This essay discusses the two most successful intelligence operations of the former Soviet Union – the Operation Trust and Operation Candy. The penetrations were possible due to the tricky character of NKGB and GPU actions, their highly developed international network and support, using illegal techniques of espionage, and, plausible circumstances.
The Success of Operation Trust
Operation Trust, which ran from 1921 to 1926, was a counterintelligence action of the State Political Directorate (GPU) of the Soviet Union to detect and ruin the anti-Bolshevik movements in Russian emigration. Because of this operation, checkists managed to control the anti-Soviet underground monarchy, penetrate the White Guard centers abroad, deter terrorist activities, and ensure the supply of foreign intelligence disinformation. The success of the Trust was achieved due to some interesting facts. History suggests that after the coup of October 1917, Tsar Nicolay II lost his throne and Bolsheviks came to power.
Of course, political changes were accompanied by the economic amendments, namely nationalization of private household entrepreneurship, and mass terror of recalcitrant. Monarchists created many reaction groups, most of which were based in emigration – Paris, London, US, Finland, Estonia, etc.
Soviet governors saw the real threat to their regime in anti-Bolshevik movements and, therefore, strived to control the Monarchist organizations. In the early 20-s, the OGPU foreign intelligence was used to solve the following problems:
- Identification of counter-revolutionary terrorist organizations preparing the overthrow of Soviet power in nearby states.
- Development of intelligence and counterintelligence organizations to detect the enemies.
- Obtaining political and economic, including documentary, information abroad.
- Implementation of measures to divide and discredit the organizations of white emigration and their leaders.
Trust was one of the control operations. First, in order to serve the Trust, chekists used the fake anti-Bolshevik organization “Monarchist Union of Central Russia” (MUCR) whose task was to help the OGPU identify anti-Bolsheviks and their forces. Generally, until the end of 1921, MUCR existed as a real monarchists’ unity, but it was detected and secretly liquidated by the Soviet intelligence. Later on, Bolsheviks used the MUCR in their own interests to lure monarchists and reveal the counter-revolutionary plans.
Thus, the first element of Trust’s success was the plausible legend about MUCR and Trust, whereas the former anti-Bolshevik activities of MUCR make the monarchists, like Kutepov, Savinkov, S. Reilly believe in its existence.
Secondly, in order to confirm the Monarchist’s direction, Bolsheviks organized the fake meetings, corresponded with the White emigrants from fake individuals, and published the “ordered” books and other things to promote the activity MUCR. For example, in 1925, Sidney Reilly, one of the ‘most wanted’ agents, believed in the anti-Bolshevik character of Trust and sent them a letter with instructions on the terroristic actions against the Soviet governors. The correspondence with Sidney Reilly in 1925 allowed luring him to Moscow, where he was arrested and unwillingly revealed the contacts of his accomplices in Germany and the USA.
OGPU provided meaningful financial support for carrying out the Trust operation. Therefore, having sufficient funds, the Trust representative branches were organized in Paris, Revile, Warsaw, and Konigsberg. This provided a serious and well-built agent network.
Another circumstance that contributed to the success of Trust was the free uncontrolled nature of the Soviet intelligence. The operational personnel had freedom in creating the agents’ network and recruiting agents. As far as at the beginning of the 20th century the intelligence was in its beginning phase of development, there was no clear line between legal and illegal intelligence. Thus, the same agent could pretend to be the official Soviet representative in one case, whereas act as a foreigner with a fake name in other cases.
Many famous Soviet agents, like Fedorov, Mitskevich, Parparov, and others, used this technique. In addition, the international atmosphere was plausible for the success of the Soviet penetrations as, at that time, there was no tight surveillance, hardware intercept, and universal control systems. Thus, the intelligence was not supported by the modern technical devices, computer, and Internet technologies, whereas the main media was correspondence lettering.
