Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Putin Goes Full Bond Villain

Brendon Cole at Newsweek.com offers a piece on the reemergence of SMERSH, the Russian murder organization.

A counterintelligence directorate created by former Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin and made famous by the James Bond novels of author and former British spy Ian Fleming has reportedly made a return to Russia.

SMERSH is a portmanteau of the Russian for "death to spies," or "smert shpionam." It was announced in 1943 as a move to target Nazi spy rings, traitors and foreign agents during the World War II, before it was disbanded in 1946.

Fleming portrayed the group as cold-blooded foes of James Bond. One of his characters was Rosa Klebb—an assassin handy with a flick-knife shoe, who was played by Austrian actress Lotte Lenya in the 1963 film version of From Russia with Love.

A former British diplomat has told Newsweek that the reported re-emergence of SMERSH was "inevitable" given Vladimir Putin's comments about cracking down on "traitors" since the start of his full-scale invasion of Ukraine.


Not just a byword for the brutality of the Stalin era, SMERSH has been recreated in the present day to hunt down intelligence officers Moscow believes are targeting Russia, the British Ministry of Defence said on Monday.


You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Putin Goes Full Bond Villain (newsweek.com)

Ben Macintyre, a columnist for the London Times and the author of “The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War,” “A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal,” and other fine books on spies and espionage, wrote about a Russian GRU (military intelligence) assassination group operating in Europe that is the descendant of the Soviet assassination organization SMERSH, the counterintelligence unit that inspired Ian Fleming, I wrote in my Washington Times review of Heidi Blake's From Russia With Blood.

“If the idea of a ruthless spy-killing unit sounds like the stuff of fiction, that’s because it became precisely that,” Ben Macintyre wrote in his Times column. “In the James Bond novels, Ian Fleming portrayed Smersh (director of operations: Rosa Klebb) as a massive counterintelligence network that more closely resembled the KGB.”

Ben Macintyre wrote that the real SMERSH was effective in not only murdering Soviet traitors (some of whom were undoubtedly innocent, he noted), but SMERSH also instilled terror among potential enemies and enforced obedience in Soviet citizens.

“And now it is back, with a new name and a new remit but essentially the same purpose: to put the fear of God, and assassination, into Russia’s enemies, traitors and deserters,” Mr. Macintyre wrote. “According to intelligence sources, Unit 29155 is an elite sub-unit of GRU assassins that operated out of the Haute-Savoie in the French Alps, conducting a variety of wet jobs across Europe: notably the attempted poisoning in Salisbury of GRU officer-turned-MI6 spy Sergei Skripal, and the attempt to kill a Bulgarian arms dealer in 2015.”

In Ian Fleming’s classic 1957 thriller “From Russia With Love,” James Bond was the target of a SMERSH plot to assassinate him and discredit British intelligence in a scandal. SMERSH sent out from Russia a psychopath assassin named Red Grant to kill Bond. Ian Fleming admitted that his plots were fantastic, but he also said they often lifted the tip of the veil to reveal the real world of espionage. 

Heidi Blake’s “From Russia With Blood” (a clever take on Ian Fleming’s “From Russia With Love” title), lifts the veil off a series of murders in the United Kingdom and places blame squarely on Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

BOOK REVIEW: 'From Russia With Blood' - Washington Times 

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