6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2009
This is a history of the failed operations conducted by Western Intelligence agencies, Britain's SIS in particular, to infiltrate agents into the USSR in the immediate post war era.
The books starts off with the background of SIS's involvement in anti-Bolshevik activities from 1919 onwards, this was particularly interesting, arguably moreso than the main subject.
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result then it has to be said that the SIS (aka MI-6) were insane. Over a period spanning more than a decade from the mid 1940s to the mid 1950s dozens of emigre agents from the Baltic states were dropped into the Baltic states with a brief to aid the anti Soviet resistance. In reality the whole operation was comprimised from the beginning so pretty much all the agents were arrested immediately and imprisoned. whilst false information was fed to Britain.
Although the book only covers the Baltic operation, this same process also happened elsewhere in communist occupied Europe as well as in North Korea and China during the same era, all with equally disastrous results.
The key lesson to be learnt is that the secrecy of the intelligence services can also shield them from outside expertise that can point out obvious errors and mistakes.
Red Web can be kind of repetitive, because of the grim inevitablity of the fate that awaits each Estonia, Latvian or Lithuanian agent persuaded to spy for their country.
This was written in the late 1980s, just before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the release of declassified KGB documents so some of the information about the Soviet side of the operation might be thin compared to more recent accounts of communist Europe.