17 February 2021 — Eric Walberg
Written by Eric Walberg Эрик Вальберг/ Уолберг إيريك والبرغ
These portraits are a riveting expose of the Cold War as it took shape even as peace was achieved in 1945. As I read, I marveled at the herculean efforts of millions of talented, gung-ho players, devoting themselves and untold trillions of dollars, all to ‘defeat communism’. But I kept asking myself: isn’t that what Hitler was trying to do? Wasn’t it the Soviet army that turned the tide at Stalingrad, liberated Berlin, not to mention all of eastern Europe and Russia itself? Was there to be no place for communism in the post-WWII order?
The four ‘heroes’ of Anderson’s epic journey through the heart of darkness were devoted, zealous, self-sacrificing, convinced they were the forces of Good against Evil. None were double agents, they gave their all, at least during WWII and the decisive decade following that established the post-WWII Cold War. They all drank the kool-aid and survived, mostly. They were living out, even making, history, but now none warrant more than a footnote or two. Where are the real heroes?
Daredevil, Hollywood glamour boy Michael Burke admits he’s ready to do any wild, subversive black ops (before the term was invented), train his wild mountain Albanians and drop them (Polish pilot, old army plane), knowing they probably wouldn’t survive. Oh well, off to Ukraine! Lots of gritty action there. Ex-Nazi war criminals? Who cares? I was not looking for a quiet corner. On the contrary, I was eager for a new level of responsibility. On a purely subjective level, I knew this was where I should be.i
Star athlete, black ops commando, Hollywood screenwriter, ladies’ man, spy. Friends with Ava Gardner, Muhammad Ali, Eleanor Roosevelt,ii drinking buddy of Ernest Hemingway, Mickey Mantle. At times he would be carousing with filmmakers and paramilitary assassins on the same day. Burke was like a kid playing Lone Ranger.
In his memoir, he recounts the desperately difficult odds a Czech resistance fighter faced in 1948, suggesting he probably would have swallowed his pride and withdrawn to some quiet anonymous sideline, made peace with the system. But instead, he was urging these brave souls to risk their lives for nothing. His doubts and sense of guilt got the better of his desire to stay in a cushy job, and pushed him to resign in 1955. Burke was smart and quit early, going on to manage Ringling Circus and then New York Yankees, then retired to a farm near Galway, Ireland, a ‘gentleman’ farmer. A man who with an occasional burst of outrageous good fortune, wandered out into a mostly happy life, an improvised life, making a living at things he most wanted to do, and, when instinct signaled it was time to go, moved on, the promise of the new always outdistancing the fear.
Frank Wisner shapes up as the brains and fanaticism of the CIA in its birth pangs. He was the ideologue of anti-communism, and took all the evil he was presiding over personally. A workaholic, doing the Good, whatever is required to achieve it. Hmm. sounds like Lenin. And what if it’s not the Good, but the Bad? Lots and lots of Bad?
And what was the Good? That was the problem these cheerleaders faced. They had no positive message. ‘Freedom’ and ‘democracy’ were just empty slogans. Their Good was just the absence of communism. But that doesn’t put food on the table. That’s what communism was all about. Peace, land and bread. That was/is communism’s drawing card. In the post-WWII context, that meant redistribution of wealth, in plain language, land reform.
Wisner is the most tragic, passionate in his erroneous beliefs. What did he believe in? That US foreign policy is governed by ‘gentlemen’ being nice, playing cricket? While his fellow bureaucrats went home at 6pm, he would sit fretting till 11pm. He wanted to fight injustice, but ended up a war criminal in the peacetime Cold War. His Damascus moment was in chaotic, blood-soaked 1945 Romania. Egghead Wisner really, really didn’t like the Soviet occupation of Romania (Read the fine print, Frank!). True, Romanian troops were instrumental in the German invasion of the Soviet Union, but it just wasn’t fair to refashion the Romanian state a la Stalin. Wisner kept reminding himself of this moment to justify the growing mountain of crimes he would commit in the service of freedom, etc.
Frank Lansdale acts as a kind of saviour, first in Philippines, orchestrating the collapse of the Huk rebellion and the election of Magsaysay as president in 1948. He drew from his advertising background to build a populist campaign machinery US-style, with a campaign song Mambo Magsaysay that became a hit, virtually ensuring his election. His into-the-breech intrigue in Vietnam, helped cow the bitter, departing French and build a credible Vietnamese politician Ngô Đình Diệm, defeating the marauding gangs that the French had promoted to ensure a violent, stillborn independence for a new entity South Vietnam.
