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Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781408714959

Price: £25

ON SALE: 29th June 2023

Genre: Humanities / History

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The riveting story of the hundred-year intelligence war between Russia and the West with lessons for our new superpower conflict with China

‘A masterpiece’ CHRISTOPHER ANDREW, author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5

‘The book we have all been waiting for’ BRENDAN SIMMS, author of Hitler: A Global Biography

‘Gripping, authoritative… A vivid account of intelligence skulduggery’ Kirkus

Espionage, election meddling, disinformation, assassinations, subversion, and sabotage – all attract headlines today about Putin’s dictatorship. But they are far from new. The West has a long-term Russia problem, not a Putin problem. Spies mines hitherto secret archives and exclusive interviews with former agents to tell the history of the war that Russia and the West have been waging for a century. Espionage dark arts were the Kremlin’s means to equalise the imbalance of arms between the East and West before, during and after the Cold War. There was nothing ‘unprecedented’ about Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. It was business as usual, new means for old ends.

The Cold War started long before 1945. Western powers gradually fought back after the Second World War, mounting their own shadow war, deploying propaganda, recruiting intelligence networks and pioneering new spy technologies against the Soviet Union. Spies is an inspiring, engrossing story of the best and worst of mankind: bravery and honour, treachery and betrayal. The narrative shifts across continents and decades, from the freezing streets of St. Petersburg in 1917 to the bloody beaches of Normandy; from coups in faraway lands to present-day Moscow, where troll farms weaponise social media against Western democracies. This fresh reading of history makes Spies a unique and essential addition to the story of the unrolling conflict between Russia, China and the West that will dominate the twenty-first century.


An engrossing history of the century-long intelligence war between the US, Britain and Russia... crisp and authoritative
Financial Times
Spies is the book we have all been waiting for. Calder Walton is one of the leading intelligence historians of his generation, and his epic account - replete with human drama and tragedy - shows that Russia's struggle against the west neither began with the Cold War nor ended with the disintegration of the Soviet Union. This volume will engross the general reader and policy makers alike, not least because it provides an unsettling window into the behaviour of the second challenger, the People's Republic of China.
Professor Brendan Simms, Cambridge University
The big book has no longueurs, and even gains momentum as it turns to the present day. Mr Putin's invasion of Ukraine serves as a capstone to Mr. Walton's century long story, though he knows that the Cold War between Russia and America will not be the story of the 21st century. Accordingly, he looks to shed light on America's rivalry with China
Wall Street Journal
Spies has scholarly clout as well as an insider feel... It is hardly news that the Soviet Union spied a lot. But there are few accounts as comprehensive as this one, spanning the Bolshevik revolution to the present day, while weaving in new archival material, some declassified as recently as 2022
The Economist
4 stars... The book goes from an age when the West saw spying as ungentlemanly, and was on the back foot, up to today - and warns we are already in a cold war with China and must act before it's too late
A masterpiece! The intelligence report on Russia and Ukraine in February 1922 with which Spies begins could have been written on the eve of Putin's invasion a hundred years later in February 2023. A major obstacle to understanding the current crisis, triumphantly overcome by Calder Walton, is Historical Attention-Span Deficit Disorder. As Spies vividly demonstrates, we are living through the latest stage of an Epic Intelligence War Between East and West which began a century ago and shows no sign of ending.
Christopher Andrew, author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5
Walton engagingly charts the complex interactions between the intelligence services of the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union (and its successor, Russia) over more than a century... enlivened by original research and sharp writing
Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs, Best Books of 2023
Spies grabs you from the opening page and never lets go. One of our foremost historians of the East-West intelligence war takes us deep inside this grand and often spine-chilling struggle, which predated the Cold War and still rages today. Authoritative, sweeping, chock full of fresh and riveting details, this is a gem of a book.
Fredrik Logevall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Embers of War
Calder Walton has written the definitive compendium of intelligence operations in the Cold War, and their critical, if hidden, influence in shaping events and outcomes
Paul Kolbe, former chief of CIA's Central Eurasian Division
Calder Walton's deeply researched and artfully crafted book offers a masterclass in twentieth-century and contemporary history. It is rich with trenchant analysis, surprising details, cautionary tales, and unique insight into the 'hundred years war' between American and Russian intelligence agencies. Spanning the Bolshevik Revolution to the war in Ukraine, it is essential reading for anyone trying to understanding the complicated trajectory of current events
Fiona Hill, deputy assistant to the U.S. president and senior director for European and Russia on the U.S. National Security Council from 2017 to 2019
Gripping as a spy thriller, accessible and well-researched as the best history, this is an epic account of the global espionage game between Russia and America from Lenin to Putin, a world history through spying
Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of The World: A Family History of Humanity
A vivid account of intelligence skulduggery... Walton is incisive in his analyses... A gripping, authoritative work
Kirkus, starred review
Walton seems to have rushed to every archive, East and West, just as the archivist turned the key in the lock so that he could blow the dust off long-held secrets. His pages crackle with the electric thrill of discovery... People may debate Walton's judgement on particular episodes in the cold war, but thanks to his astoundingly deep research they will do so armed with invaluable new information
New York Review of Books
Spies is therefore not just a book about espionage or even intelligence, but also an ambitious and impressive account of the changing nature of information
Times Literary Supplement
A pioneering study of espionage from 1917 to the present day... Walton distinguishes himself from many other writers in the field of intelligence studies by scrutinising the real impact that espionage, whether Western or Soviet, had on international relations
Literary Review