- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 4, 2002

The Canadian government has just honored - belatedly - a Soviet intelligence agent, Igor Gouzenko, who defected in Ottawa 57 years ago and revealed to the world the existence of a Soviet spy ring in Canada and the United States.

Few at the time realized his defection signaled the beginning of the Cold War, Josef Stalins drive to conquer the Western democracies.Our own government ought to honor the memory of this man, too, because his revelations startled America into a grim realization that the Soviet wartime alliance was over. For good.

The honor accorded Gouzenko by the Minister of Canadian Heritage is purely symbolic: His defection will be officially defined as an event of "National Historic Significance" and a plaque commemorating the Gouzenko affair will be unveiled at a location not yet determined. For years, Gouzenko, who died in 1982, and his family of eight children lived in a Toronto suburb under a pseudonym and under guard by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The family was rewarded with a government pension.

Gouzenko, then a 26-year-old lieutenant in the Soviet GRU, was a lowly cipher clerk working in Room 12 of the Soviet Embassy. Lowly or not, he was privy to the most secret communications between the Soviet military intelligence unit in Ottawa and the Moscow headquarters. Later investigation showed that the Kremlin had installed an espionage apparatus in Canada as far back as 1924.

One Wednesday night, Sept. 5, 1945, Gouzenko walked out of the heavily guarded building with 109 secret documents, which he had carefully marked and collected, stuffed under his shirt. These documents unmasked an espionage network of some 20 Canadian citizens. After a Canadian Royal Commission investigation, 11 Canadians, including a member of the House of Commons, and several Britons were convicted.

Thanks to Canadian intelligence cooperation, the FBI, following leads from the Gouzenko dossier, eventually turned their attention to Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White. Both were high officials in the Roosevelt administration during the years of World War II, while serving as Soviet spies. Eventually the FBI was able to target the Rosenbergs, Harry Gold and Klaus Fuchs, the atomic traitors.

So euphoric was the atmosphere in both the U.S. and Canada about the Soviet Union and the Red Army that Gouzenkos documented revelations were at first not believed. Its a miracle that in the days following as Gouzenko wandered around Ottawa trying to interest somebody in his story that he was not apprehended and assassinated by the Soviet Embassy strong-arm squad. When on the night of his defection he approached a newspaper, the Ottawa Journal, with the documents, he was regarded as a crank and sent packing even though in a matter of hours the Soviet Embassy would surely know the documents were missing and begin a hunt for him.

What few Canadians and Americans realized was that Soviet espionage had begun to function from Day One of the Russian Revolution, first, of course, against the Russian people and then against the capitalist democracies.

The GPU, as it was then called, and the GRU had become particularly active during World War II. John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr have written in their history of Soviet spying: "From 1942 to 1945 the Soviet Union launched an unrestrained espionage offensive against the United States. This offensive reached its zenith during the period when the United States, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, adopted a policy of friendship and accommodation toward the U.S.S.R. The Soviet assault was of the type a nation directs at an enemy state that is temporarily an ally and with which it anticipates future hostility, rather than the much more restrained intelligence-gathering it would direct toward an ally that was expected to remain a friendly power."

So pervasive was Soviet influence on American elites that the egregious Joseph E. Davies, a close friend of FDR whom he appointed as ambassador to Moscow, even endorsed treason on behalf of the U.S.S.R. In 1946, he was quoted in the New York Times as saying: "Russia in self-defense has every moral right to seek atomic-bomb secrets through military espionage if excluded from such information by her former fighting allies."

Its a miracle that Gouzenko survived those few days when the Soviet Embassy goons were trying to hunt him down. He had the goods, but it was days before anybody in authority was willing to listen to him and that included the then Prime Minister Mackenzie King who wanted only, as he told the Canadian House of Commons, "the best of relations with the U.S.S.R." It was the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that finally listened to him and vouched for his information.

Perhaps the real appreciation of what the young Russian cipher clerk did for freedom was in a letter Mrs. Gouzenko received in 1995 on the occasion of her 50th anniversary in Canada and which the National Post columnist, George Jonas, has made public. The letter reads:

"When you and your husband crossed over to freedom, you began the long process that led to the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. His revelation helped the West to face up to the reality of communist subversion and tyranny. Those of us who later fought the battle for freedom to its climax in 1989 and 1991 were greatly in his debt and in yours."Signed: Margaret Thatcher.


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