Lansdale championed ‘winning hearts and minds’ and making friends with key locals, then shaping them to meet US needs, i.e., the defeat of communism. But he warned his spook masters that US troops would be seen as the new colonial masters and would be resisted, something that did not occur in Philippines, where Magsaysay, a military man, was able to bring the army onboard.
He was the prototype of Graham Greene’s Alden Pyle in The Quiet American (1955), and Colonel Hillandale and Homer Atkins in The ugly American (1958). His successes inspired JFK to create the Peace Corps, and the attempts to create safe villages where locals would inform on Vietcong activities.
Lansdale is the most realistic of the musketeers, realizing that land reform is the key in all these cases, just as it was/is in Guatemala and all the other conflict zones. But he realized that the US was not interested in that. Just setting up a stable regime, dictatorship if necessary, for plunder by US corporations. And a good ad executive always tries to please his customer.
In the early 1960s, he was involved in clandestine efforts to topple the government of Cuba, including proposals to assassinate Fidel Castro under the aegis of Operation Mongoose, the CIA plan to topple Castro’s government. He was fired by President Kennedy’s Defense Secretary Robert McNamara after he declined Kennedy’s offer to assassinate Diem. As Diem quickly turned into a dictator, Lansdale wanted out but was refused. ‘You made the mess. Clean it up,’ he was told. He was allowed to go only when it was clear he was of no further use. Even though he and Diem were no longer close, he arranged a final vacation with Diem and his notorious brother Nhu. Kennedy ordered the assassination of Diem in 1963, 3 weeks before his own assassination.
Lansdale’s career sputtered out, the high points being in the 1950s, the low point in the 1960s when he led the Castro assassination attempts. To his credit, he thought the Bay of Pigs scheme sheer lunacy. His own memoirs he called The Unquiet American. His career could have been brilliant, historic, if he’d sided with history and not empire. But that is easier said than done. You can claim him as a US hero or villain or both, as the Hillandale-Atkins team suggests.
Lansdale is the avatar of ‘hearts and minds’. He institutionalized the new warfare strategy of soft power, pushing aside generals still fighting WWII, but he knew his limits, and he saw that he was being ignored. The same scenarios of the 1940s–50s are replayed time and again, a Lansdale-inspired Groundhog Day with Afghanistan the latest victim. Is this a human failing, an instinct leading to self-destruction, to keep playing a losing hand over and over?
Peter Sichel Assimilated German Jew, Peter Sichel grew up in medieval picturesque Mainz, scion of a wealthy family of wine merchants, escaped to England, eventually landing in New York in 1941 and in the Army Medical Corps in 1942, and the CIA precursor Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1943.
When allies landed at Normandy, hundreds of thousands of German soldiers surrendered. Many from Strafkommandos. Sichel’s job was to recruit potential spies from these POWS (illegal under internatonal law). Sichel dismissed the ‘werwolf’ threat (marauding gangs of Nazis in post-war Germany), explaining it wasn’t necessary because they’re Germans. Germans don’t do insurgencies. They need a leader. Once you get the Nazi leadership, resistance will collapse. They’ll all want to be your friend. This infuriated his superiotd, who wanted to expand their covert work any way they could.
Sichel was also constantly complaining that the intelligence he was getting came from con men and intelligence mills, so a senior intelligence officer suggested he was a ‘sov-symp’, maybe even a communist! Later J Edgar Hoover would zero in, hoping for a spectacular killing, but Sichel was saved by the Dulleses, who despised McCarthy, who they realized was gutting their forces.
He had the most honorable exit. Having helped homosexuals under his direction to escape the clutches of McCarthy (by convincing them to resign before McCarthy could destroy their lives). When he left, he stated: I left because the CIA did things I didn’t like, such as send people into the Ukraine to work in fabricated resistance groups. They were potentially being sent to their deaths. I made a huge fuss. He took over the family wine import business and made Blue Nun virtually a household word.
Having escaped Hitler Germany as a Jew, he stared down Nazis as he coldbloodedly interviewed and then hired many Nazis to build up West Germany, even those involved in the genocide of Jews and others. He led a charmed life and was able to retire without the ghosts that haunted Wisner, knowing he’d done his best to end the disreputable counterinsurgency policy that was embraced wholesale right through to the present day. It was a crusade, a romantic crusade. We were young and idealistic, and we were going to defeat communism and liberate the world. We were the good guys, and because we were good, we didn’t have to think too much about the negative things we did along the way. And we also didn’t think about history. If we had, we would have remembered that crusades always end badly.
