Comrade J — The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War by Pete Earley

Article Type: 
Book Review
Published Date: 
Monday, July 5, 2010

This is the second time I have read and perused this magnificent book — and what a momentous and timely book it is! The book reads much like a cliffhanger spy novel, though its nonfiction and its information is true and disturbing. The message is as timely today as it was in 2007 when it was first published.

Comrade J Dust JacketAfter World War II, it took the valiant efforts of the Russian defector, code clerk Igor Gozenko, to awaken America and her allies to the fact that Uncle Joe, the greatest mass murderer in history, and our Russian communist friends were conducting serious, devastating espionage against the United States (e.g., atomic secrets among others) at the same time that we were providing the Soviets with vital economic and military aid during "The Great Patriotic War" against the Nazis.

The Berlin Wall comes crashing down in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapses in 1991. Again, the Russians were said to be our friends and allies in the war against (Islamic) terrorism. Even a professor wrote enthusiastically that we had reached the end of history, so humanity has to become reconciled to live peacefully under a soft blend of global socialism and capitalism. Now enters Russian master spy defector Sergei Tretyakov of the New York Rezidentura of the SVR ( the former First Chief Directorate of the KGB) to rain on this optimistically dystopic parade.

And Tretyakov is no ordinary spy of the Communist era. He is the first KGB/SVR officer, who was actively spying for the new Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to defect to the USA. According to a senior FBI agent involved in the case, Sergei Tretyakov "has been by far the most important Russian Spy that our side has had in decades...I can tell you this man saved American lives."

It has taken again a courageous Russian defector, who risked his life for many years for the benefit of freedom, to reawaken America to the fact that in addition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the world remains a dangerous place. We learn painfully that the New Russia has not shed entirely its expansionist and authoritarian tendencies. The new subtle threats to former Soviet Republics, such as the Ukraine and Azerbaijan over natural resources and "privileges in the area," not to mention the recent War on Georgia, remain serious threats to peace and Sergei Tretyakovworld security.

I will not divulge here what specific intelligence Tretyakov provided to the United States, but will let the reader enjoy thoroughly the suspense packed in this book. And yet, the discerning reader will learn that the perceptive and resourceful Comrade J (Jean) Sergei Tretyakov has additionally provided nuggets of intelligence and geopolitical insights into some of the countries in this very volatile part of the world, where natural resources abound. Even on Turkey, an old friend of America, but now a country that is drifting away from the West by the inadequate diplomacy of short-sighted politicians, Tretyakov provides information about attitudes that are worth studying by Western diplomats.

In short, this is without reservation a thumbs up review for a very powerful book. Pete Earley's book is highly recommended, not only for avid readers of Russian espionage, but also for the informed public in general, not to mention American and Western policymakers — who need to study this book the most!

Originally published on on July 6, 2010 by Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D., Former Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel (1996-2002), Editor Emeritus, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS); Author, Vandals at the Gates of Medicine (1995); Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine (1997); and Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002).

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Comments on this post

Stark reality

I am midway through this book and I am enjoying it immensely. I am working on a book review to post here upon my completion of it. Thank you for reecommending this book. It has been much more informative than I anticipated.

Marxist and Revolutionary Movements in the US 1960s-70s!

Wilburn Rowell (Nov 1, 2011):

Thank you for your information. I am still checking out your website. Do you know of any books about the Marxist and violent revolutionary groups of the 1960s/70s in the US? So much violence was done by so many of these groups like the Weather Underground, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), Black Guerrillas, by murdering, kidnapping, arson, etc. Germany has books and even a movie about their revolutionary group Baader-Meinhoff gang; yet in "the land of the free," this information is notably absent. I have searched Amazon, yet all of the books I have come across have been by the criminals themselves or those communist sympathizers seeking to justify their crimes. Again, thank you.

