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Battleground Berlin: CIA vs. KGB in the Cold War Hardcover – August 19, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0300072334 ISBN-10: 0300072333

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 556 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (August 19, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300072333
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300072334
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Battleground Berlin is the product of an unprecedented collaboration between two veteran intelligence officers--one with the CIA, the other with the KGB--who worked on opposite sides in postwar Berlin. With the help of journalist George Bailey, they have told what will likely stand as the definitive account of those remarkable years. The KGB had the advantage of existing, in one form or another, since the Russian Revolution, while the CIA was a fledgling agency. But KGB agents and analysts were under chronic pressure to twist their intelligence reports for political reasons, which evened the scales somewhat.

Armed with information from numerous interviews, access to previously secret documents (many reproduced in the book), extensive research, and their own recollections, the authors roam the existing Cold War literature, correcting lies and false conclusions, putting rumors to rest, and exposing ignorance--in short, setting the record straight. They provide definitive accounts of many key episodes, including the double defection of Otto John, the head of West German counterespionage, and the famous tunnel incident of 1955-56, in which an American tunnel into the Soviet sector was exposed by a highly placed informant and then "discovered" in an elaborate ploy to protect the agent. Battleground Berlin is a remarkable amalgam. It is a fascinating, sometimes gripping spy story, complete with safe houses, forged identities, double agents, and street-corner rendezvous; it is also a scrupulously researched piece of historical scholarship and analysis.

From Kirkus Reviews

A troika of erstwhile adversaries team up to deliver an absorbing and authoritative inside view of how American and Soviet- bloc intelligence agencies plied their offbeat trade in divided Berlin during the first 15 years of the Cold War. Drawing on newly available archival material and their own experiences, Murphy (a sometime chief of the CIA's Berlin station), Kondrashev (who headed the KGB's German Section), and Bailey (a former director of Radio Liberty) offer an essentially chronological account of who was spying on whom in Berlin and to what avail, from V-E Day through the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Before getting down to business, however, they provide brief rundowns on the major services, including the fledgling CIA, the thoroughly professional KGB, and East Germany's Stasi. Having set the scene, the authors recount the facts behind convulsive events that produced headlines throughout the world. Cases in point range from the 1953 uprisings in the German Democratic Republic, the tunnel the CIA dug to eavesdrop on supposedly secure phone conversations originating in the Eastern Sector, the cover- organization games played by both sides, counterintelligence as well as disinformation efforts and propaganda campaigns (e.g., Nikita Khrushchev's threat to sign a separate peace agreement with the GDR), and, of course, the Wall. Covered as well are the stories of high-profile defectors (Pyotr Popov, Otto John, et al.), interservice rivalries (notably, between the KGB and the Stasi). Both Moscow and Washington, the authors point out, ignored some crucial, first-rate intelligence gathered by their operatives in the field. Eye-opening detail on cloak-and-dagger operations in a conquered capital city that once threatened to alter the balance of world power and breach the world's hard-won peace. (illustrations, not seen) (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 16, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This is a historic book, which anyone interested
in the history and practice of espionage will
appreciate. LeCarre it is not; while there is
some bit of cloak and dagger (Murphy relates the story of the KGB attempting to capture him in a Vienna) for the most part the book is a set of
essays addressing the questions
of what each side did and knew. The strength of
the book comes from the first hand of Murphy and
Kondrashev as station chiefs in Berlin of the
CIA and KGB respectively, and from the fact that
Murphy and Kondrashev had unprecedented access to
CIA and KGB files to document their conclusions.

These essays are loosely organized and the chronology is often repetitive: in the chronology of events, and in the apparent structure of Murphy and Kondrashev writing
contrasting points of view sounds good in theory
but repetitive in practice: the book does not have the clear argumentative flow that a book by a single author would have, and it lacks clear headings identifying section author.

Last week, Murphy and Kondrashev were in New York
at a panel discussion sponsored by the Harriman
Institute and the Yale University Press, held at
the Yale Club. The questions from the audience
were appalling, but there were two points made
on the panel that might be of interest here.

The first concerns a claim made by the book that
in looking into the effects of intelligence on
the leaders consuming it, there was a pattern:
the CIA had limited resources and limited penetration of the east; this meant that information was sketchy; however, analysis was thorough and objective and well-considered by the Western leaders.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Paul Cooke on March 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the first time a thorough review of post war Berlin intelligence activities has been published. For the professional this is a good compilation of operations (collection, defection, analysis, etc.). For the novice the book is a difficult read - chock full of details but not written in captivating language. Students of history need to add this to their collection of books to keep and use as reference.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 27, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Only the collapse of the Soviet Union could have opened a "window" in history which would allow two men, adversaries in the most arctic period of the Cold War, to tell the full story of what really went on in the epicenter of intelligence warfare, divided Berlin. Even more extraordinary is that David Murphy and Sergei Kondraschev were able, thirty years after they served leading roles in this clash of armies of the night, to break down residual barriers of this conflict and collaborate on this book. They supplement first-hand accounts with documents and interviews that complete an unparalleled picture of the real world on which novels like THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD andFUNERAL IN BERLIN were based. This brilliant account is not merely more compelling than any novel; it is more compelling than any novel CAN be
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joshua S. Curtis on October 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
If one were to pick the "ideal author" to narrate a history of the CIA or KGB, the choices usually end with a decision between a former operative in one of the agencies, a historian, or a journalist. In Battleground Berlin, Murphy, Kondrashev, and Bailey have managed to find the merging of two of the three. The first two are former operatives - one in the CIA and one in the KGB. The latter, is a reporter. It is an important distinction to make from the beginning, because the tone and language used in their book is often that of the first-person, and it is always narrated with a vested interest, first-hand accounts, and material that may seem overzealous.

Luckily for the three, the Cold War remains a fertile topic of examination for historians. In terms of uniqueness, Battleground Berlin represents one of the first times in the post-Cold War era that former CIA and KGB officers have come together to write about the history of American and Soviet intelligence operations. The work is not simply the memoirs of David Murphy, former chief of the CIA's Berlin Operations Base, and Sergei Kondrashev, former head of the KGB's German department and active measures department, but relies to a considerable extent on a vast array of sources from both Soviet and American archives. To be sure, much of the story is based on the recollections of the co-authors, but these are tempered by supporting evidence.

In this work, the reader is treated to a sober and balanced account of major Cold War events in Germany as interpreted by the American and Soviet intelligence services.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 1, 1997
Format: Hardcover
The most interesting aspect of the book may be the insight it gives on the interworkings of the Soviet State. While some passages go into detail much beyond what the general reader will want to know, it is worth trudging through the slow passages.
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