Return of «Comrade J»
Sergei Tretyakov, an employee of Russian Representative Office in UNO, whose second hat was working for Russian foreign intelligence service, or FIS, disappeared in the USA with his wife, daughter and cat in October 2000.
After a few months it turned out that he had decided to stay in America. In 2008 he began to speak: The book titled “Comrade J” (that was Tretyakov’s call in FIS) by journalist Peter Earley has been published recently being based on the exposes made by the former Russian intelligence officer.
Tretyakov, who worked at the Russian Representative Office at the UNO from 1995-2000, imparted many scandalous stories to Earley. One of them was, for example, about how FIS used Strobe Talbott, deputy State Secretary. He also told that former Azerbaijan ambassador in UNO, Eldar Guliev, is an FIS officer. He told how he recruited 5 Canadians (though he gave only their calls, not names) and Alex Kindy, the former Canadian MP. Besides, the FIS officer gave a new breath to the forgotten scandal of CPSU’s money – according to him, Kryuchkov, the former chair of KGB, drew $50 Bn to abroad and no one knows where it is now. However, the most scandalous statement was that recruited by him agents helped Russian government to steal about $500,000,000 from the Fund of the Oil-for-food programme that was applied to Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s reign.
In its turn, FIS called the statements by the defector to be “PR made on treachery”.
Of course, the main difficulty is how to verify the defector’s statement? This task was given by Tretyakov to Peter Earley who was supposed to find the proof for the facts mentioned. That way the former FIS officer managed to avoid many ticklish topics. For example, Earley had to write that according to his information Tretyakov intended to defect to Americans in 1997 but they convinced him to stay in Russia till 2000. However, this information is not confirmed by Americans or by Tretyakov.
Peter Earley - a well-known American journalist, the author of several documentary books on spies, including the one about Soviet’s agent Aldrich Ames based on his conversations with Ames in prison – agreed at once to an interview.
Q: Could you tell how you decided to write this book? They say, FBI came to you with a proposal. Is that true?
A: Yes. I wrote about it in my book. It’s not only about FBI, but also CIA. Their agents came to me and said “this man wants to talk to you”. Of course, I took it skeptically that USA government had allowed him to tell his story. But special service officers told me they knew my book about Ames and that they had told about it to Tretyakov and had promised him to introduce me to him. I never saw them again. Actually, I was even angry with them as I had wanted to learn from them what exactly Tretyakov did for the USA. But they only communicated that he passed 5,000 top secret documents and identified those who collaborated with Russian intelligence service.
Q: As far as I know, you stated in your time that you wrote your book about Ames and met with him on that purpose without letting FBI know about that. A: Yes, that’s true.
Q: But then they must be very angry at you. Why did FBI choose you exactly? That seems a bit strange…
A: This is not so. I know that FBI agents - I know it looks suspiciously - but those who dealt with Aldrich Ames, they are not people who are responsible for Tretyakov. How can it be? Once I talked with General of your intelligence service Solomatin and he told me in KGB those who were engaged with Philby, they always deal with defectors. But FBI works differently: today these agents investigate a terrorist act and tomorrow they deal with bank robbery – this is the reason why US intelligence service often drops a clanger. People who work with Tretyakov have no relation to those who were responsible for Ames. But I understand why I look suspiciously (laughs). I’m no CIA or FBI man. Maybe I’m just too naïve.
Q: When did you meet first with Tretyakov?
A: An FBI agent called me and invited to the hotel (Ritz-Carlton in Washington downtown – A.S.). There I saw another two FBI agents who took me to the room where there were two CIA agents and Tretyakov. They introduced me to him and said “well, now we are leaving you here”. Then I met with Tretyakov in his house where only he and his wife were living. We spent several months in conversations and I recorded 128 hours of our talking on a dictaphone.
Q: There is practice of attaching co-authors to defectors. In England this is Professor Christopher Andrew, the co-author of Gordievsky and Mitrokhin; in the USA this is Ira Winkler, the co-author of Stanislaw Lunev, the defector from GRU. But all those people are linked closely to special services. Andrew is working for MI5; Winkler is a former NSA agent. Being a journalist, how did you solve the problem of being used by special services?
A: That’s very difficult. I wrote at once that FBI agents introduced me to Tretyakov. I decided I would check what I was able to verify. And then I just wrote that this story was told by Sergei Tretyakov and that story was between him and Trubnikov (former director of the Russian FIS) – how can I know if it is true or false? You, as a reader, will have your own judgment. But I know, when Tretyakov defected, he was the second in the Russian intelligence structure working about the USA. I know from my sources in FBI that he was treated like VIP in the USA and he got money for his job.
Q: Peter, you have communicated with people who worked for soviet intelligence service (that’s Ames again) and with an officer of the Russian intelligence service. In your view, what is the difference in culture and methods of the different period’s services?