A nice irony, all four started out gung-ho on black-ops, covert actions to destabilize the ‘enemy’ and all four came to despise these actions, seeing they were worse than futile, resulting in needless deaths of hundreds of willing volunteers. The US was misleading angry locals into thinking they were inciting a rebellion that the US would use to liberate their nations, a lie, as was horribly demonstrated when Hungarians took the plunge, rebelled, with little real opposition, in 1956, and were abandoned.
The conservatives ones (Burke, Sichel) fared better, firmly anti-communist but pulling out when the game got too dirty and silly, escaping excessive guilt and despair with the overall sordidness and failure. Burke turned shit into gold with his Hollywood stint. The liberals Lansdale and Wisner will not get off so lightly on Judgment Day, though Wisner, hand-wringing and wailing till the end, at least had the dignity to blow his brains out.
As Burke came to realize quickly, fueling rebellion ‘behind the lines’ only works if there is a plan to invade and back it up, as occurred in WWII. there was no plan to invade eastern Europe to liberate it. Burke’s Albanian ‘pixies’ (insurgents) were mocked by locals in Albania when they couldn’t produce their American allies.
But this is where the plot really thickens. It turns out it was the communists who were the biggest fans of US black ops. To the degree such groups did exist, it was because the KGB and its eastern European clones wanted them to exist, as catchment basins for the regimes’ enemies. Even Burke didn’t carry his suspicions to the ultimate, most disturbing, possibility: what if the guerrilla groups didn’t actually exist at all?
The Polish communists win the Oscar for best deception. For two years, starting in 1950, they convinced the CIA to drop arms straight into the communists’ hands. Ditto resistance groups in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. By 1950, the Ukrainian dissidents had been wiped out, yet two years later, Wisner would launch the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC)’s biggest covert Operation Fiend. Philby was instrumental in helping the Poles, and keeping this CIA program going, knowing it fed straight into Soviet hands.
So are there any real heroes here? Yes, but by default. And thanks to Hoover’s anti-communist crusade, which was gnawing away at the whole anti-communist program frm within, undermined the main goal of actually destroying communism. What a nasty, shameful episode in US history is cross-dressing, homophobe Hoover’s anti-communist crusade. But in writing 70 years later, it is cathartic to know that the obsession to destroy communism didn’t work. Time and again, I couldn’t help thinking that the real heroes of this drama-tragedy were the American communists and fellow travellers.
And their plight still rings true today. It is chilling to see how this paranoid mindset led naturally to fighting a new enemy in today’s anti-terrorism campaign and using the same Stasi-like monitoring of private lives, anti-muslim/ black profiling, drones wars, creating ever new resistance, ever new heroes. Trump’s anti-communism and anti-Islam recaps Truman/ Eisenhower/ McCarthy. Just as Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions recaps Secretary of State John Dulles, who vetoed any real engagement with the Soviet Union, and encouraged CIA covert operations, even though they were all failures and very costly, especially to the people US actions were supposed to help.
Which brings us to Kim Philby, the real ‘hero’ of Anderson’s saga. Anderson doesn’t quite know what to make of him, recounting anecdotes from the four musketeers, all of who crossed paths with the master spy, fondly remembering Philby’s dazzling dinner parties, the international cultural elite of the exciting 1930s–50s. All the time, divulging top secrets to his Soviet controllers, unraveling just about everything these spy bunglers attempted.
Philby’s defection to the Soviet Union in 1961 shook the CIA to the core, one of the many holes in Wisner’s armor that led to his suicide in 1965. They had been good friends. Wisner was from the Ivy League east coast, American ‘aristocracy’. Noblesse oblige, honor, trust all mixed together. Wisner loved the elegance and sense of nobility, connection with the land and commonweal, that he felt in Philby. Philby even took him to his legendary spy father St John Philby, at his elite club in London. Wisner had to believe all his murderous activities were for the Good, and Philby gave a touch of culture, refinement, to their otherwise sordid work. A posh Cambridge accent gave a patina of credibility to the US plan to continue Hitler’s plan to destroy communism.
