Boris Solomatin Interview
The Interview: Page 1
You have put a lot of questions before me and it is a pity that I cannot answer them all fully, but to do so would require a book for my answers. So I must give you short replies. First, however, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I was born long ago in the year when Lenin died, 1924. I was born in the family of a military man. I was brought up in the spirit of patriotism. I believed in the superiority of our Soviet system. Moreover, the people of my generation were told by our elders that if we worked hard - earthly paradise would soon follow. We believed this with all our hearts. Our elders even talked about definite dates. The thought that the Soviet system was not superior never entered my mind.
Being brought up in such conditions, in the middle of 1942, on the second day after I graduated from middle school, I immediately volunteered to fight against the Germans. I was only 17-1/2 years old. According to the rules which existed at the time, I would not have been called up for at least six more months. But the fate of my country was at stake and I decided that I couldn't wait. My mother, a loyal Russian woman, blessed me. I was ready to die for my country. I have always been ready to die for my country.
Q: Were they for bravery, gallantry?
A: Yeah, yeah, yeah. This no longer matters. I mention them only because I was eager to fight for my country. After the war, I studied in the Moscow Institute of International Relations, and I was then invited in 1951 to work in the Ministry of External Affairs, but I chose the foreign intelligence service. I stayed there until I retired in 1988. Now I don't work anywhere. I am seriously interested in the history of the Second World War. I read a lot on the subject. This is how my life goes. My wife still works. She is a scientist. I have two daughters and a grandson whom I try to bring up as a real Russian man, as I now understand that. That's all.
Q: What do you mean - a real Russian man?
A: I don't care for communism or other ideology, you see. We tried it and it failed. I will not try to make him a communist, as my parents made me. I will not try to make him a socialist or a capitalist. Rather, I want him to be a man who loves his country. That is what is most important. It disgusts me that so many Russians have turned their backs on Russia and are so quick to endorse the western life that they once swore to defeat. They have no honor.
Q: Please tell me about how you met John Walker?
A: It is important to understand that we didn't have to search for him. John Walker came on his own will to the embassy in Washington and asked to meet with the man responsible for security. This is how it generally happens. Very few Americans can be enticed to spy or be recruited by an agent. Most come to us and volunteer. Walker introduced himself as a petty officer of the Navy who had access to secret documents and he said that he wanted to sell the documents. He didn't say anything about his love for communism or for the Soviet Union. And because of that, he showed himself to me to be a decent man because as a rule, the people who want only money always try to camouflage their real desire. They try to act as if they are ideologically close to us. But Walker did not. He made it clear that he wanted money and I respected him because of that.
Q: How did you know that he was not a double agent sent by the CIA or FBI?
A: Of course they are constantly sending us double agents, people who pretend. But Walker showed us a monthly key list [codes] for one of your military cipher machines. This was extra-ordinary and I immediately decided to take a major risk. Please keep in mind that the resident, or KGB Chief, just as a CIA Chief of Station, as a rule, does not talk directly to volunteers who come into an embassy. But in this case, Walker was offering us ciphers [codes], which are the most important aspect of intelligence.
Q: The ultimate targets?
A: Precisely. I decided personally to talk to him, to get my own impression, so that I could decide if we wanted to work with him in the future. I should say here that I like risk - at least risks that seem to me to be reasonable. I'm sure that without risk there can be no real productive intelligence. Hundreds of the intelligence officers ours and Americans who do not wish to run a risk still happily live after retirement. Often they are simply lazy. That's one of the problems in intelligence. In ours, in yours.