The World of Intelligence Intrigue

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The World of Intelligence Intrigue

Lately there has been a lot of attention regarding Russia and its authoritarian regime given its heinous attack on the Ukraine.  We have seen journalists and opposition leaders murdered.  That process is not characteristic of just recent Russian history.  I have a story  from my past which is germane  to current events and how we view our world.

Being in graduate school at Duke University working on my Ph.D. was fascinating in so many ways. The South was engaged in a civil war, I found myself deep  in Duke  University Medical Center and I was meeting all manner of fascinating people.

One day a new student arrived.  He was older than most of us snd had a heavy Russian accent.  How curious? In time I learned his name was Nicolai Khoklov and he had been head of the KGB operations for Eastern Europe.  One night we fed him ample vodka and he told us about how his life had been as a high level intelligence operative.  Like  so many people, he considered himself to have been a patriot.  But being a patriot of the kind he had been required to be turned out  to be a proposition he could not n the  end, suffer. He decided to defect.


Of course intelligence was interested and he agreed on a condition. When he went on Radio Free America to announce his defection, his wife and children would be picked up by our people and taken out of Russia.  We didn’t honor our pledge and he lost his family.

Nonetheless he was true to his word partly because he could not accept the moral problems associated with the kind of murderous activities in which he had been involved.  Like other Russians working for reform, he was poisoned with a radioactive substance.  He survive and cane to the United States to study clinicsl pyshology.  Interesting choice.

Honor and Truth

He was a touching individual and I would never  have guessed his past.  He was such a gentle and respectful person with a rich sense of humor.  the stories  he told us that night were immensely troubling.  But his concluding statement about his past in intelligence was one I will never forget.  He said, “You think intelligence work is like James Bond.  It is, in fact, like Get Smart.”

In case you don’t remember Get Smart, it was a television comedy series about international intrigue.  The players on that stage were often inept if not just plain incompetent.  Nicolai was speaking a truth.

It was clear he meant the statement ad the details of his life bore out his conclusion.hat he conveyed was that we often have a view of things which we hold as truth.  But truth is illlusory and Nicolai’s story was yet another confirmation that we do, indeed, live onthe cusp of reality.

What do you think of Nicolai’s conclusion?



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