Monday 3 August 2009

Insights into the Cold War behind the Iron Curtain

A couple of interesting items I've spotted on the Internet today. Firstly, the BBC's outgoing Washington correspondent Matt Frei recalls his previous visits to Berlin and the impact that the Cold War had on the divided city in terms of the two separate paths of development they took between 1945 and 1989, following the destruction reached in the second world war, the scars of which are still seen in the city's architecture and split personality. Berlin's always been my favourite European city and he's right when he points out that Berlin's always had a confrontational spirit, it's been at the cutting edge of change and, in the case of the Berlin Wall, that confrontation was manifested in concrete.

Secondly, on Radio 4 this morning Gordon Corera continues his history of MI:6 by interviewing Mikhail Lyubimov, who was sent to London by the KGB as a spy to recruit from within the Conservative Party, mostly because he looked a bit 'horse like' and could appear very English. It's interesting to hear his recruiting technique and how he was trapped in a 'compromising situation' in a London pub. You can also hear some new perspectives on Kim Philby's involvement in the Cambridge spy ring.

This is an intro into today's programme on the history of MI:6, which can be found here on iPlayer and will be playable for the next week. Gordon Corera, BBC security correspondent, looks inside Britain's Secret Intelligence Service. He talks to senior intelligence officers, agents and diplomats as well as their former arch enemies about the shadowy world of espionage. In the second part, Heroes and Villains, MI6 Chief John Scarlett describes his clandestine meeting with an agent and the Russian defector Oleg Gordievsky talks about his reasons for coming over to the other side.

Anthony Cavendish was the youngest agent recruited into MI:6 running agents in Vienna, and he describes in great detail how he recruited in a music hall where the sign for everything being okay for the recruitment was for the band to play a certain tune. Fascinating stuff. He tells of recruiting a girl he gave a lift to, and it went well for nine months, but in Berlin later she got frightened and was ultimately caught and executed. This was the memory that most upset him while in "the Firm".

Roderick Braithwaite, a naval officer, says it was just like the Third Man!, dealing with criminals and agents in Vienna. "It was a morally ambigous world", he says. Fascinating!

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