Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War

Overview

Spymaster, defector, double agent—the remarkable true story of the man who ran Russia's post–cold war spy program in America.

In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, the cold war ended, and a new world order began. We thought everything had changed. But one thing never changed: the spies.

From 1995 to 2000, a man known as "Comrade J" was the highest-ranking operative in the SVR—the successor agency to the KGB—in the United States. He directed all ...

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Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War

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Overview

Spymaster, defector, double agent—the remarkable true story of the man who ran Russia's post–cold war spy program in America.

In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, the cold war ended, and a new world order began. We thought everything had changed. But one thing never changed: the spies.

From 1995 to 2000, a man known as "Comrade J" was the highest-ranking operative in the SVR—the successor agency to the KGB—in the United States. He directed all Russian spy action in New York City and personally oversaw every covert operation against the United States and its allies in the United Nations. He recruited spies, planted agents, penetrated security, manipulated intelligence, and influenced American policy, all under the direct leadership of Boris Yeltsin and then Vladimir Putin. He was a legend in the SVR, the man who kept the secrets.

Then, in 2000, he defected—and it turned out he had one more secret. For the previous two years, he had also been a double agent for the FBI: "By far the most important Russian spy that our side has had in decades." He has never granted a public interview. The FBI and CIA have refused to answer all media questions about him. He has remained in hiding. He has never revealed his secrets.

Until now.

Comrade J, written by the bestselling author of Family of Spies and The Hot House, is his story, a direct account of what he did in the United States after we all assumed the spying was over and of what Putin and Russia continue to do today. The revelations are stunning. It is also the story of growing up in a family of agents dating back to the revolution; of how Russia molded him into one of its most high-flying operatives; of the day-to-day perils of living a double, then triple, life; and finally, of how his growing disquiet with the corruption and ambitions of the "new Russia" led him to take the most perilous step of all.

Many spies have told their stories. None has the astonishing immediacy, relevance, and cautionary warnings of Comrade J.

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Editorial Reviews

David Wise
The real value of Sergei Tretyakov's saga lies less in his scattershot claims and innuendoes than in his sharp eye and gossipy insider's view of the KGB/SVR's training, methods, foibles and tricks.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Former journalist and bestselling author Earley (Family of Spies) tells the story of Russian spymaster and defector Sergei Tretyakov-code-named Comrade J-in an exposé with few surprises. A career intelligence officer, Tretyakov was Russia's deputy resident in New York City from 1995 to 2000, responsible for all covert operations there. But as the political and economic situation in Russia deteriorated under presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, Tretyakov began to consider defecting. Disgusted by the spy agency's shoddy standards and the "corrupt political system" in Moscow and seeking "a better future" for his teenage daughter Ksenia, Tretyakov became a double agent for the FBI before finally defecting in 2000. He claims that he is now breaking his silence because he hopes to warn America that Russia is not a friend and "is trying to destroy the U.S. even today." Among his more controversial assertions, in 126 hours of interviews with the author, is that former deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott was considered a "Special Unofficial Contact" by Russian intelligence-a claim that Talbott adamantly denies. While many of Tretyakov's claims are impossible to verify, Earley mounts a spirited defense of his veracity in this workmanlike account. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Spies exist because governments exist and governments have secrets. We may naively believe that the ending of the Cold War meant that the United States and Russia no longer spied on each other. Earley's new book on the remarkable career of top Soviet spy, Sergie Tretyakov, should dispel any thoughts that the "new" Russia under Yeltsin and now Putin is really any different from the one that existed under Stalin, Khrushchev, or their successors. Earley (Confessions of a Spy: The Real Story of Aldrich Ames), a former journalist who has written both fiction and nonfiction about the post-Cold War world, was contacted by the FBI and CIA to meet Tretyakov in 2001, soon after he had defected to the United States. This is Tretyakov's story as told to Earley, who admits that he has very little evidence to corroborate Tretyakov's tale. News accounts and interviews (off the record, of course) do seem to offer supporting evidence that much of Tretyakov's story is true. This is a fascinating account of Tretyakov's activities first as a Soviet spy in New York in the 1980s and early 1990s and then as a double agent providing extensive information to the CIA and the FBI during the Clinton presidency. Earley has solid credentials as a former Washington Postwriter, which lends credence to this amazing story. For larger collections.
—Ed Goedeken

