National award winner KGB
From C-C-Cold War Syndrome
Sergei Kryuchkov was KGB. More than that, his father, Vladimir Kryuchkov, headed that organization, the most formidable espionage agency on Earth—much larger and more powerful than the German Gestapo had ever been.
I met Sergei in Geneva, Switzerland, in the late 1980s when he was a senior member of the Soviet delegation to the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks.
The Soviet Union still existed then. Mikhail Gorbachev was in charge. The Cold War continued unabated. Nevertheless, the United States and the Soviet Union were about to complete the START Treaty, the first pact between the two superpowers that would actually reduce rather than merely limit their strategic nuclear weapons.
One evening at a diplomatic reception hosted by the Soviets in their Geneva mission, I found myself in a protracted conversation with Sergei Kryuchkov, known KGB agent and son of that agency’s head spook. We were sipping red wine—rotgut Soviet red wine—from paper cups.
It was a typical diplomatic reception—200 people, half of them Americans, the rest Soviets, grazing from a buffet table brimming with finger food, exchanging diplomatic half-truths diplomatically.
The Soviets always put out good food at their receptions, better than the stuff we served at the American mission when it was our turn to host. However, because of Mikhail Gorbachev’s desire to reduce alcoholism among government officials, the Soviet mission was prohibited from serving hard liquor at its diplomatic functions. Beer and wine only—Soviet wine at that.
Our side was not similarly constrained. Whenever the Soviet delegation arrived at one of our receptions, its members shot right past the food table, hot-footing it to our fully stocked bar like hallucinating desert survivors pursuing an illusionary oasis. When we Americans showed up at a Soviet reception, we went first for the food; visiting the bar was but a diplomatic obligation.
So Kryuchkov and I were talking. I was about to say something I’m sure would have been quite profound when he took a sip of his rotgut Soviet red wine and made a contorted face.
“Excuse me for a moment,” he said, forestalling my profundity, then walked purposefully to bar. He returned a moment later sporting a fresh drink, something other than wine. He was beaming.
“You know,” explained the dedicated Soviet spy whose father was head of the KGB, the most potent organization of subversives, saboteurs, forgers, assassins, political terrorists and anti-capitalist insurgents in the history of the planet, “when you’re really thirsty...nothing beats a Coca Cola!”
“Pepsi beats Coke!”
—The Pepsi-Cola Company
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