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The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA's Final Showdown with the KGB
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The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA's Final Showdown with the KGB

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  349 ratings  ·  29 reviews
A landmark collaboration between a thirty-year veteran of the CIA and a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, The Main Enemy is the dramatic inside story of the CIA-KGB spy wars, told through the actions of the men who fought them.

Based on hundreds of interviews with operatives from both sides, The Main Enemy puts us inside the heads of CIA officers as they dodge surveillance
Paperback, 576 pages
Published August 31st 2004 by Presidio Press (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 816)
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A well-written and interesting story that flows well.

This book of Bearden and Risen though, is one that both popular historians and casual reader alike can get into. They show that often intelligence services make educated guesses on fragments of information that may or may not be compromised by the enemy. Concerned with a period of global turmoil that was surprisingly governed by understood rules of intelligence gathering and other activities, this book brings the reader into the world of the C
Erik Graff
Aug 08, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans & Russians
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This memoir of a retired CIA employee was vetted by the agency and so may not be entirely accurate. Still, that being said, it was an engrossing read.

The period covered ranges from the premiership of Andropov to the dissolution of the USSR, with some forward glances to the date of publication. The focus, however, is on 1985, a year when a host of CIA assets were deactivated by the KGB, and on the efforts to uncover the moles in the CIA and FBI responsible.

Despite this on-going theme, the text i
Aug 01, 2008 Marcia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in world politics
Recommended to Marcia by: My aunt
I have had this book in my collection for a while now. I recently read the book and saw the movie, "Charlie Wilson's War," which peaked my interest. So I picked up this book and began reading. It is divided into two sections. Section one is a reviting insider's look at the Cold War during the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Bearden's "on the front lines" look into the "war" between the CIA and the KGB is detailed but interesting. Especially compelling is his discussion of, "The Year of the Spy." During 1985, ...more
David A.
Another good read from Milt Bearden, this time he has put fiction aside to write an in-depth account of the Cold War and the covert battle between the CIA and KGB. For anyone trying to understand the history of the clandestine services and the power plays between two global antagonists, this is a must for historical buffs.
I wanted to like this book since I picked it up on a recommendation. But I just couldn't get into it. The saga follows the end of the Cold War, and as the title says, pits the CIA vs. the KGB.

It seems highly relevant in light of the revelations of Edward Snowden and the NSA, but it just wasn't something that held my attention. Perhaps because I'm not extremely familiar with spying and counterintelligence. The chess moves for establishing contacts and how suspected spies are monitored are pretty
Worth a read if you would like a solid review of the 89-91 eastern bloc transitional period by someone who was right in the thick of it. Contains both high- and low-level details, and has some great descriptions of people defecting to the west. With Soviet armaments in tow and driving right through a manned security perimeter, even.

The author seems a bit excited to establish a record of sorts, as if he's putting all of his past colleagues in their places and establishing that his predictions re:
Aaron Shields
Great insight into not only CIA-KGB dealings in the 80s and early 90s, but loved the section on Afghanistan and the Soviet War.

Flowed well, good reading after watching The Americans
Christian Dibblee
Really a fun book to read. Like many other reviewers, I found the first and third parts to be the best. The story of CIA involvement in Pakistan, while detailed and important, has been retold plenty of times by now. But, the internal struggles of 1985 and the excitement surrounding the fall of the Soviet Union certainly are parts of the story that remain untold until this book.

I also appreciate the coauthorship of James Risen, purely because the book does not read like a boring one-man discussio
Eugene O'Neal
Very good book. There are also youtubes videos about this.
I've picked up and put down a number of books recently because they didn't hold my interest. The Main Enemy though grabbed my interest from the start and kept it throughout. It is basically a memoir from Milt Bearden but rather than spending time on his life and training, it starts around 1985 as the spies the CIA recruited in the Soviet Union were getting rolled up and continued through the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union and touches on the mole hunts for Ames and Hansen.
This book should be titled: "The Enemy of My Main Enemy is My Friend: Gee I hope the Enemy doesn't come back to fight me."

Bearden crafts an excellent book about his involvement with the CIA. Hearing the stories from the mouth of the horse, especially when the horse stands on the front lines. That holds even if the CIA probably watered down the juicy stuff.

I don't know if this book enjoyed popular success. It certainly should have. These events are the beginning of the blowback.

I highly recommend
Sarah Cox
There's a lot of interesting information here, but the disjointed style in which it is written makes it hard to keep track of the events and key players. It dragged a bit at parts, but the disjointed narrative was the bigger issue. Additionally, since there is so much to tell, the middle section (on the CIA's involvement in the Russian-Afghan war) might have been better off as its own book, both for the sake of making this book more manageable and to fairly give that topic the attention it deser ...more
Fascinating behind-the-scenes stories from the Cold War. It's difficult to keep track of so many names, many of whom return in later events numerous pages later. However, it's a rewarding book to those who make an effort to follow the threads. Recommended if you have an interest in reading about formerly secret dramatic events in the recent history of the CIA and KGB, and the thinking, ideologies and strategies of the personalities involved in espionage, intelligence and national security.
Bud Hewlett
This book is divided into three parts. Part II was the least interesting and dealt with the author's activities with the CIA in opposing the Soviets in Afghanistan in the mid to late 80's. Parts I and III were very interesting and read almost like a series of spy thriller short stories. Sometimes it was hard to keep the stories and the Russian names (and code names) straight, but there is a pretty index.

Really not a bad read.
The inside story of the CIA's final showdown with the KGB. Milt Bearden, a careerist with the CIA headed up many of the top positions before he retired, including the Soviet/ Eastern Europe efforts, the arming & supporting of the mujaheddin in Afghanistan in the late '80s, and the collapse of the iron curtain & reunification of Germany in 1989. Fascinating stuff.
I picked this one up after hearing an interview with Milt Bearden and it didn't disappoint. Bearden was in the middle of some of the biggest conflicts of the Cold War, his experiences are fascinating. Well written and paced, this was an enjoyable read. It is interesting how the prestige of the intelligence world vacillates so much in the public eye.
John Vanore
Fascinating tale of CIA operations in the late 1980s ... Moscow agents being dispatched courtesy of Aldrich Ames, CIA ops in Afghanistan, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Lots of great insights, from field ops to headquarters politicking.
Highly flexible folks ... able to pat themselves on the back without any problems.

It never seems the author knows what the CIA should have been doing. I guess they are doing it now, but I'm not sure.

A good read however.
This is a very engaging book on a very chaotic period in history. Well written, it provides insight into the world of espionage as it really is (and not the James Bond stuff). Well worth the read.
I believe people who are interested in the history of cold war espionage should read it cos it sets a new standard for the genre.

Jim Brown
Definitely a spy/thriller of the first order if you wish to know about the end of the Cold War and I was curious!
Not bad. Very interesting but some places show it is always better to be lucky than good.
Kevin Maguire
We're still Russia's main enemy. Putin hates us, which is ok. I hate him too.
when i was young boy this field was my the most intersting field ...........
Very enjoyable - especially the part about the fall of the Berlin Wall
a great view of the CIA vs the KGB in the 70's and 80's
currently reading this book for school.
every day life is boring after this.
Bryan marked it as to-read
Mar 25, 2015
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