FROM WAR TO COLD WAR
At the end of the Second World War, the Centre faced what it feared was impending disaster in intelligence operations against its wartime allies. The first major alarm occurred in Ottawa, where relations among NKGB and GRU personnel working under "legal" cover in the Soviet embassy were as fraught as in New York. The situation was worst in the GRU residency.1 On the evening of September 5, 1945 Igor Gouzenko, a GRU cipher clerk at the Soviet embassy in Ottawa, secretly stuffed more than a hundred classified documents under his shirt and attempted to defect. He tried hard to hold his stomach in as he walked out of the embassy. "Otherwise," his wife said later, "he would have looked pregnant."
Defection turned out to be more difficult than Gouzenko had imagined. When he sought help at the offices of the Ministry of Justice and the Ottawa Journal, he was told to come back the next day. But on September 6 both the Ministry of Justice and the Ottawa Journal, which failed to realize it was being offered the spy story of the decade, showed no more interest than on the previous evening. By the night of September 6 the Soviet embassy realized that both Gouzenko and classified documents were missing. While Gouzenko hid with his wife and child in a neighbor's flat, NKGB men broke down his door and searched his apartment. It was almost midnight before the local police came to his rescue and the Gouzenko family at last found sanctuary.2 As well as identifying a major GRU spy ring, Gouzenko also provided fragmentary intelligence on NKGB operations. Some months later Lavrenti Beria, the Soviet security supremo, circulated to residencies a stinging indictment of the incompetence of the GRU and, he implied, the NKGB in Ottawa:
The most elementary principles of security were ignored, complacency and self-satisfaction went unchecked. All this was the result of a decline in political vigilance and sense of responsibility for work entrusted by the Party and the government. G[ouzenko]'s defection has caused great damage to our country and has, in particular, very greatly complicated our work in the American countries.3
The fear of being accused of further breaches of security made the Ottawa residency unwilling to take any initiative in recruiting new agents. According to a later damage