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The Kremlin's Confidant (Hardback)

How a British Naval Officer Suspended the Cold War

Military > Post-WWII Warfare > Cold War P&S History > By Century > 20th Century World History > Europe > Russia

By David S. Tonge
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 352
Illustrations: 30 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399059381
Published: 13th June 2024


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Martin Packard is an extraordinary man who has led an extraordinary life. An idealist and a man of liberal instincts, his enthusiasms resulted in him having an inside track in several major events of recent decades, including the coup and bloody dictatorship in Greece and the unravelling of the Soviet Union. Easy going, warm and generous with his friendship, his life story is a ripping read.– Peter Murtagh, journalist and author of The Rape of Greece (Simon & Schuster, London, 1994)

His story needed telling – Peter Preston, editor of The Guardian 1975-1995

This gripping biography is a classic tale of fact being stranger than fiction. Martin Packard was an incurable romantic who thought he could do ethical business in the chaos of Gorbachev's perestroika Russia, but was constantly thwarted by more ruthless rivals or incompetent partners. He was a Don Quixote of the Cold War. His story is a fascinating, alternative and very personal view on the confrontations of his times, from the cynical US and UK policies towards Greece and Cyprus, to the chaotic collapse of the USSR. His tale suggests that cock-up, not conspiracy, is usually the most plausible explanation of history. - Quentin Peel, former Moscow Correspondent and Foreign Editor of the Financial Times.

Wonderful. They don’t make men like that anymore. - Helena Smith, Correspondent of The Guardian for Greece and Cyprus.

This biography describes how a British naval officer became a Kremlin favourite and CIA target as Gorbachev’s Kremlin decided to open the Soviet economy to the west. In 1985, Moscow reached out to Martin Packard, a retired British naval commander. He was promised unrivalled access to the hidden riches of the Soviet Empire with a cornucopia spread before him as he travelled this long closed land from the Baltic to the Bering Sea.

A harbinger of the technology and foreign exchange needed to halt the Soviet decline, to some Russians he was the most important foreign businessman in the Soviet Union. But, as the Communist Party imploded, this previously-undescribed offer turned into a Faustian bargain, and his life became a captivating saga of rags-to-riches-to-rags.

This book describes his rise, the details of his freelancing for Gorbachev – and his fall.

A former intelligence analyst at the British Mediterranean command in Malta, Packard’s role as Scarlet Pimpernel of the Greek Colonels saw him forced out of the Royal Navy. He then became one of the largest jeans manufacturers in Europe. In this capacity, the insiders of Gorbachev’s perestroika identified him to help them lift the life of the Soviet peoples, an unlikely partnership of the Kremlin and a quintessential Briton, a scion of Empire, Church and Navy, but a non-conformist in every sense.

It is a political tale, where Packard clashes with the British Foreign Office and the CIA in Cyprus and the Colonels’ Greece. Forced out of the Navy, he heads the English Cell of the Greek resistance, shipping printing presses, passports and petards across Europe to Athens. He then becomes an intimate of the wayward but brilliant Dom Mintoff and survives a mysterious poison attempt by ‘Erica’ at a Moscow airport.

It is also a deeply human tale, of a charismatic figure who rose so high, mingled with the mighty of East and West, and then lost it all.

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About David S. Tonge

David S. Tonge is a journalist and writer who has spent most of his life in Greece and Turkey. He was the BBC, Guardian and Observer correspondent in Athens during the Colonels’ dictatorship, being banned three times for his reporting. He was later Diplomatic Correspondent of the Financial Times. He wrote on the Soviet Union during its final years. His course thus moved in parallel with the subject of this biography. He has also written a book on the revival of the Islamic orders in Turkey and the hold of Erdoğan, due to come out in 2024.

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