But Philby’s Good was communism, which, like feudalism, is based on a sense of connection with the land and commonweal, something merchant-inspired 1776 lacked. There’s nothing more elegant than ‘Workers of the world unite. Please pass the sherry.’ It’s almost as if Americans regret their ‘ugly American’ imperialism, looking fondly at the British variant. Philby was no doubt amused. St John Philby had converted to Islam in the 1930s and was an intimate of King Ibn Saud. Try to top that for elegance.
In My Silent War (1969), Philby writes it was distasteful to lie to honest Sinclair. [worked with Wisner] I hope he now realizes that in lying to him, I was standing as firmly on principle as he ever did. I performed my official duties conscientiously and ably (true) no evidence that I had betrayed the interests of the country (literally true). At a press conference in Moscow in 1963, he admitted to having been a spy for the Soviets since 1934, quoting Greene’s Heart of the Matter.
Philby is celebrated in John Banville’s The Untouchable (1997), BBC’s Cambridge Spies (2003) and dozens of other works. When he died in 1988 he was given a hero’s funeral, as a Hero of the Soviet Union and Lenin Prize winner, even featured on a Soviet postage stamp, along with Rudolph Abel. Intuitively, we (East or West) know such spies were acting honorably, that their message ‘capitalism is bad’ is true.
Here is another of Anderson’s chilling themes: the fallacy — and tragedy — of the ‘logic’ of ‘now that Philby’s gone, we can carry on like before, only bigger and better.’
Law: The more covert operations the Agency undertook, the more funding it could extract from Congress, the greater the funding, the more the Agency’s standing rose in relation to its bureaucratic competitors, the greater the influence with lawmakers, allowing ever more funding.
Corollary: The elite strike force is not just to deal with world’s problems, but should see it as inevitable that we would seek fires to put out, even if we had to light them ourselves.
FDR, Yalta, Stalin
William Bullitt paraphrases FDR in his memoirs: If I give Stalin all he asks for—noblesse oblige—then he will be satisfied and not ask for more. US post-FDR rejected that, claiming there was a Soviet plan to invade the West, the world. Interestingly, Anderson doesn’t agree or disagree with FDR’s view. He skirts the issue, suggesting Korea as evidence of Stalin’s perfidy,iii but it is essential. If we accept FDR’s difficult, pragmatic, peace-seeking compromise, we come to a very different conclusion about ‘Love, the Cold War and the Whole Damn Thing’.
Stalin was (deservedly) a pariah, but he was a good ally, saved ‘civilization’, and deserved to be dealt with as such. Sure, Stalin was tough love for fascists and the bourgeoisie everywhere. And many innocents got caught in the meatgrinder of revolution. But he was beloved of workers and promised a reasonably just social order for eastern Europe. That’s what was in FDR’s mind when he promised Stalin hegemony over eastern Europe for his troubles in saving the West. But, like the innocents Attlee and Truman, Anderson seems to think Stalin deserved nothing after the war, and sympathizes with his protagonists in their goal of destroying communism.
Anderson points to three moments when the US could have acted sensibly and achieved a genuine post-war peace:
1953 Immediately after the death of Stalin, Malenkov called for peaceful coexistence with the West. Nixed by the Dulleses.
1956 At the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, Khrushchev denounced Stalin and showed a radically different version of socialism. Again called for peaceful coexistence. Dismissed by the Dulleses.
1956 On Hungary, Eisenhower refused to condone any real engagement with a reformist Hungarian government under Nagy, who called for a neutral Hungary and an end to Soviet occupation. Khrushchev considered accepting Nagy and the loss of Hungaryiv but the US ignored this crack and instead told the Soviets they would not interfere in Hungary. Neither did the US raise Hungary at the Security Council. An FDR would have reached out to Khrushchev. Imagine: peace across Europe and the world. But Eisenhower was a crotchety old general, fighting the last war, with the equally crotchety Dulles brothers advising him to do nothing, not to take any risks.
Iron Curtain Churchill begged Eisenhower to have a summit in ’53 and again in ’56, and to support the Soviet reformers at a delicate moment, but the Dulleses nixed this at these crucial moments. Eisenhower’s cowardice is sad, considering his legendary WWII status. Generals make poor peacetime administrators, as his predecessor Ulysses Grant showed. In retrospect, the Dulleses were right about one thing: the earthquake deStalinization had shown that the Soviet Union and its ‘satellites’ were able to function without fear/ terror, that this was too dangerous to US designs and must be resisted.
Eisenhower was more concerned about the concurrent nationalization of the Suez Canal and the British-French-Israeli plot to overthrow Nasser. Both superpowers latched on to Suez as a fig leaf for their actions or inactions in Hungary.