Dr Faria replies:

Hello Mr Rowell, Yes I can and I am happy to recommend three magnificent books about revolutionaries in the USA between the 1960s-70s. All three books are by former revolutionaries and radicals who have seen the light and renounced their radicalism. (Incidentally, I have a section in progress on my website "Random Notes"---The "Great Books" on various topics). But below is what you request. You will love these books:

1) Destructive Generation by Peter Collier and David Horowitz (1989);

2) Radical Son by David Horowitz (1997); these two books are the best about revolutionary groups in the USA, and I have had the pleasure of meeting David Horowitz!

3) Soul on Fire by former Black Panther, Eldridge Cleaver (1978). I would love to hear from you after you have read these books.

I took the liberty to post your previous reply to me here and would like to do the same with this one, if that is OK?

Your learned replies and comments are informative and very much desired in the forum there as well. MAF

Wilburn Rowell responds:

Yes, you certainly may post this reply. My handle there is Koba56. Thank you for your information about the 1960/70s radicals. I will certainly check them out.

Thank you so much for your information. I have visited your website, and I glad to see that not everyone has forgotten the evils of communism--that killed far more people than WWII. Nor has the threat to the West been eliminated with the fall of the failed socialist system of dictatorship of the proletariat. Putin came from the KGB and has proven that "wet work" continues in foreign countries like Britain in 2006 where Aleksandr Litvinenko was assassinated, just as they aided in the death of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in London in 1978.

The well documented cases of communist traitors now vanish with a word "McCarthyism" as though these traitors never existed. Intelligentsia and academia, the media, and the leftists seek to rewrite history in true Soviet style. Interestingly enough, try and find books here on Amazon about the Marxists and revolutionary groups of the 1960s/70s. They are AWOL. There are many self serving or sympathetic books, but where are the actual histories of the violent groups like the SDS, Weather Underground, Black Guerrilla, SLA and the plethora of other violent criminals NOT written by the revolutionaries themselves?

German books on Red groups are available like the Baader-Meinhoff Gang, yet books on our own Red groups during this period are missing. If you know of any available, I would be most interested.

Col Alexander Poteyev convicted on the Sex Spy ring Scandal!

Dear Koba,

Besides the usual resistance to prosecute spies because of the mutual diplomatic embarrassment ostensibly caused to the State Department and foreign embassies, there is the real concern of divulging state secrets related to national security.

I would only make a couple of comments, while I cite some of the informative articles I found on the Russian "sex spy" ring that was busted in Manhattan last year (June 2010) netting ten bungling spies.

The key was Russian SVR Agent Colonel Alexander Poteyev, who actually ran the bungling spy ring (led by the hot Russian spy "Anna Chapman") from Moscow. Here is their story:

Isachenkov, Vladimir. "Alexander Poteyev, Russian Intelligence Officer, Convicted Of Betraying U.S. Spy Ring Including Anna Chapman." The, June 27, 2011.

Another notorious spy in the ring was "Cynthia Murphy" and below is her story and those of the rest of the ring:

"Cynthia Murphy, Accused Russian Spy, Scouted Classmates At Columbia," The, July 1, 2010.

It is of interest that according to that Huffington Post story: "Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a 16-year veteran of the KGB, sang patriotic songs with the spies to celebrate their return. Putin warned in December that traitors come to a bad end and "whatever equivalent of 30 pieces of silver they get, it will get stuck in their throats."

Previously, I wrote about the tragic death of Sergei Tretyakov, an American hero, who died on June 13, 2010, after choking to death on a piece of meat, according to a Florida Medical examiner (Sarasota); and shortly after his death was announced, Russia's prime minister Putin also made an allusion to his death "as the ultimate fate that is bound to affect traitors."

Finally regarding the 11th spy who got away from Cyprus, Christopher Metsos, here is the story:

Belew, Bill. "The 11th Russian spy is missing." Blogosphere Buzz at, June 30, 2010.

Come back and let me know about those books. Your comments will be greatly appreciated! It has been a pleasure!


