Friday, January 26, 2024

Missed Opportunity?

One of Graham Greene's most interesting predictions, somehow prescient and unsound at the same time, was the notion that the Soviet Union would cease to be a problem once the KGB had taken control of it.

The Russian intelligence services were, he surmised, individuals selected for their own elite intellectual capacities and pragmatism. They would displace the nutty Marxist ideologues and all would be well in the world. 

He neglected to account for the possibility of tumefied greed and territorial covetousness amongst said pragmatists.

​The author had perhaps had some direct suggestions of doveishness within the KGB via his correspondence with Kim Philby who wrote to Greene that the invasion of Afghanistan was an "infernal business" and that most of his new colleagues in Russian intelligence were opposed to it. These letters were passed to MI6 and it seems that Philby's former colleagues were inclined to believe him. (similar sentiments may have prevailed after Putin's recent push west.)

One of the most intriguing exchanges between Greene and Philby followed on from the SALT II treaty between the US and the USSR. Greene suggested that this might be the ideal moment for the two superpowers to form a joint alliance against Iran. Philby noted how bonkers the Ayatollah was and that he would pass the suggestion on to the 'pragmatists'.

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