Kim Philby & the Spy Ring Betrayed US and British to Soviet Intelligence
This Spy Ring Betrayed the US and British to Soviet Intelligence

This Spy Ring Betrayed the US and British to Soviet Intelligence

Larry Holzwarth - April 15, 2021

This Spy Ring Betrayed the US and British to Soviet Intelligence
Guy Burgess despised America and wanted Britain to remain allied with the Soviet Union after World War II. Smithsonian

20. The British spies had different motives for their treason

The motives which drove the Cambridge 5 varied considerably. Money did not appear to be a factor. They all came from well-to-do backgrounds as part of the British upper class. Guy Burgess despised America and Americans, and nearly everyone else was not part of that upper class. He supported the Soviets as a better ally for Britain than the Americans, especially after World War II. For Burgess, American-style capitalism would destroy the British class system, an intolerable idea. Philby believed whole-heartedly in the communist system, and opposed British imperialism, though he did not share Burgess’s rabid anti-Americanism. Even after observing first-hand the failures of the Soviet system, Philby supported communism. “The fault lay with the people in charge”, he said.

Philby continued to work for the Soviet Union during his later days in Moscow, helping produce propaganda and disinformation campaigns. Maclean too, contributed to the Soviet government in Moscow. His motivation remains the subject of much debate. According to an assessment made later by American intelligence, Maclean provided the most useful information to his Soviet masters. He continued to analyze intelligence data for the Soviets, often information received from other spies. Cairncross viewed his actions during World War II as simply rendering aid to an ally. After the war, he ceased spying, or so he claimed. Blunt stopped working for the Soviets following the defections of Burgess and Maclean. None of the traitors ever expressed any remorse for their activities, and Philby boasted openly (sometimes fictitiously) over his feats of spying derring-do.

This Spy Ring Betrayed the US and British to Soviet Intelligence
Kim Philby grew disillusioned with Soviet authorities in Moscow, but continued to support Soviet communism as the best of all forms of government. New Statesman

21. The Cambridge 5 are honored in the former Soviet Union

The residence where Burgess and Maclean lived for a time in Russia received a plaque honoring the spies in 2019. Among the tributes presented at the time was a message from the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation. He thanked the pair for “…a significant contribution to the…protection of our strategic interests and ensuring the safety of our country”. Philby received several honors from the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation, including the naming of a square in Moscow in his honor. Anthony Blunt’s treason became known to the world when his agreement with the British government expired in 1979. Stripped of his knighthood and ostracized, he later wrote he regretted his actions, not for betraying his country, but because of the adverse impact the revelation had on his own life in Britain.

In Britain, attempts to suppress information about the five and the damage was done by them continued for decades. Gradually files regarding the Cambridge 5 were released to the National Archives in Great Britain, though hundreds more remain classified. Under British law, most if not all of them should have been released years ago. In 2020 released files included information indicating a deliberate cover-up of much of the story, undertaken to prevent embarrassment to the government. Thus, the story remains incomplete, subject to much speculation and conjecture. While British authorities suppressed the story the Soviets, and later the Russians, celebrated it as a significant Cold War victory over the imperialists of the West.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“BBC History, Historic Figures. The Cambridge Spies”. BBC. Online

“Even in Death the Spy Kim Philby Serves the Kremlin’s Purposes”. Andrew Higgins, The New York Times. October 1, 2017

“Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess”. Andrew Lownie. 2016

“New Revelations on the Cambridge Spy Ring”. Andrew Lownie, History Today. October 17, 2016

“Enigma Anthony Blunt devoted his life to art – and espionage”. Julian Barnes, The New Yorker. January 6, 2002

“The Venona Story”. Robert L. Benson, National Security Agency (NSA)

“Cambridge Spies: Defection of ‘Drunken’ Agents Shook US Confidence”. Lauren Turner, BBC News. October 23, 2015

“Notorious spies fled the country through city port”. Keith Hamilton, Southern Daily Echo. December 7, 2010

“A Spy Among Friends: Philby and the Great Betrayal”. Ben Macintyre. 2015

“Their Trade is Treachery”. Chapman Pincher. 1982

“PM was not told Anthony Blunt was a Soviet spy, archives reveal”. Ian Cobain, The Guardian. July 23, 2018

“A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean”. Roland Philipps. 2018

“The Cambridge Spies: The Untold Story Maclean, Philby, and Burgess in America”. Verne W. Newton. 1991

“Kim Philby, British Double Agent, Reveals All in Secret Video”. Gordon Corera, BBC News. April 4, 2016

“MI5 and MI6 coverup of Cambridge spy-ring laid bare in archive papers”. Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian. February 6, 2016

“My Five Cambridge Friends”. Yuri Ivanovich Modin. 1994

“Memoirs of British Spy Offer No Apology”. John F. Burns, The New York Times. July 23, 2009

“Kim Philby and the Age of Paranoia”. Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Times. July 10, 1994

“Confession of British spy for the Soviets made public for the first time”. Haroon Siddique. The Guardian. 24 Sep 2019

“Moscow Square named after notorious British double agent Kim Philby”. Tim Wyatt, The Independent. November 9, 2018