Reviewed by John M. Handley, Ph.D.
Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America after the End of the Cold War, by Pete Earley, New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2007 (ISBN -13: 978-0-399-15439-3) 340 pages, $25.95.
Pete Earley, formerly a reporter for The Washington Post, has authored several works of non-fiction, two of which deal directly with the world of espionage: Family of Spies, about the Walker family, and Confessions of a Spy, about Aldrich Ames and his KGB handlers. This book, Comrade J, came about after an introduction, simultaneously, by both CIA and FBI representatives, of Sergei Tretyakov to Pete Earley at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Tysons Corner, Virginia. The bulk of the book comes from 126 hours of taped interviews. The author attempted to confirm Sergei's allegations independently by contacting each of the individuals mentioned in the text. Not unexpectedly, all denied they ever wittingly or unwittingly worked for the former Soviet Union.
For those interested in espionage, this is a remarkable book. It is not a James Bond type thriller, but rather the story of how espionage was, and most probably still is, conducted by the agency that replaced the KGB's overseas arm, the SVR (Sluzhba Vnezhney Razvedki). Mr. Earley divided the book into four sections. The first section addresses Sergei's youth and training in the former USSR, while the second section covers his life and his espionage activity in Ottawa, Canada from 1990 until 1994 as the deputy rezident of the Russian embassy. The third section deals with Sergei's activities from 1995 to 2000 in New York City as the SVR's deputy rezident, where he personally directed the covert operations of 60 intelligence officers and over 150, primarily UN, foreign sources. It was during his stay in New York that Sergei and his family came to the conclusion that the new Russia offered no future to any of them. Sergei had previously embraced Russian's turn to democracy, but found that Russia under Putin offered little in the way of democratic reform. He decided to support a country in which he believed democracy was viable, the United States, and thus offered his services to the U.S. government in 1997. For the last three years of his tour as the SVR deputy rezident, he provided the United States information on SVR activities. The fourth section in the book focuses on his and his family's "escape" and provides additional information on why he made the momentous decision to...