Tuesday 10 August 2021

An American spy in Bucharest in 1945

Veteran foreign correspondent Charles Glass in the (often annoying and silly) London Review of Books reviews this month The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War – A Tragedy in Three Acts by Scott Anderson

The review begins with an idea from the Marxist Alexander Cockburn, son of Claud and brother of Patrick.
Alexander Cockburn​ blamed Ian Fleming for the creation of the CIA. Without Fleming, Cockburn wrote on the fiftieth anniversary of the first James Bond novel, ‘the Cold War would have ended in the early 1960s. We would have had no Vietnam, no Nixon, no Reagan and no Star Wars.’
Ian Fleming, working for M16, wrote a 70 page report explaining to Americans how to set up a secret service. 

I suspected in the 1980s and do now that the Cold War was unnecessary.

In 1991, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan introduced the End of the Cold War Bill to dismantle the CIA as no longer needed as the Cold War was over, but it failed.

Bureaucracies always find reasons to continue and expand their work, however little they have to do. It's Parkinson's Fourth Law. 

Nato is another obvious example. 

Now a cold war with China will provide more work for the spies, though the history of espionage through the ages is one of almost complete ineffectiveness. 

Spies could have altered history when they warned of invasion but were ignored by, for example, Stalin and Roosevelt. 

Subversion on the Russian and Western sides during the Cold War had no effect whatever and nor does it now. 

No longer having Marxism to fight, besides trying to subvert Vladimir Putin the CIA
promotes the almost Marxist idea of intersectionality.

I know a journalist who thinks Watergate was a CIA coup against Nixon. 

I don't know about that, though it doesn't sound very implausible after the CIA clearly worked to undermine and remove Donald Trump. Undoubtedly, at least before he became president, MI6 helped.

I was interested in this passage from Charles Glass's article about CIA spy Frank Wisner in Romania.

Then, on 23 August 1944, King Michael of Romania ended his alliance with Germany.

Wisner was ordered to Bucharest to ‘establish the intentions of the Soviet Union regarding Romania’. An advance party of nine agents had been sent ahead of him, including Beverly Bowie, who achieved the coup of attending Romanian cabinet meetings. ‘They pass all my laws unanimously,’ Bowie said. ‘I never thought running a country was so easy.’ On his arrival, Wisner, codenamed Typhoid, was tasked with organising the evacuation of 1400 Allied airmen, seizing German documents and spying on the occupying Red Army. The Soviets were looting Romania’s factories, refineries and grain warehouses, a policy they would soon pursue in the rest of Eastern Europe. In September 1944 King Michael signed an armistice with the USSR. Romanian officials, Wisner reported, felt that their country had been ‘abandoned by the US and Great Britain’. They were right. The Allies were ceding Eastern Europe to Stalin in order to keep Greece and Western Europe in the Anglo-American sphere. In any case, fifty American military and OSS personnel in Romania couldn’t compete with the Soviets’ half million troops and countless intelligence agents. This, Anderson suggests, sowed the seeds of Cold War before the hot war had ended.

At the beginning of 1945, Wisner witnessed the deportation of 60,000 Romanian citizens with German backgrounds from Bucharest’s main railway station. Red Army troops herded them into open boxcars and shipped them to slave labour camps in the USSR. ‘It was what probably affected his life more than any other single thing,’ Wisner’s wife said later. 

1 comment:

  1. Historian Dennis Deletant comments: 'Several of the claims made in play are not supported by the evidence that I have seen. Wisner, for example, was only marginally involved in the repatriation of US airmen.'