A: The only difference I saw was when Sergei Tretyakov said that FIS implanted its people to the UNO so that to steal money. He said 500 million dollars were taken that way. As you know, Tretyakov affirms that Alexander Kramar (Canadian expert in nuclear weapons, collaborator of the program “Oil-for-food” – A.S.) is a FIS man. Of course, intelligence services differ, but it’s difficult to imagine CIA implanting its people to the UNO with the purpose of stealing money. Sergei affirms this is because of corruption. Well, KGB was not engaged in money stealing. And talking of intelligence service in general, I don’t see much difference. We in the USA heard terrible stories about KGB and then we learnt that CIA uses water tortures during examinations. So what is worse? Of course, KGB has had more appalling history behind it, especially in terms of treating one’s own people.
Q: Is there any difference between soviet and Russian intelligence service in terms of goals setting? I’m asking because there has been information that FIS is more engaged in industrial espionage now, than in political one.
A: I don’t think so. Well, you might want to ask Tretyakov about it?
Q: That would be great!
A: Well, then I’m passing you to him as he’s sitting next to me.
That was a big surprise but after that I really heard Sergei Tretyakov’s voice on the phone.
“Good afternoon or what is it now there?”
Q: To tell the truth, it’s night already. First question: why did you decide to stay? As far as I remember, in 2001 publications appeared in Russia saying that you decided to stay in the USA as you realized that Russian counter-intelligence service knew about you. Is that true?
A: That’s nonsense. I had no problems with Russian counter-intelligence service. This is first thing to mention. Secondly, I had a reputation of maybe the coolest FIS colonel. I was not afraid of anything. Why did I stay? When you receive the book, see the last chapter, titled “Epilogue”. I wrote it by myself and I tried to answer these questions. The essential point is that I don’t want to serve those who rule Russia, as I consider it to be just immoral. I had no problems in Russia. I had a brilliant career. I had no financial problems. By the way, I didn’t ask any foreign state for money and no foreign state recruited or bought me. I do not discuss questions of how I worked with Americans, or if I worked at all, and how long I worked. I do not discuss it for a simple reason: I do not want to help my former colleagues to investigate what happened. But one of chapters in the Peter Earley’s book is based on the evidence he managed to find by himself. I neither deny nor confirm that information.
Q: Why did you decide to apply to Pete Earley right now?
A: Well, it’s not right now. Besides, I had to take a rest first. Then I got to want to tell my story. I wanted to show to Americans that today’s Russia is not what they envisage in terms of democracy and threats to Western interests.
Q: How long did you work together? And when did you decide to meet with him?
A: Let me think. It was about two and a half years ago. We worked long. He is a busy man. First, he interviewed me, and then he made his own research. He has very good connections in Washington, and very good connections in New York. He checked as much as possible the information he got from me.
Q: What do you think to be the difference between First Department at KGB and today’s FIS in terms of morals and manners and methods?
A: No changes have happened with the exception of the fact that after USSR collapsing the Russian intelligence service, or FIS, became even more aggressive. At least it seemed so judging on what requests appeared and what appetites came to be shown. It can be explained through the fact that there are a lot of our former employees in the government, and our brains were made at same “factory”. Those who worked in the intelligence service, they always considered that information by foreign ministry was unworthy as it was just refraining of what was possible to be found in the newspapers. So they count on intelligence service information. I assure you, nothing has changed in the intelligence service: same lines and same directions. Same measures of assistance (here meant are operations of misinformation – A.S.). What really changed is the quality of human material, quality of intelligence agent. In my time, working in intelligence service was considered to be prestigious; people with good education after prestigious institutions tried to get there. Now intelligence service has become more provincial.
Q: There is an opinion, that in the 90’s so called “orientalists” (Primakov, for example) came to leadership of FIS, and when the head of FIS changed, then the western direction got strengthened in the intelligence service.
A: This is not so. Yes, there is internal notion of “German mafia” or “near eastern mafia”. Really, if I worked in American direction and became a big general, of course I promote my fellows. But the main direction of working never changed: American direction was always a priority. Absolute priority. Then rated Western Europe and then Latin America and further down to African continent.
Q: What would be the influence of your book on situation in the USA and in Russia? You have touched many, including Talbott.
A: I’ve never charged Talbott with espionage. He was just used. Would my book influence something? I think it will.
Q: Do you think it will cause any changes in FIS?
A: What can be changed there? This service was being created during many years, it’s impossible to change its principles. What new can be invented? I don’t think there will be crucial changes. The changes occurred when Primakov came. He attempted to make something like a research institute out of intelligence service. We became to be called reviewers, directions were called sectors. But it was because he did not know a thing about intelligence service. Some reorganizations were made, for example, first department (American) was amalgamated with the second (Latin American) and the only common thing between them was the word “America”. But nothing changed in essence. I don’t think that intelligence service is the mechanism where something is possible to be changed dramatically.
Q: In your opinion, how corrupted is FIS today?
A: I don’t think that Russian intelligent service is very much corrupted with the exception of two directions – economic intelligence department and technical and scientific department. Those guys have something that can be stolen and then sold. As for political intelligence service, corruption is not something to talk about there.