Yuri Ivanovich







INT: So I'll just ask you again, Mr Modin, if I may:when Truman said to Stalin at Potsdam that they were about to use the atom bomb, and Stalin did not react, how much did he know about the atomic bomb project?

YM: Well, this story about the meeting in Potsdam is very interesting indeed, because there were quite a lot of very peculiar things at that time. Well, there was... Truman - he was a young president (Laughs) - and Stalin have been talking about quite a lot of things; mainly about Germany. But there was a very interesting happening. Truman, consulting his... Secretary of State and Minister of Defense, Marshall - he consulted them, and they decided to say [to] Stalin that they are completing work with the atom bomb. And so Truman, well, during the talk said to him that "We've got a very, very strong weapon, and... a weapon which can be very difficult to... ignore," and looked at Stalin. But he'd forgotten that Stalin was not Russian, he was a Georgian (Laughs), and those who know Georgians know how they can conceal their feelings. Stalin didn't react at all. That doesn't mean that he didn't know about the fact that the research in the field of the atom energy was going on. In the Soviet Union he created conditions which permitted to carry on such research, in spite ofthe fact that the country as such was in a very difficult position and they needed everything to... well, to support its people.

INT: When you went to Los Alamos many years said you were invited there...

YM: Yes.

INT: ... did you meet Perseus?

YM: Perseust [sic]? No - I don't know. I personally talked to the head of Los Alamos laboratories, Barkovsky; my friend did the same, and he met us very friendly indeed. We've been to the history office, in which we saw how they... this idea developed and all that. We've been invited to some new machinery which permitted to know what... wkind of weather is anywhere in the world. (Laughs) And... but that's that. We were not permitted to go to research rooms, you know.

INT: I'll ask you just once again to repeat, if I may, and tsum up for me on the Marshall Plan again. In the early sof the Marshall Plan, how much did the Russians know about the American thinking?

YM: Well, as far as the Marshall Plan is concerned, I must say that Russian intelligence service got, received all the necessary information concerning this Marshall Plan. It was received in United States, mainly in Great Britain, to a less extent in other countries. But the attitude to the Marshall Plan was somewhat different from the positions of the... most European countries. Western European countries, all, without any... excluding Spain, I think - I'm not certain, but I think excluding Spain -... well, decided or accepted this plan as good, and agreed to that. Molotov was asking Marshall... in 1947 there was a conference in Paris... putting quite a lot of questions. But after a certain period of time, he decided to leave this conference, and said that the Soviet Union wouldn't be able to take part in this programme, just because it would lead to our complete dependence on United States. This... that was, he said is against our policy, and that's that.

INT: Can I also ask you then just to sum up again...another area we were talking about was the general lifestyle of a spy; and in the West many people regard the spy's life as one of great glamour and travel and sex and... How accurate a view is this?

YM: Well, it depends, of course, on the person. Say... well, we can speak about Gordievsky - he's a man of... a woman's man; he was dealing with women in Copenhagen, in Great Britain and everywhere, and that is his weakness; though he is a very clever man - no doubt - and he... cultured man, if you like. But at the same time, he can't be an intelligence officer. He can be a spy, yes; he was a British spy. (Laughs) But... speaking generally about the intelligence service, I think I must say that it's not an easy work, not an easy work at all. It can be very hard, physically and morally, and side... you could take any thide [sic] and you will see that, because you've got to work and work very hard, and sometimes at night, and you can't see your family sometimes for some days, you know; you can't play with your children because you haven't got time; and when you come to home, you just drop and sleep. There is no glamour at all. I've seen glamour only sometimes, when the British counter-intelligence was trying to put me to some very, very beautiful girls, and all that kind of things. (Laughs) Well, then I saw glamour, but it didn't belong to me. (Laughs) (Pause) Then... I think that it's... this work is connected also with...the fact that if you are not...... if you are working in the Embassy or in some trade delegation or somewhere else, you've got to do your piece of work in that offices too, and it isn't easy and it isn't... it's just an additional pressure, additional pressure of the work. So, simple intelligence officers... when I say "simple" I don't mean silly, I mean (Laughs) intelligent, but it's very hard for them. Some of them work for one year, for two, for three, then they are requesting and asking, "Well, please take me away from that - I've got to rest, I've got to rest." So... when some people think that intelligence world lives like life described by Le Carre, agent 007, it's 'belletristica' ... I don't know...'belletristica'... is the known word for... in English?... it's... fiction - that's it. I'm sorry. Fiction. That's that.

INT: You're most well known for the tremendous amount of information you got from London in the late Forties, early Fifties. Are you proud of that work?

YM: Proud? Well... I'm proud only in the way that, in spite of the very serious attempts by the British counter-intelligence to catch me, they didn't succeeded in it. That makes me proud. I can't be proud for the information as such. You know, in this case I've been just a man who makes it possible to use the British material used by the Soviet Government. There is nothing I can be proud of in that respect. I did it rightly, very carefully... with the security, strong security of every my step; and in my behaviour, in my meetings with the people, I've been... later on I've been a diplomat, I've met quite a lot of very, very prominent political leaders of Great Britain, and as a diplomat I was been able to meet them and to talk to them and all that, but I never used them in the intelligence way.

INT: But do you think the information that you got from Burgess and Blunt, and through them from Philby and Maclean and the others - do you think that changed the course of the early Cold War?

YM: Yes, I think it did. I think it did. ... because the material which was received by the leadership of the Soviet Union permitted to behave in accordance with this information. This information, some of it was very hard, especially by... Americans. But as far as the British are concerned, Britain was more reserved, and that was the thing which was very important from the point of behaviour of the Soviet leadership. I'll tell you just one story. (Pause) You know, in 1949 the Chinese Republic... in September was established the Chinese Republic, and the Chinese said, "When we came to the power, we'll liquidate all the private property of all the foreign countries on the territory of China." Americans said, "What?! We will lose all our property in China? Never! We will fight. We'll never agree with that." What was the position of Great Britain? They said, "Don't hurry, don't hurry, take it easy, take it easy. They will take, but then they will return, or they will find a way to compensate us for what we lost." Americans said, "Why?" And they said, "Well, you've got to know that China has no common border with the United States or with Great Britain or with any of our friends. They will get trouble with the Russians. The Chinese character is somewhat different, differs very much from ours. They'll get in trouble, and then all our problems with property and all that will be settled." (Laughs)

You see? Well, then look at... when the leadership of the Soviet Union will get this information, what they will do, what the influence of this information would be on their minds - not on their words or their expressions or something like that, but just in their minds. That's it. And that's why I say that the fact that the Soviet Union received all this information all these years, was very helpful of course when settling some small problems. But in general, it was very helpful. It didn't stop the Cold War, this fact didn't stop the Cold War, but it was useful in lowering down the contradictions which existed at that time, lowering down. And I think, from the point of view of history, that's helpful.