Three lost opportunities. He should have added a fourth. 1945, when Truman rejected FDR and Lansdale’s plea to just leave Vietnam to Ho and his communists, that they had a good track record and would be happy to be ‘allies’ to a sensible US. FDR had been firm about not leaving Vietnam to the French colons to rule, which Truman immediately overturned, months after FDR’s death, culminating in the stillborn South Vietnam in 1955. Truman could get away with this betrayal, as this vision of a peaceful Asia was only in FDR’s mind, not in an accord signed by the WWII greats.
That puts Truman and Eisenhower in my books as traitors, not Philby and others who stood by FDR’s vision. And look where that got us? If FDR was right about Vietnam, maybe he was right about Stalin.
I would add another, a fifth lost moment. 1917. Peace was possible under both Lenin and Stalin. That’s what 1917 was all about: making peace with the enemy, even at a loss. And, in hindsight, it turns out FDR was right. There was no ‘communist conspiracy’ to take over the world under Stalin. Stalin stuck to his promises, abandoning the powerful Greek communists, but insisting on eastern Europe being ‘friendly’. Even as the US froze the Soviet Union out of any ‘peace dividend’ despite it having been destroyed by the war, it made no threats to invade western Europe, the main excuse used to promote the Cold War.
Peace always wins, even in defeat. The sooner, the better. US history is strewn with the wreckage of this adage. That is surely the message that the 20th century should have taught us. But then the peace movement itself was seen as a ‘communist conspiracy’ during the Cold War and still is. The Yalta agreement has been cursed ever since, but it remained in force and kept the cold peace until the collapse of the Soviet Union. After 1991, ex-Soviet Russia became fair game and NATO expanded eastward, with no need to reach agreement with Russia. That’s why we’re facing the prospect of WWIII today, when we should be celebrating world peace, if indeed communism was the problem. Trump and the Republicans still use anti-communism to scare voters away from policies that mitigate the injustices of capitalism.
My biggest gripe with Anderson’s monumental study is his claim that Stalin lacked a blueprint, that his actions were unpredictable and poorly thought out. He took just whatever path might amass even more power to himself. Grabbed whatever he thought he could get away with. But that is precisely what the US was doing! Sorry, but it is the US that lacked a blueprint, one that dealt meaningfully with the desperate needs of the world’s masses that it hoped to tame. It offered only the promise of ‘pie in the sky’, of personal wealth by agreeing to play casino capitalism, using the playing cards of private property and profit. But who gets to make the rules and deal the cards?
But wait. There was a sort of blueprint. Burke explains: the OPC was there to harass and counter the Soviets by all special means–paramilitary, sabotage, black propaganda, political action—to turn loose among the chickens as man foxes as we could possibly get away with. That was the US blueprint. Yes, the US had direction in its efforts, it was just the wrong way. As the Turks say: if you are going the wrong way, it’s never too late to turn around.
The Soviet blueprint was clear from the start: peace, land, bread, education and so on. Boring and modest, but that’s life. US policies were scattered, scatter-brain. Lansdale’s clever, gimmicky democracy promotion was all form and no content. Vacuous. How else to explain his sudden infatuation with poison cigars in Cuba in the ’60s after rejecting it in Europe and southeast Asia in the ’50s?
US policy was undermined at every turn, with or without the Philbys. Inter-departmental fighting, politics of lies and money, ruthless disregard for life, anti-communist brainwashing, misreading of real forces at work, only massive preponderance of power prevailing, and even that didn’t guarantee success. Anderson admits this: So overwhelming was the US advantage, and so limitless its resources, that it never bothered to try to be smart.
The CIA had never managed to place an agent anywhere near even a provincial locus of power in the Soviet bloc, nor to stir up anything at all in the way of a true rebellion. And its success rate in the third world was/is just as sorry. Only open agents like Bagsaysay or Diem, groomed by Lansdale (or later at US think tanks and universities under the careful eye of the CIA) would be reliable agents. And even that has been hit and miss. Seven decades of trying to recreate Lansdale’s magic shows how illusory this policy is to promote a ‘winner’. In Philippines it lasted barely a decade, with the rise of Marcos in 1965, and with the communist rebellion still in play there and throughout the US neocolonies in Central America and elsewhere. Lansdale ruefully noted in 1951 that it was impossible to determine if gunfire was friendly or hostile, since both sides were firing American weapons.
