Vladimir Putin’s Past as a KGB Agent: An Investigation by Spiegel Magazine
An investigation by Germany’s Spiegel magazine has found that Vladimir Putin was not a Soviet super spy during his posting to Dresden in the 1980s, but rather a pen-pusher eager to please his superiors. Despite stories of his alleged valour becoming legend, Spiegel discovered that witnesses quoted on Mr Putin’s KGB heroics could not be trusted. For instance, a story about Mr Putin helping anarchists in West Germany plot assassinations was based on testimonies from a serial liar with a criminal record. Another story of how he had groomed a German neo-Nazi leader into an informant was based on interviews with a former Stasi agent who has admitted that he embellished his statements. In fact, there was nothing in the Stasi archives to suggest Mr Putin was anything other than risk-averse.
Putin’s KGB Posting to Dresden
Mr Putin was a 32-year-old officer when he was sent to Dresden in 1985, a tense time with the Kremlin’s grip over its vassal states fracturing. KGB officers were tasked with supporting East Germany’s Stasi secret police. However, Spiegel said that Mr Putin was focused on “banal” administrative work during his KGB posting to Dresden, “endlessly sorting through travel applications for West German relatives or searching for potential informants among foreign students”. Although the mission ultimately failed with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later, stories of Mr Putin’s alleged valour have become legend. Perhaps the most famous is how in December 1989 he single-handedly faced down protesters planning to storm the KGB headquarters. “According to one version [of the story], a single small man stood at the entrance to the nearby Stasi headquarters and watched the spectacle from a safe distance,” Spiegel said. “It cannot be proved that the current Russian president was even there.”
In conclusion, Spiegel magazine’s investigation into Vladimir Putin’s past as a KGB agent has found that he was not a top agent, but rather a pen-pusher eager to please his superiors. Stories of his alleged valour have become legend, but witnesses quoted on his KGB heroics could not be trusted. In fact, there was nothing in the Stasi archives to suggest Mr Putin was anything other than risk-averse. Facts and fiction sometimes seem to blur, and today’s Russian president was probably not a top agent.
Keywords: Vladimir Putin, KGB, Spiegel magazine, Dresden, Stasi, East Germany, Berlin Wall, Soviet Union, pen-pusher, heroics.
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