Kirkus Reviews
More outrageous espionage scandal, but this time the CIA and FBI look good. From 1995 to 2000, Sergei Tretyakov ran Russia's day-to-day intelligence operations in New York and personally directed every covert operation launched in the city against the United States. At the end of 2000 he defected, then later sat down with investigative journalist and novelist Earley (The Apocalypse Stone, 2006, etc.) to tell this story. Recruited in the 1980s, Tretyakov reveals intriguing behind-the-scenes mechanics of KGB politics, personalities and nuts-and-bolts operation techniques. The foreign-intelligence section did not persecute dissidents inside the USSR, so readers will identify with Tretyakov as he works hard, rises through the ranks and is rewarded with plum assignments in Canada and the United States. Most engrossing are the details of intelligence gathering which he describes, even naming names. Spies were essential, but so were "informational contacts," academics and bureaucrats who enjoyed chatting and could be manipulated to reveal more than they should. More disturbing is the fact that America's increasing unpopularity persuaded many foreign officials who don't consider themselves traitors to pass on damaging secrets simply because they disliked the United States. Earley presents a vivid picture of the shambles that followed the USSR's 1991 collapse. Tretyakov portrays the leaders as wildly corrupt kleptocrats who were looting the nation to enrich their cronies. An elite force, the intelligence service escaped the general impoverishment but suffered a massive exodus of talent anxious to share the booty. Disgusted at his government and the increasing venality of superiors, Tretyakov beganconsidering his options, but readers will learn few details of his defection, which he was forbidden to discuss. Earley reminds us that Tretyakov is no objective observer-he leans over backward to say nasty things about Russia while flattering America and himself. Keeping this in mind, readers will encounter plenty of juicy details about Russian intelligence, which still considers America the enemy. Agent: John Silbersack/Trident Media Group
From the Publisher
"Prichard's voice provides the ideal narration.... [It] never tires and never changes. Both his oldest and newest fans will enjoy this dark journey into Soviet espionage." —-AudioFile
The Barnes & Noble Review
Sergei Tretyakov, the Comrade J of this fascinating book's title, was Russia's top spy in America from 1995 to 2000. During his more than 120 hours speaking with author Peter Earley, the New York-based Tretyakov describes exactly how Russian intelligence (the SVR) successfully recruited intelligence sources inside the UN and the United States, and used this intelligence to undermine American interests. Tretyakov, for example, tells Earley exactly how the SVR infiltrated the UN's Oil-for-Food program, created to help the Iraqi people, and stole half a billion dollars from it, money that went directly to Russia's ruling oligarchy. Tretyakov also recruited UN diplomats from Germany, Turkey, and Sweden to garner secret intelligence that helped damage American interests. Tretyakov ultimately grew disillusioned serving Russia's corrupt, money-grubbing leadership. He felt his work no longer served the Russian people, but only undemocratic strongmen like Presidents Yeltsin and Putin: "it became immoral to serve them, and I didn't want to be associated with them." In 2000, Tretyakov defected to the US, offering thousands of secret Russian documents and the identities of hundreds of previously-unknown Russian intelligence sources. Comrade J's primary message is that Russia is not America's friend, and "is doing everything it can today to undermine and embarrass the US." Earley's gripping narrative may be the most absorbing, detailed account ever written about foreign intelligence activities on American soil; Comrade J also offers a stunning indictment of the present "thuggish" Russian regime under President Vladimir Putin. --Chuck Leddy
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425225622
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/6/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 340
  • Sales rank: 315,202
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Pete Earley, a former reporter for The Washington Post, is the author of eight works of nonfiction, including the bestsellers The Hot House and Family of Spies and the multi-award-winning Circumstantial Evidence.

Michael Prichard is a professional narrator and stage and film actor who has played several thousand characters during his career. An Audie Award winner, he has recorded well over five hundred books and has earned several AudioFile Earphones Awards. Michael was also named a Top Ten Golden Voice by SmartMoney magazine.

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 3, 2009

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    Comrade J Fits the Bill with Post-Soviet Novels

    This is most likely one of the best books i have ever read. It's combination of fast paced action and attention to detail put it paces ahead of other soviet and post-soviet spy novels. The gripping tale of Sergei Tretyakov is one that you will not be able to put down, as you see his life from his earliest trappings in the KGB to his moral dillema of leaving the country that, despite its transformations, he has served for over 30 years.

    An absolute must have for anyone interested in a fast paced novel that will keep you at the edge of your seat from cover to cover.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

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    A reviewer

    The Wall and the Curtain are down as the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union break apart. However, Russia continued its espionage efforts in America even as Yeltsin and the West became allies of a sort. Pete Early (author of true espionages like FAMILY OF SPIES) provides the biography of Russian spy Sergei Tretyakov, code-named Comrade J, who ultimately defected to the West in 2000. In the late 1990s until he defected Tretyakov was assigned to the Russian embassy in New York from there he led covert operations across the United States, but became disenchanted with Yeltsin and Putin, who he blames for saddling him with inept political cronies (sounds familiar) and a 'corrupt political system' that made Communism seem pure. He also had a personal selfish rationale desiring a better life for his daughter. Tretyakov became an American double agent before finally publicly defecting. The fascination with this memoir is with the more questionable allegations that Tretyakov makes in his numerous interviews with Pete Earley including accusations inside the State Department that probably brings smiles to Nixon and McCarthy many as far as this reviewer knows have been verified by an independent third party. Well written and entreating with no shockers as Tretyakov¿s message is that Putin, after looking into the eyes of Bush to see his soul, believes America is no friend of Russia and reacts accordingly.-------- Harriet Klausner

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