Vietnam only began genuine development once the US troops fled in 1975. Such success stories as Japan and South Korea only succeeded with massive US aid and continued US occupation. Americans abroad remain ‘ugly’.
Anderson concludes the US managed to snatch moral defeat from the jaws of sure victory. The bigger conclusion is that these 4 musketeers were fools, playing a shell game that they couldn’t ‘win’. Philby was the real hero, but only because he exposed their foolishness and disarmed them. His life had meaning. Philby cashed in his chips in time, and lived out the last years of Soviet life lecturing to KGB spies. He probably saw where things there were headed, but he was in the game for the long run. The game continues as long as imperialism does. Let history judge a hundred years hence.
Anderson condemns the inhumanity of the CIA and what the US became in the Cold War, but skirts the real ‘theme’. Hitler won, achieving his goal of the ‘destruction of communism’ through his US heirs. All four, Burke, Sichel, Wisner and Lansdale, recognized that to the peasants everywhere, it really didn’t matter much if the Soviets or Americans were the ‘superpower’, as long as they got land reform and a reasonable livelihood. The Soviets realized this, and wherever there appeared a chink in the awesome US armor, ‘revolutionaries’ succeeded with their help, with barely the shirts on their backs and a few rusty, vintage guns or homemade ‘molotov cocktails’.
I have to laugh at how monumentally pig-headed the US is about something the simplest Egyptian fellaheen knows and that millions of American poli sci majors fail to grasp. Was it really that surprising that Philby was able to dupe these self-centred bureaucrats for so long? And was it really ‘treason’? To Philby, the Good was in support of communism, which always made land reforms and more just distribution the many priorities. That is what ‘democracy’ logically demands. Western-style elections are really only the icing on the cake.
Besides occupation and death, what did the US offer? Lots of soft power, especially the Peace Corps, launched by nice Democrats in 1961, to date sending 235,000 volunteers to 141 countries. To do what? To promote land reforms and more just distribution? Hardly. Rather these pretty young faces bring lessons in US-style democracy, Disney culture and American English. Hopefully creating a loyal elite to do the job of suppressing genuine democracy, or at least keep the masses entertained with sex and violence.
In this woke era, I want a place for my Cold War heroes, spies as Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Rudolph Abel and Kim Philby. They are now admired and increasingly honoured for their idealism and courage. They spied in the interests of humanity, against imperialism. They played the essential role in leveling the playing field, making sure CIA black ops failed. Without them, the Soviet Union, especially under Stalin, would have been far more insecure, not a recipe for peace in the face of a fanatical enemy. None of Anderson’s protagonists has warranted a Hollywood biopic, not even star-struck Burke, but there are dozens of films, bios and novels inspired by the Cambridge Five, spies such as Rudolph Abel and Red Joan and Agent Sonya..
ii Cloak and dagger (1946) directed by Fritz Lang starring Lilli Palmer and Gary Cooper. Lang and Palmier German refugees from Hitler. Widow Eleanor was infatuated with Burke and invited him to stay at the Roosevelt Top Cottage in their Hyde Park estate north of New York City. She dived into pool ‘as example for children’.
iii Stalin had signed off on the invasion of Korea, perhaps even ordered it. Not true. Kim Il-sung was determined to free Korea from the Japanese collaborators and present the world with a fait accompli. Neither Mao nor Stalin were happy, but reluctantly went to war with the US over this misstep.
Anderson also fails to point out that US black ops were not reciprocated by the Soviet Union. The Mitrokhin Archives about KGB activities in the West reveal pathetically little in terms of subversion and no overarching plan to invade anywhere. The KGB did little even with the information it collected, which mostly involved technology acquisition, and which shows the reactive nature of Soviet undercover work—attempts to uncover sabotage by the West, use of blackmail to protect Soviet sources. (See my Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games.)
A careful reading of the evidence suggests that FDR was right. Stalin got what he asked for and stopped at the Soviet occupation zone delineated at Yalta. If Truman et al had just stuck to international law (as defined by the Allies in WWII), we could have avoided 70 years of hell. The entire Cold War edifice was thus built on an illusion of Soviet plans to conquer the world. The musketeers were puppets on a string. We all were.
A Pravda article during the Hungarian uprising before the tanks moved in noted: The Nagy government has won the support of the people. Radio Free Europe actually denounced Nagy in their Hungarian language broadcasts! They were right wing emigres and didn’t want a reformed socialism. They wanted more killing as propaganda, just as did the hawks in Berlin that Burke and Sichel were against.