opponents in the conduct of the Cold War. And once blabbermouth Nikita Khrushchev was in power, they worried that sooner or later he would blow the gaffe on the entire operation. But they could not let on and had to hold their breath while London and Washington drew the entire order of battle of the Red Army in Central/Eastern Europe and repositioned their own forces accordingly. It certainly saved a lot of money. Finally when they could contain themselves no longer the Russians set up a “discovery” of the tunnel, so that George Blake could remain safely undetected.
The windfall that came for military planning was then offset to a degree by Blake’s betrayal of everyone he knew of spying in the East, who were picked up if not turned in the course of the years leading to Blake’s exposure by a defector. Incredible as it may seem – though to anyone who knew just what a mess Britain was in those years, perhaps not – Blake was then able to escape from prison in 1966. Komsomol’skaya pravda today claims it was arranged by Soviet intelligence but that the details remain secret. We do know that after the escape he hid for two months in a London apartment before reaching East Germany. Thereafter he spent a blissful retirement chatting away in Russian in Moscow. He was certainly a very lucky man, unlike his unfortunate victims.
The website of Russian foreign intelligence has been slow off the mark but President Putin dutifully issued a few words and biographer of the Cambridge 5, Dolgopolov has already written in Rossiiskaya gazeta:
26.12.2020 12:53Рубрика: Общество
На 99-м году жизни скончался легендарный разведчик Джордж Блейк
Текст: Николай Долгополов
The obituary on the website of Russian foreign intelligence is dated 26 December but it did not appear until 28 December. Moreover its press service says Blake reached Moscow in 1965, which would have been a miracle of teletransportation since he did not actually escape Wormwood Scrubs until October 1966. Something is clearly wrong with the archive and press section of the SVR which now makes the kind of elementary mistakes that were unthinkable even a decade ago:
СКОНЧАЛСЯ ЛЕГЕНДАРНЫЙ СОВЕТСКИЙ РАЗВЕДЧИК ДЖОРДЖ БЛЕЙК