the KGB, 1967 was not the best of times. A few years earlier,
the Penkovsky case had blown up in the agency's face. Oleg
Penkovsky, a colonel in Soviet intelligence, had been passing
top-level intelligence information to the British, including
names and identities of several hundred Soviet agents. He
was a voluminous source of detailed information like the kind
that enabled President Kennedy to act so effectively against
Khrushchev at the time of the Cuban missile crisis.
Penkovsky was caught, tried, and executed, but not before
very serious damage had been done to the worldwide KGB operation.
The overwhelming Israeli defeat of Egypt, armed and advised
by the Soviet Union, in the 1967 "Six-Day War" also
reflected little credit on either the Soviet military or the
KGB. A serious shakeup in the KGB was badly needed.
As Andropov took charge
of the agency that year, he once again found others in powerful
positions who were able to help him conduct such a shakeup
and whose assistance considerably eased his path to greater
power. One of these was Sergei Vinogradov, a general in the
KGB. He had served as Soviet Ambassador to Turkey, Egypt and
France. As one of the most powerful men in Soviet foreign
policy, Vinogradov was able to bring Andropov into the highest
In addition, there was Alexander Panyushkin, a senior
member of the Personnel Department of the Party Central Committee,
who was responsible for all higher-level appointments of Soviet
citizens working abroad in embassies, trade, and other activities.
Friendship with Panyushkin was especially useful for the ambitious
Andropov, because Panyushkin had been Soviet Ambassador to
both the United States and China. Both of these men were of
great influence on Andropov and greatly broadened his knowledge
of the diverse world outside the Soviet empire.
Andropov was also able to call on assistance from
the man who certainly must rank as the greatest spy of the
twentieth century, if not of all time - the Englishman, Harold
A.R. "Kim" Philby. By the end of World War II, Philby
was head of the Soviet Section of British intelligence and
later served as liaison between the British intelligence services
and the CIA in Washington. It appears that the initial recruiting
of Philby may have been made in 1933 by Vinogradov. The two
certainly met in Turkey in 1947, when Vinogradov was Soviet
Ambassador in Ankara. In 1963, after a brilliant career as
a Soviet agent working in the British intelligence service
spanning nearly three decades, Philby sought safety in Moscow.
In the eyes of the KGB, Philby was seen as almost
god-like. His authority on espionage matters was never questioned.
He had everything - culture, knowledge, intelligence, education,
experience, superb mannerism every way the antithesis of many
KGB officers of the time. Myths about Philby's exploits circulated
through-out the KGB, and imitation of this remarkable spy
Many in the West may have felt that Philby was enjoying
well-deserved rest and retirement in Moscow, but the fact
is that he became both friend and adviser to Yuri Andropov.
Through their relationship, the KGB was transformed from an
effective but somewhat crude intelligence agency to a tough
and increasingly sophisticated global operation.
Reorganizing any Soviet bureaucracy, even the secret
police, for greater efficiency is a monumental task, but Andropov
and Philby were able to bring about the essential changes.
One of the greatest needs was to improve the quality of KGB
officers and agents. The top students from the Institute of
International Relations were recruited directly by the KGB.
Not only were these young men far better educated, they also
had to demonstrate a high level of intellectual capability
and a potential for a well-mannered and sophisticated personality.
Philby and Andropov knew that really effective KGB operatives
would have to be able to mix and be accepted in the highest
levels of diplomacy, business, and society throughout the
Although membership in the KGB was not often the first
career choice of many of these brighter young men, they knew,
as does everyone in the Soviet Union, that KGB officers have
perks and privileges far above those in other more distinguished
and accepted professions. KGB officers receive much higher
pay-up to five times that of a qualified engineer, and several
times that of an important professor. Beyond that there are
the other benefits, usually more important than mere rubles:
buying privileges at special food and clothing stores, hospitals
and health services of a quality far above those available
to ordinary Soviet citizens, cars, as well as special admission
to sports, cultural and recreational events and facilities.
The KGB was able to make offers to the best and brightest
that few were able to refuse.
A new domestic propaganda campaign was launched to
improve the image of the KGB. Television and motion pictures
began showing a whole succession of Soviet secret police agencies
in the most favorable light. The exceptional exploits of spy
Maxim Isaev and Richard Sorge in
Japan became a popular television series, though it was never
shown that Sorge was finally caught and executed by the Japanese
in 1944. KGB officers and agents invariably appear as smooth,
suave and cosmopolitan, outsmarting the enemy all over the
world, and every time for the salvation and greater glory
of the Soviet Union. (These new Soviet media heroes are something
of a James Bond type, but without the fancy gadgetry of the
Bond films, and never bedding down with beautiful women at
the slightest opportunity.)
Although the KGB, in its international operation has
shown a high level of sophistication combined with the use
of the latest technological advances, its all-seeing and omnipotent
domestic investigation and control activities continue to
manifest the rough-and-tough characteristics of an earlier
KGB. There has, however, been a much greater use of the instruments
of contemporary psychology and psychiatry, as well as hal-lucinogenic
and other drugs. The simplistic rule of thumb continues:
if you oppose the Soviet system, you must be insane.