Master spy novelist John le Carré’s depictions of Cold War spy games carry such a strong whiff of inside knowledge that his books, to his obvious embarrassment, were considered essential reading by Russia’s KGB, and scrutinized by the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence. Despite predictions that the fall of the Berlin Wall and triumph of capitalism—“the end of history”—would also lead to his downfall as a novelist, the former British spy has kept writing. His latest and highly anticipated novel, A Legacy of Spies, is publishing this week.
So much divides the United States and Russia right now, and the list seems to get longer every day: Ukraine, Iran, Syria, North Korea.
But there’s one way in which Russia and the United States are getting closer. It’s how Russian officials are waging a war of words. They’re using the language of American politics to do it.
A call by the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, for targeted sanctions against senior Russian and Syrian figures has been rejected by fellow G7 foreign ministers.
At a meeting at Lucca in Italy, the group said there must be an investigation into last week’s chemical weapons attack in a rebel-held town before new measures could be adopted.
Tovar was the CIA station chief in Malaysia and Indonesia in the 1960s and then Laos and Thailand in the 1970s, while the U.S. and Soviet Union were locked in proxy wars around the world, most directly in Southeast Asia. For a time he was also chief of the CIA’s covert action and counterintelligence sections at its headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Tovar’s assignments put him on the cutting edge of CIA operations at the time, much like the today’s counterterrorism specialists, said Colin Thompson, a former CIA officer who served under Tovar in Thailand and later in the CIA’s counterintelligence branch.
“Hugh was one of a small group of senior East Asia officers…who were to the CIA in the ’60s and ’70s what the [agency’s] leaders in Middle East operations are today,” said Thompson, who also worked in Laos, where Tovar was station chief from 1970 to 1973, at the height of the CIA’s so-called “secret war” there.
The assignment to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, was a homecoming of sorts for Tovar, who had previously been sent there by the CIA’s World War II predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services, after his ROTC class at Harvard was called to duty by the U.S. Army in 1943.
Born in Colombia as Bernardo Hugh Tovar—he rarely used his first name—he was raised in Chicago but attended Portsmouth Priory (now Portsmouth Abbey), a private school in Rhode Island run by Benedictine monks.
The CIA’s later covert campaign in Laos was the biggest and longest paramilitary operation in the agency’s history. It lasted from 1961 to 1975 and employed hundreds of CIA operatives and pilots and thousands of local Hmong tribesmen in a failed effort to block Communist North Vietnam from using Laos as a supply route and staging ground for attacks in South Vietnam.
But it was Tovar’s tenure in Indonesia in 1965 that has drawn the most scrutiny. At the time, the country’s president, Sukarno, was leading a global “anti-imperialist” movement with the support of the Soviet Union and Communist China.
Tovar, who had earlier worked against Communist guerrillas in the Philippines, was the CIA’s Jakarta station chief. In September 1965, a coup attempt by the Indonesian Communist Party, or PKI, failed, and the military unleashed a genocidal campaign against the PKI’s mostly ethnic Chinese followers.
With the rebellion crushed and the military-backed Suharto regime now fully in power, the U.S. and other Western powers hailed the outcome as “the West’s best news for years in Asia,” as Time magazine put it.
“Hugh made his mark in Indonesia in the mid-’60s where he was COS [chief of station] during the very bloody anti-Chinese riots that led to the overthrow of Sukarno and the rise of Suharto,” Thompson told Newsweek. “I understand he and the station performed very well.”
Too well, according to a sensational 1990 account by States News Service journalist Kathy Kadane. She reported that the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta provided the Indonesian military with the names of suspected Communists, who were then hunted down and murdered.
“Over the next months, tens of thousands died—estimates range from the Suharto government report of 78,002 to an Amnesty International estimate of more than 1 million deaths,” intelligence historian John Prados wrote in his 2003 biography of William Colby, a colleague of Tovar’s who later became CIA director. An internal CIA report on the events in Indonesia, Prados wrote, called it “one of the worst episodes of mass murder of the 20th century.”
Responding to Kadane’s charges in The New York Times, Tovar denied he was involved in providing “any classified information” to an embassy political officer who in turn gave it to the Indonesians.
In a 2001 interview with the Indonesian magazine Tempo, he also denied CIA complicity in the resulting carnage. “The U.S. did not in any way help the Army suppress the Communists,” he said.
Tovar retired in 1978 but followed his second wife, Pamela Kay Balow, “on her assignments with the CIA to Rome, Singapore and Australia,” according to theannouncement of his death by the Galone-Caruso Funeral Home in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. He died “peacefully” at St. Anne Home, an assisted-living center in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, the announcement said.
In his retirement, Tovar became a measured critic of U.S. efforts to overthrow foreign governments. In a 1982 book of essays on covert action, he was quoted as saying the CIA’s ill-fated 1961 invasion of Cuba was based on the mistaken notion that Fidel Castro’s support was “so shallowly rooted…that he could be shaken by psychological pressures, as [President Jacobo] Arbenz had been in Guatemala [in 1954], and then ousted by a comparative handful of troops.”