I wonder

Considering that people who speak poorly about Putin, like Anna Politkovskaya and Litvinenko, end up killed, one must ask is this what happened here? Sergei was both a traitor in Putin's eyes, and he spoke ill of Putin in his book "Comrad J."

Moreover, the entity to which Putin belonged to--KGB--has not allowed foreign borders to interfere with their kidnappings and murders.

Do you have more information about this "choking" death of Sergei? I am over half way through his book and just finding out about his death. As one who has read of Ricin laced umbrellas killing Markov and Trotski's assasination in Mexico by KGB henchmen, one knows to NEVER accept the "official" version.

Vladimir Putin, Sergei Tretyakov and the Russian "sex spy ring"!

As the Medical examiner ruled Sergei's death an accidental chocking, I really believe that Putin was attempting to have his SVR (KGB) take credit for the hero's death, as the righteous assassination of a "traitor." You may want to check any public records in Sarasota about Sergei Tretyakov's death, if you want to obtain more details.

I tend to believe, as shown by the laughable affair of the bungling "Russian spy ring" (June 2010) that included the Russian spies "Anna Chapman" and "Cynthia Murphy," that the SVR is not quite what the KGB was – thanks to men like Sergei Tretyakov and Colonel Alexander Poteyev. (The latter was the SVR officer and American agent who ran the Russian "sex spy ring," from Moscow and later exposed it.)

The best Vladimir Putin could do after the embarrassing scandal was to sing patriotic songs to celebrate their shameful return, while insinuating that the SVR still has the power to exterminate defectors! MAF

Excellent point

KGB (SVR) ain't what it used to be, but not from lack of trying, according to Comrad J.

Also Putin is sounding like other socialist clowns, like Chavez as of late. He accuses Sec of State Clinton of having so much influence that she merely criticizes the rigged election in Russia and tens of thousands of Russians rush to demonstrate at the words of a foreign Sec of State. My, such influence! And this corruption, ballot stuffing , uncounted ballots are no longer any secret since Russia does not totally control the press as in commie days of old. Then Putin makes a rude comment about the opposition's white flag resembling a condom. Youu can take the man out of the KGB (SVR), but you can't take the KGB out of this man.

Comrade J is a great book!

Wilburn Rowell (10/30/11) says:

I enjoyed the review, but would have liked to have known whether Sergei was in counterinteligence, foriegn espionage, legal or illegal, etc. I enjoy books about espionage, the Cold War, and Communism. Having lived most of my life during the Cold War, I must agree with the reviewer's conclusion about the professor's take on a "soft blend of global socialism and capitalism." Even today while Putin prepares to become president of Russia again--thanks to his changing the constitution--one wonders if Russia will return to a quasi-dictatorship in Bolshevik fashion.
I am ordering the book.

Dr. Faria replies (10/31/11):

Hello Mr Rowell,

Sergei Tretyakov was the highest ranking officer in Soviet intelligence SVR in the USA, running all Russian spies in both intelligence and counterintelligence in New York City. He was the Station Chief, SVR deputy Rezident and a "legal" agent, meaning that he had a UN diplomatic cover, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations.

Tragically, Tretyakov, an American hero, died on June 13, 2010, after ckoking to death on a piece of meat, according to a Florida Medical examiner (Sarasota); and shortly after his death was announced, Russia's prime minister Putin made an allusion to his death "as the ultimate fate that is bound to affect traitors."

I would recommend more of my articles if you are interested in Russia, espionage, and the cold war posted on this website. And again thank you for your comments and questions, and if you have any other inquiries I will be happy to answer them if I am able. I am also a scholar of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and have reviewed the best books on his life and times. Check out my other reviews and articles, particularly "Stalin, Communism and Fatal Statistics," posted on this website.

I can also recommend what I consider the best books on Soviet espionage, by topic, if you are interested. Happy Halloween!

Dr Miguel A. Faria.