Operation Candy as Soviet Union’s Penetration into Manhattan Project
Operation Candy is another intelligence operation of the Soviet Union aiming to get information on the Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project was a secret research and development program by the United States in cooperation with the United Kingdom and Canada that produced the first nuclear weapon.
The idea of gathering a nuclear weapon research team was mentioned by Einstein in his letter to the US president Franklin Roosevelt in 1939. In 1942, the first nuclear reaction in the reactor Chicago Pile 1 was launched by physicist Enrico Fermi. The first atomic bomb was exploded on July 6, 1945, at Los Alamos laboratory.
Soon after the Manhattan Project was successfully operated in the US, the Soviet Union developed their own nuclear weapon.
By 1943, it became clear for the Americans, that Soviet Union had penetrated the Manhattan Project. The US counterintelligence forces suspected the Soviet espionage in Berkeley, where the Radiation Laboratory was situated. However, in fact, the most successful and notable Soviet spy was a member of the British part in Los Alamos, Klaus Fuchs. First, Klaus Fuchs worked in London and established contact with GRU. When he moved to work for Manhattan Project in the US, he became a party of interest for NKGB.
Historic notes suggest that Fuchs had personal motivation in Soviet cooperation, as after the Third Reich’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Fuchs decided that the Soviets had a right to know about the secret nuclear strategies of the United Kingdom and the US. Therefore, Fuchs began passing military intelligence to the USSR. For example, in 1947-1949 Fuchs gave a piece of important information to Alexander Felixov, the Soviet NKGB spy who worked in the New York office.
The data included the general theoretical outline for creating and developing a hydrogen bomb, the results of the tests of the US uranium and plutonium bombs, and the essential for the USSR data on the U.S. production of uranium-235.
Knowing the production volumes, Soviet scientists could have calculated the number of atomic bombs possessed by the United States. Generally, there is no unified approach to the value of Fuchs’ espionage data to the Soviet Union. Some historical studies suggest that with the help of intelligence information, Soviet Union lessened their research time for one or even two years. Moreover, they could calculate the real nuclear power of the United States and, thus, be prepared for the possible actions.
Another group of scientists denies the positive value of espionage for Soviet research. They provide the facts that Beria used the intelligence information as a third-party check as he did not trust anyone. Moreover, they suggest, that Beria insisted on the total copying American “Fat Man” bomb while developing the first Russian bomb “Joe-1”, which limited the scientific possibilities of the Soviet scientists as they have already had by that tome more sophisticated ideas.
Nonetheless, operation Candy was a successful Soviet Union’s penetration into Manhattan Project, which provided some important information on the US nuclear volumes and readiness for the war. Moreover, when the Fuchs espionage was revealed, the US cooperation with Great Britain and Canada was terminated. The operation was possible due to the highly developed NKGB network in foreign sites and keen espionage. In addition, Manhattan Project included many people, so it was an extremely difficult task to control every member and provide information security.
Although using spy techniques is not the honest way of obtaining information, Soviet Union neglected the international rules and penetrated into the US nuclear scientific system. The US counterintelligence knew the facts of penetration, though they could not find the spies. Karl Fuchs was revealed and trialed only in 1950, so Soviet’s espionage and Operation Candy lasted for years and were the successful deal.
To conclude the essay, it is important to add that after the termination of the civil war, more than two million Russian emigrants stayed abroad. Soviet counterintelligence understood that thousands of experienced, skilled “white officers” pose the real hazard to the new political power. For this sake, the Soviet counterintelligence implements the sequence of risky and keen actions to detect and prevent the anti-Bolshevik revolts of emigrants’ military groups.
Operation Trust was one of the successful operations in this field, where the fake monarchists’ organization MUCR was used to lure the important for Bolsheviks’ individuals and ruin their terroristic attempts. Operation Candy was a Soviet’s penetration to the US nuclear scientific research “Manhattan Project” during WWII. The operation was successful due to the tricky insider’s espionage and for years provided the Soviet Union with the pace and volume of the US atomic bombs development. In addition, this operation contributed to the beginning of the subsequent Cold War.