Stable Relationships for Spies

by wjw on June 12, 2018

250px-Emblem_Stasi.svgOne TV drama I watched from first to last was The Americans, about two married Soviet spies living in D.C. in the 1980s.  Mr and Mrs Jennings bugged American officials, ran networks, eliminated defectors, seduced informants, raised one of their two children to be a spy, and racked up a surprisingly large body count among the enemies of socialism— including coming within an ace of assassinating Casper Weinberger.

Turns out that the East German Stasi had a manual for all that.  Unlike the Jennings family of the KGB, who were more or less thrown together just before setting out for the West, the Stasi emphasized recruiting couples who had both a committed relationship and were committed to Marxist-Leninism.

The sacrifices, risks, and importance of the job also meant that it could only be performed by the most loyal communists. Candidates would need “Marxist-Leninist convictions, knowledge of the processes of social development, and an understanding of the requirements of the current and future class struggle.” In particular, they had to be reliable Party members who had demonstrated unwavering loyalty to the Soviet Union. Finally, to provide companionship and support in long and lonely missions, potential residents needed to be married to a willing co-conspirator.

Whether running a spy ring in the West or being separated for operational reasons, “harmony and stability” in the marriage was critical. Recruiters would need to collect reliable facts on the subject, including the couple’s respective pre-marital relationships, power dynamics, and points of tension.  The manual also called for the collection of intelligence on the couple’s sex lives, including whether “both partners are satisfied” and “which wishes are being voiced and fulfilled.” To gather these facts, the Stasi manual helpfully suggested surveilling the candidate couple’s apartment and reading their mail.

If the KGB had followed that line of inquiry with the Jenningses, they might have saved themselves a lot of grief.

Following the manual, the DDR succeeded in getting at least 30 illegals inside West Germany, which meant at least 15 couples happy in bed and happy working for world revolution.

Where are those illegals now, I wonder?  Still running their networks on behalf of a cause that collapsed nearly thirty years ago?  Earning a nice salary working for some Russian oligarch?  Or quietly retired, being wheeled around the old folks’ home by Turkish guest-workers?

Unless a bunch of new files turn up, we’ll probably never know.

Etaoin Shrdlu June 12, 2018 at 3:45 am

Well, one of them is currently Chancellor of Germany. . . .

wjw June 12, 2018 at 4:45 pm

Has Merkel’s Stasi file turned up? It looks like she was too busy getting postgraduate science degrees to spend a lot of time infiltrating the BRD.

Plus, y’know, unstable first marriage.

Privateiron June 13, 2018 at 1:17 pm

I was just re-watching the pilot. For what it’s worth they first meet in 1962 and their first day in America is 1965. That’s not the subjective impression I get of their relationship from the rest of the script, but the “objective” subtitles indicate they had 2-3 years to develop some rapport.

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