Soviet Sources and Communist spies

Thank you for this information. I am interested in Soviet sources, as well as the US, about espionage perpetrated against the US and the West. I have Alexander Orlov by Gazur, The Sword and the Shield by Andrew, The Venona Secrets by Romerstein and Breindel, and Spymaster by Kalugin. I also have a couple by Haynes and Klehr.

During a brief moment, Yeltsin opened up the KGB archives to selected members of the West. I have read some of one of these books chronicaling these document in The Secret World of American Communism. Are there any other reliable sources who have documented some of these archives?

Also, The FBI has just released spy documents and some surveillance video of Cynthia Murphy, part of an illegal/ deep cover group attempting to penetrate US policymaking circles. US had a mole, Col Poteyev, in Russian foriegn intel. Why was Murphy and the Russian illegals--who do not have diplomatic immunity--not prosecuted? Did the Justice Dept not have a good enough case? Or was it due to the links to a member of Obama's cabinet and ties to a person with close ties to the Clintons that this was not pursued? I realize that this is your opinion and not an official position; nevertheless, perhaps you can attempt to answer a question that begs an answer: Why do we not prosecute communist traitors? I even have read that this Murphy has some show now; hence she has even benefited from her alleged betrayal of this country.

Arch Traitors and Communist Spies & Sources

Hello Koba56,

The best documentation of these archives to my knowledge (and in very readable formats as books) are in the published works of Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin.

I would therefore add The World Was Going Our Way---The KGB and the Battle for the Third World by Christopher Andrew and V. Mitrokhin (2005). You can buy a basically new hard cover book for a couple of dollars! And it is a treasure, even more readable than The Sword and the Shield, which is loaded with information and that you already possess.

For a reference source, I recommend Spies the Rise and Fall of the KGB in America by Haynes, Klehr, and Vassiliev (2009). You also already have this book in your arsenal.

For a cliffhanger textbook of historic suspense, I strongly recommend KGB--- The Inside Story by Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky (1990). This is essentially the first in the series of KGB books by the British scholar Christopher Andrew that continues with the Mitrokhin Archives.

As far as American Communist traitors, I should point out: Traitors Among Us by Stuart A. Herrington (1999), but there are several other books about Edward Lee Howard, Aldrich Ames, and Robert Hansen; the last two being the arch traitors and most damaging Soviet moles in our history.

Our uplifting heroes: Operation Solo---The FBI's man in the Kremlin (1996) by John Barron; Our Man in Mexico---Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA by jefferson Morley; and The Spy Who Saved the World (Oleg Penkovsky) by Jerrod L. Schechter and Peter S. Deriabin (1992).

As to your third paragraph inquiry, I would like to do a bit more research before I answer this very interesting query. Let me just say now that we have been seeking good relations with Putin's Russia, and if it had not been for the FBI and the CIA which took an interest and insisted in making sure that Americans know that Russian espionage continued after the collapse of the Soviet Empire--- Sergei Tretyakov's book, Comrade J, would not have seen the light of day!


thanks again

I am almost finished with Traitors Among Us, which concerns the military rather than civilian side of espionage, although the two often overlap. It is easily readable and specific instead of a broad overview. One quote in it was quite correct: “The army of the 1970s was a hollow, dispirited force in which drug use was common (118).” I witnessed this first hand, as I was in this military in Germany during these times. This is where I first became aware of the terrorist activities of the Baader-Meinhoff Gang (later RAF).

I have naturally read of Hansen and Ames, the latter of whom should have been caught so much earlier had the many warning signs been observed. Marrying a foreigner, passing out in front of a foreign bar, leaving classified information on a subway visited by KGB, alcohol problems, money problems are all individually potential reasons to be disqualified from a even a lesser clearance (collectively it would be absurd to allow a clearance now), although a certifying official does have much discretion. Perhaps it was the era of lax security that allowed Ames and Walker to get away so easily, as Walker stated: “K-Mart has better security than the navy” [and CIA and FBI apparently then] (Kalugin 97).

I shall most assuredly check out the books you have mentioned.