The Haunted Wood
fills in a valuable part of cold war history: the Soviet Union's attempts to spy on the United States from the time of FDR's New Deal, through the Second World War, and into the 1950s. Allen Weinstein (author of a highly regarded history of the Hiss-Chambers case, Perjury
) and Alexander Vassiliev (a KGB agent turned journalist) show that among the Americans caught in the Soviet orbit were many top government officials, including a Congressman from New York and a close advisor to President Roosevelt, as well as an American ambassador's daughter. Most of these early spies were leftists driven by ideology--as opposed to money, which seems to have motivated many of the later cold war traitors, such as Aldrich Ames. (The Congressman, interestingly, is an exception--he demanded so much compensation that the Soviets gave him the code name "Crook.") The greatest windfall for the U.S.S.R. during this period was the acquisition of atomic secrets, with contributions from agents like Ted Hall, Klaus Fuchs, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (the authors do not believe, however, that the scientist Robert Oppenheimer was a Soviet spook). Yet there were also notable failures, many brought on by Stalin's insatiable appetite for purges; defections by Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley also dealt several mortal blows. By the end of the 1940s, the Soviet spy ring in the United States was in serious breakdown. Weinstein and Vassiliev make use of both American sources and Soviet archives to deliver what will surely be an authoritative account for many years--or at least until more top-secret archives on both sides of the Atlantic become declassified. And don't expect that to happen anytime soon. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
Like Yale University Press's The Secret World of American Communism and The Soviet World of American Communism, by Harvey Klehr et al., this account of the "golden age" of Soviet spying, 1933-1945, draws heavily on recently declassified Russian archives, but turns those documents into a narrative history. Historian Weinstein (Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case) and retired KGB agent Vassiliev offer new background for such controversial Cold War figures as Alger Hiss, Whittaker Chambers and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Unlike recent spies (such as Aldrich Ames), Stalin-era turncoats were motivated primarily by ideology. Many harbored the naive belief that the U.S.S.R. was an oppression-free utopia, while others saw the Soviet Union as the only credible bulwark against European fascism. Some spies even mixed ideology with emotion, such as the daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Germany who carried on a love affair with her Russian handler. Soviet espionage's most dazzling success was the theft of atomic secrets from the Manhattan Project, a coup that enabled the U.S.S.R. to accelerate its own nuclear program. Ironically, by the 1950s, when America became obsessed with the "Red menace," Soviet espionage had been decimated by the high-level defections of Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley. The authors write as historians, not polemicists, eschewing both cheap moralism and apologetics. Although the narrative occasionally bogs down in profuse detail, it is also packed with plenty of intriguing characters and cloak-and-dagger tales of secrecy, subversion and betrayal. This is an important contribution to the history of the Cold War.
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