The French ambassador looked like an easy target, but 100 operatives were called on to get him laid, and get him recruited.”>
Eh bien, Dejean, on couche.
With that contemptuous locution, which one might translate very roughly as, Well, De Jean, one gets laid, with perhaps the added thought that having made ones bed, one must lie in it, Charles De Gaulle dismissed his old friend Maurice Dejean from diplomatic service to the Fifth Republic.
It was 1964, six years after the KGB had staged one of its long-running and most elaborate honey traps in Moscow against a Western diplomat. The operation involved over 100 officers and agents of the KGB including, incognito, the head of the Second Chief Directorate, the branch responsible for domestic surveillance and the monitoring or recruitment of foreigners inside the Soviet Union.
Celebrated Russian writers, actresses, painters, and intellectuals, and not a few prostitutes were conscripted for this mission of interlocking plots and subplots, featuring Dejeans wife and the wives of others. Even Premier Nikita Khrushchev played a role in snaring the high-value mark he himself ordered snared. It was a mission of entrapment that repeatedly risked coming undone and likely would have but for the cosmic surety of French womanizing.
Dejean had served faithfully with De Gaulle in the resistance during World War II,first in Morocco and then London. Although the two had quarreled in the Free French administration after the Allied liberation of Paris, Dejean went on to become political director at the Quai dOrsay, the French foreign ministry.
From there, his career was largely a series of botched attempts to extricate postwar France from various folds in the Iron Curtain, a somewhat quixotic search for a third way between the democratic West and the totalitarian East.
Dejean served as ambassador to Prague and worked assiduously to restore Franco-Czech relations until the 1948 communist coup, which Dejean blamed (rightly) on the Soviets. He headed the French mission in Tokyo in 1950; then he was dispatched to Saigon where he watched the siege of Dien Ben Phu and its fall to communist insurgents in 1954: prelude to an engulfing conflict that would eventually lure the United States into its first disastrous war of choice.
Perhaps it was fitting, then, that Dejeans next posting would also be his last, in Moscow, a year later. He was 56, eager to establish cultural ties and, as the haughty De Gaulle put it, not above sleeping around.
In the age of email hacking and cyber insecurity, it is easy to forget the more cunning, intimate, and human side of tradecraft, which is why over the last several months Ive been taking slow, deep sips fromKGB: The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents, a book published in 1974, at a time when we knew far less than we do now about how the Cold War was being fought in the shadows and street corners and embassies of the world.
The author, John Barron, a Readers Digest journalist (and not the spokesman Donald Trump used to conjure out of thin air) , spent years accumulating first-hand accounts from Soviet defectors about the nature and style of the special services invigilation of the citizenry and of usually unsuspecting foreign visitors to the USSR, or foreign marks abroad.
Barron, who was himself a spook in the 1950s, was so accomplished by the end of his spadework that he frequently testified for the FBI in prominent espionage cases, explaining the patterns of Soviet surveillance and spy-running. The Dejean operation is in many ways the summa of KGB and the subject matter therein.
It all began in 1956, the year of the Hungarian Revolution, at the Moskva Hotel, with KGB Col. Leonid Kunavin instructing one of his subordinates, the dramatist Yuri Krotkov, that Dejean was the target for recruitment, given his closeness to De Gaulle and the likelihood that the latter was on his way to ruling France. The order comes from the very top, Kunavin said. Nikita Sergeyevich [Khrushchev] himself wants him caught.
The use of Krotkov as the seconded scalp-hunter was as clever as it was customary, given his bona fides in the artistic milieu of Soviet Moscow. Born in Tbilisi, he was the son of a famous Georgian painter who once did a portrait of Lavrenty Beria that Stalins last-appointed security chief so admired, he had copies made and hung around the security services Lubyanka headquartersuntil, of course, Beria was purged by Khrushchev following Stalins death.
Even so, paternal accomplishment and connections afforded Krotkov the necessary state protections, as a writer, to advance quickly through the ranks of the nomenklatura. He relied on his friends in the NKVD, as Berias spy service was then known, to evict squatters who had taken over his former room in Moscow, prior to the Nazi siege, which had forced him to flee. Krotkov then worked for TASS and Radio Moscow. He became an agent of the KGB in 1946, at the age of 28.
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As a writer, intellectual, and friend of the Boris Pasternak [author of Dr. Zhivago] family, Krotkov was welcomed by foreigners in Moscow. This tall, slender man, with a handsome shock of dark brown hair and an intense, expressive face, could talk suavely in English or Russian about the arts, history, and prominent Soviet personalities. Soon he learned to exploit the hunger of visitors for communication with the Soviet people. All the while, Krotkov was instructed to look for attractive girls whom the KGB could use to tempt foreigners into trouble. He picked them primarily from among actresses he met while writing film scenarios. The KGB offered them various inducementsthe promise of better roles, money, clothes, a measure of liberty and gaiety absent from normal Soviet life.
The girls were called swallows and they flew solo or in formation, depending upon the needs of Krotkov and his masters in the special services. Quarters were provided to them for assignations with their foreign marksthese were swallows nestswhich consisted of two adjoining rooms; one for the tryst and one for the KGBs audio-visual squad to record everything for the inevitable blackmail and Faustian offer.
Upon their arrival in Moscow, in December 1955, Dejean and his wife Marie-Claire had already been put under extensive surveillance. Their apartment at the French embassy was bugged. Their chauffeur was a KGB informant. They didnt go anywhere or see anyone without the KGBs knowledge, in accordance with Second Chief Directorate policy.
We know everything about him there is to know, Col. Kunavin told Krotkov during their meeting at the Moskva Hotel. A day later, the colonel told Krotkov his role would be to get to know Marie-Claire. You must gain control of her; make her ours. You must get her in bed.
Nor were the Dejeans the only mark. The Soviets also wanted to recruit an assistant air attach at the French embassy, Col. Louis Guibaud, who was also married and whose wife Ginette would also have to play a sexual part in Krotkovs little cinema vrit production. Moscows Frank Sinatra at the time, the actor and singer Misha Orlov, would be the one to seduce Madame Guibaud.