Spymasters' Revenge?

An unprecedented hate and slander campaign began this summer against General Oleg Kalugin, the famous KGB dissident. A slanderous book about the courageous general came out; almost simultaneously, a film based on the book was shown state television channel. Moscow has not seen such a powerful propaganda campaign aimed at just one person since the Stalin era. This campaign has been copied from Stalin's hate and humiliation campaigns against scholars and politicians. The same forces are behind it as then: the security services and the Communists.

That the television channel chose to air the film was not an accident. It was the anniversary of the 1991 coup attempt, when the KGB and the reactionary Communist elite sent tanks into Moscow in an attempt to return the country to the Stalin era. The coup collapsed and its plotters were put behind bars, then later released when the position of the Communists began to strengthen again.

This year, the coup plotters decided to take revenge on Kalugin, the courageous democratic general, for their humiliation and the loss of their positions by showing the film "Superkrot" on television on the day of the putsch. After all, it was Kalugin who destroyed the KGB. After his revelatory publications, this all powerful monster, which couldn't withstand a word of truth, began falling to pieces. Many generals lost their positions and were left with beggarly pensions.

Former KGB generals know that Kalugin now lives in the United States, where he is extremely popular after publishing a tell-all book on the KGB and designing a cloak-and-dagger computer game together with a former director of central intelligence. The generals know people recognize him on the streets and approach him excitedly to shake his hand. After all, Kalugin performed an act of courage by drawing the fire of the Communists' hatred down on himself.

Kalugin's name has suddenly been remembered because the coup participants have regained their moral authority in the Foreign Intelligence Service. This occurred as the Russian Communists mobilized under the government of Yevgeny Primakov. If he had stayed in power just six months more, the Communists would have come to power.

But there is one reason behind this campaign: It appears the Russian secret services needed just one more spy scandal. Now they are accusing Kalugin of spying for the United States. After the spy charges fabricated by the counterintelligence services against environmentalists Alexander Nikitin and Grigory Pasko fell apart in court, the spooks decided to win back their losses using Kalugin. After all, living in the United States, he cannot defend himself. Kalugin, like other victims of KGB falsification, such as Nikitin and Pasko, is a former officer. In 1995, before Kalugin even left, I heard rumors that military counterintelligence was preparing a campaign against him. By leaving for the United States, Kalugin saved his own life.

The current campaign against him is being conducted crudely and unconvincingly. Its participants call Kalugin a turncoat and a U.S. spy, but they that clarify this is only a possibility. Behind them, however, is the Foreign Intelligence Service, which acknowledges not possibilities, but facts. But no new facts on Kalugin's spying activity are brought to light.

The main idea is this: Before, we only suspected that Kalugin was a U.S. spy; now, we're sure. Why now? They don't say. Only Service A, the disinformation department of the KGB, ever worked so crudely, undermining all its propaganda work on the international arena.

All the accusations that Kalugin was a U.S. spy deeply hidden in the KGB can be shot down with one argument. Before his departure from the KGB, Kalugin held a high position there. He served as deputy minister of the nuclear industry of the Soviet Union, overseeing security issues. If the KGB appoints suspected spies to such heights, what is it worth? No, they never suspected him of espionage. This is a speculative accusation, born in Moscow.

It would be interesting to know whether he maintains contact with the Foreign Intelligence Service at his foreign residences. As a former analyst for the KGB, I think he does. Otherwise, whom would the intelligence services work with? The recruitment process has become very complicated. What foreigner would risk his life to work for the intelligence services of any country if he didn't know whether that country supported President Bill Clinton or Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, capitalism or socialism? In addition, many intelligence workers maintain Communist convictions. That also pushes away possible foreign collaborators. The cynicism that is essential to the KGB fully allows for intelligence to use Kalugin as an agent even as it accuses him of espionage. After all, Kalugin isn't recognized as a spy, so his status as an agent is considered a secret.

The intelligence service is involved in the campaign against Kalugin. That it supported this wave of hate and slander speaks to its deep crisis of morale. The intelligence services are pining for the Communist era.

Konstantin Preobrazhensky is a former lieutenant colonel in the KGB. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.