“Was it an intelligence failure?” Tovar said. “Undoubtedly, and in the grandest sense of the term.”
Likewise, in Vietnam in 1963, a U.S.-backed coup backfired by weakening the Saigon government, Tovar wrote in another essay. “The overthrow of President [Ngo Dinh] Diem constituted the opening of the floodgates of American involvement in Indochina,” he wrote.
“By intruding as it did—crassly and blind to the consequences—the burden of responsibility for winning or losing was removed once and for all from South Vietnamese shoulders, and placed upon America’s own.”
Tovar also cautioned CIA leaders about discussing covert action options with their underlings, “whose instincts and training guarantee an immediate can-do response.”
“Momentum develops rapidly,” he said in the collection of essays, titled Intelligence Requirements for the 1980’s: Covert Action. “Conceptualizing is superseded by planning. Policy emerges in high secrecy and, before anyone realizes it, the project is a living, pulsating, snorting entity with a dynamic all its own.”
Newsweek national security correspondent Jeff Stein served as a military intelligence case officer in South Vietnam during 1968-69.
The war in eastern Ukraine is in a state of cease-fire, but if the past seven months are any indication, this halt in hostilities won’t spell the end of the most severe geopolitical crisis between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.
And the fight continues on the battlefield, in spite of the cease-fire — seven Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a separatist attack on Monday, at the same time the Ukrainian army continued its shelling of rebel positions in Donetsk.
Yet eastern Ukraine is just one hotspot along a larger, continent-wide fault line. The border between Russia and NATO-allied Europe is dotted with pockets of instability including several separatist regions that Moscow and its allies support. The fact that Russia and the NATO states possess all but around 550 of the world’s estimated 17,100 nuclear weapons only raises the stakes.
This map depicts the larger confrontation between Russia and NATO and the possible return to Cold War power dynamics in Europe.
The US and Russia have been competing arms exporters since the dawn of the Cold War.
Although the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the deep-seated rivalry between the US and Russia never fully died out and is now stronger than it’s been in decades thanks the Russian annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine. The same goes for the countries’ rivalry in the realm of military hardware.
The US and Russia are both producing their own fifth-generation fighters. While the US is developing the F-35 in conjunction with select worldwide partners, Russia is developing its own fifth-generation fighter, the Su-50.
And like the F-35, the Su-50 will have multiple variants. The following chart from Russian arms manufacturer Sukhoi shows the intended plan for all versions of Russia’s most advanced fighter jet.
The base model of the Su-50 is also known under its prototype name of the T-50 PAKFA. There have been five T-50s built so far. The plane’s final version (the Su-50) is supposed to be fully operational by 2016.
Once complete, the Su-50 will serve as a base model for future fifth-generation aircraft. Some versions of the plane are intended for export, with the bulk of them being developed for India.
The Indian version of the plane, called the Su-50E, will be similar to the Su-50 but modified according to certain demands from the Indian Air Force. Russia and India are also co-developing the Su55-FGFA, a twin-seater version of the Su-50 that will be specially designed for the Indian Air Force.
This close level of coordination between Russia and India highlights the consistently close military relations the two countries have enjoyed. India is the world’s largest arms importer, and it received 75% of all of its armaments from Moscow in 2013.
Aside from India, Russia also plans to complete variants of the Su-50 for South Korea and Iran. The South Korean version, the Su-50EK, should be ready for export by 2018 while the Iranian Su-50ES version will be ready by 2022.
The former Russian leader warns that Moscow does not trust the West, and the West does not trust Moscow
Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, has warned that the world is at risk of a “nuclear war” because of the tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
In an interview with the German magazine Spiegel, Mr Gorbachev said that if either side lost its nerve in the current stand-off, it could lead to nuclear war, and spoke of his fears that the world “will not survive the next few years”.
“I actually see all the signs of a new Cold War,” Mr Gorbachev said. “It could all blow up at any moment if we don’t take action. The loss of confidence is catastrophic. Moscow does not believe the West, and the West does not believe Moscow.”
Asked if he thought the situation could lead to a war, Mr Gorbachev said: “Don’t even think of it. Such a war today would probably lead inevitably to nuclear war. But the statements and propaganda on both sides make me fear the worst. If anyone loses their nerve in this charged atmosphere, we will not survive the next few years.”
Such a stark warning from the former Soviet leader who brought about the end of the Cold War will raise concerns.
“I do not say such things lightly,” Mr Gorbachev said. “I am a man with a conscience. But that’s how it is. I’m really extremely worried.”
The 83-year-old has spoken out about the current stand-off between Russia and the West before. Last year he used a speech in Berlin on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall to warn: “The world is on the brink of a new Cold War”.
Mr Gorbachev has been critical of his successor, Vladimir Putin, accusing him in a recent book of overconfidence and believing himself to be “second only to God”.
But he has laid the blame for the current crisis with the West, for encroaching on what Russia sees as its spehere of influence.
“Nato’s eastward expansion has destroyed the European security order,” he told Spiegel. “A dangerous winning mentality has taken hold in