Interview With a WEbook Author - Robert Lance, Author of 'The Shadow Spy'05:07
BL: Actually, I’m trying to put it back on the rails. The intelligence business is still personally risky for those with their feet on the ground. The field of operations doesn’t have Delta Force backups, situation rooms, com centers, or hyper toys to play with. People in the business are just as normal as any other American… almost. My MC reflects that point of view in a humorous way.
I heard Disco Bob’s booming voice from his outer office. “Findley, get in here.”
He said, “Come in, come in. You’re just the guy I need to talk to.”
He loped off to take his throne behind a custom desk of fine mahogany. He waved me to a seat and started talking before I had a chance to sit down. “How do you feel about the promotion I got for you? It’s a cushy job. Did you know I personally, by-name, requested you for the assignment?”
The flattering bullshit was a roll-my-eyes moment, and I concentrated hard not to do it.
He asked, “You know what’s going on in Russia, right?”
I ran the Soviet desk, and of course I knew what was happening. They were preparing for war as per usual. My posting to Leningrad was not a coincidence, not by a long shot.
Leningrad in particular was a gold-rush town fired with promises of vast opportunities to mine the decayed hulk that Russians called an economy. Every hustler with a dime in his pocket was going to Russia to cash in on the fire sale. Americans were late to join the bandwagon, but they were lined up waiting for State Department travel and business restrictions to loosen up.
One of my jobs at the EEB was to advise and oversee joint ventures and investments in Russia to insure they were transparent, aboveboard, and fair. The Russians artificially inflated the value of the ruble and erected trade barriers around their import policies. On the export side, more Russian tractors were plowing fields in Kansas than inside Russia. The trade policy was a giant ski jump, and all I could do was issue warnings. It took all of five minutes of my day to issue citations of caution to eager speculators looking for a quick buck.
The World Bank, an international community chest that seeds goodwill across the globe by throwing huge amounts of cash at third- world underdeveloped countries, is anything but the charity it purports to be. It’s a private bank that sharks loans to countries that have no credit rating and are upside-down broke. The cheap loans have strings attached to bring these rogue barbarian states into the greater circle of global humanitarian behavior. For practical purposes, the World Bank is Uncle Vito making payday loans to homeless people from a back-alley dime-store sharking front while pretending to be the Salvation Army.
I hadn’t heard of any rumors that the World Bank was embarking on a rescue mission to prop up the Soviet regime. I knew they played a huge hand in Poland and were dabbling in other Soviet-bloc nations. Bob had a sly grin that I wondered about.
He said, “By chance, the World Bank has asked us for expertise in Soviet affairs. It’s a temporary assignment until the Bank comes up to speed. I immediately thought of you. How would you feel about moving uptown where you’ll power-lunch, get some sunlight, and check out the tellers?”
Bullshit. He had immediately thought of himself. Now I knew why he’d been dodging me. He wanted the job and spent a week trying to pry his way in. Notwithstanding the political and social clout I’d married into, the World Bank had a dress code and grooming standards.
“What about my assignment?” I asked.
“Still stands. This is a side project to earn brownie points. Just observe and advise. The Bank likes to splash money around, and you’ll be walking in high cotton. Consider it a working vacation.”
Blumel wasn’t fooling me. I saw Oscar all over the arrangement. The CIA was not about to allow a private bank to make deals with their arch rival without having someone in the bleachers. I was to be that guy.
I was being sent over to the Bank as a technical observer and adviser, with the understanding that I was not to spy on World Bank activities in Russia. I understood completely. I’d just observe and pass my observations to my bosses at the State Department.
My CIA handler had no illusions about the arrangement. The CIA was getting a box seat handed to them. Oscar’s shop was preparing its own plan that I wasn’t privy to...