British Intelligence and Hitler's Empire in the Soviet Union, 1941-1945.
In Cloak & Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961, Robin Winks brilliantly analyzes the relationship between scholars at Yale University and the intelligence community and concludes that the intelligence
community failed to utilize the crucial critical writing skills of academics. In this study, although assessing a similar relationship, Ben Wheatley argues that the ability of academics to articulate their research conclusions clearly made a difference in the British government's ability to assess the Baltics' situation accurately during the war and to develop "vital post-war policy" (196). Unlike Winks, who focuses on the scholars and their exploits, the author of this book hones in on the work produced by the academics, particularly by Elisabeth Pares of the Foreign Research and Press Service (FRPS), Russian Research Section, and the impact it had on the British Foreign Office and the establishment of postwar policy concerning the Soviet Union.
During the Second World War, Eastern Europe, whether occupied by German troops or within the Soviet sphere, provided distinct challenges on the intelligence-gathering front, where there were few operatives on the ground. The Foreign Office further complicated matters when it placed a ban on "all covert intelligence gathering from inside the Soviet sphere of influence" after Operation Barbarossa made Britain and the Soviet Union allies (1). Consequently, the British turned to an alternative source of information--open source intelligence (OSINT) gleaned "primarily from the enemy and neutral press" (1). As Wheatley notes, the Baltic states, which by 1940 were in the Soviet sphere, were prime candidates for OSINT. Although there was resistance in the government as to the validity of OSINT, Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden advocated for its use and championed the important work that Pares and the FRPS provided to various government departments, including the Foreign Office. Relying on the Stockholm Press Reading Bureau (SPRB) for German newspapers circulated in the Baltic states during occupation, neutral newspapers, and other intelligence sources, Pares and her department regularly compiled economic, political, industrial, agricultural, and population information in Review of the Foreign Press, the FRPS circular.
The success of Pares and the FRPS, which was later relocated to London where it received the new designation FORD (Foreign Office Research Department), resulted in requests for targeted reports, including assessments of postwar behaviors. To highlight the usefulness of these reports, Wheatley presents two case studies, the first of which centers on "economic intelligence," and the second on "Nazi population policy" (119). Through these case studies, he notes the frequency, timeliness, and importance of the FRPS/FORD assessments and credits Pares with authoring the majority of the unit's circulars and reports.
With his thoroughly researched, insightful narrative, Wheatley makes an important contribution to the existing World War II intelligence historiography. Wheatley argues that not only did Pares and FRPS/FORD provide useful intelligence about the Baltic states for the British Foreign Office during the war, but also "[t]his research section would formulate, arguably, Britain's most vital post-war policy, namely, the best way of maintaining peace with the Soviet Union" (196).
Mississippi State University
Mary Kathryn Barbier
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|Author:||Barbier, Mary Kathryn|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2018|
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