The Spy and the Traitor review – a gripping tale of escape from the USSR

Ben Macintyre tells the story of MI6 agent Oleg Gordievsky’s rescue from Moscow in 1985 with elegance and wit

Oleg Gordievsky is not a household name, but he should be. Not only did he make a significant contribution to the ending of the cold war, he did so as Britain’s most important foreign agent. A KGB colonel working for MI6, he exposed Soviet plans in Scandinavia, Britain and elsewhere and – most valuably – alerted leaders of the western alliance to Kremlin paranoia in the 1980s.

Without his insights, cold war rivalry could have tipped over into Armageddon, so it’s not too far-fetched to say that we all owe him our lives, whichever side of the old iron curtain we live on. He’s deeply implicated in the warming of ties between the west and Moscow as well. In a bizarre and perhaps unique piece of espionage, he essentially wrote the ...