22 NOVEMBER 1997, Page 47

Oleg Gordievsky

One of the most sensational books to have reached the British readership this last year was the document compilation 'Verona: Soviet Espionage and the American Response, 1939-1957, edited by Robert Louis Benson and Michael Warner (National Security Agency Central Intelli- gence Agency, Washington DC 1996). The code word 'Verona' is the general name for the 37-year American (and to a significant extent British) programme to read and exploit Soviet intelligence messages collect- ed in the 1940s. Several thousand messages revealed to Western analysts that Moscow's agents had stolen some of the most sensitive wartime secrets, including plans for the atomic bomb.

This programme, thanks to brilliant crypto-analysis and detective work, succeeded in breaking many of the Soviet espionage networks in the USA, Britain and several other Eastern countries. It also demonstrated the extent of help to the Kremlin given by the US Communist party and its many fellow travellers. It was especially thanks to this programme that documents were obtained proving irrefutably the pro-Soviet espionage of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Klaus Fuchs, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Alger Hiss and many others. The book contains 99 documents, while the rest can be found on the Internet.

Readers will find In Pursuit of British Interests by Percy Cradock (John Murray, £18.99) a penetrating and intelligent study of British foreign policy under Margaret Thatcher and John Major. I found its candid appraisal of the attitude of the British government towards reunifi- cation of Germany particularly impressive. The author is also the first person to have made a serious attempt at analysing the problems of relations between the Cabinet Office and the British intelli- gence community and the role of intelli- gence.

Borderland by Anna Reid (Weidenfeld, £18.99 ) is a long-overdue book on the his- tory of Ukraine. The long-suffering Ukrainian people experienced losses from Soviet terror on a par with those endured by Cambodia at the hand of the communist Pol Pot.

I found the most boring book of the year to be In Confidence: Ambassador to America by A. F. Dobrymn (Random House 1996). The author, who was Soviet ambassador to the United States from 1962 to 1986, does not manage to make a single lively observation on diplomatic life in Washington or to give one purely human, psychological description of American or Soviet figures. He simply fills his book with extracts from dry, bureaucratic reports made by his note-takers.