The Cardinal of the Kremlin

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The Cardinal of the Kremlin is a novel by Tom Clancy, featuring his character Jack Ryan. It is a sequel to The Hunt for Red October, based on the development of the Strategic Defense Initiative and its Soviet equivalent, covering themes including intelligence gathering and counterintelligence, political intrigue, and guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan.


Plot summary

The book begins at a diplomatic conference in Moscow attended by Jack Ryan, a rising CIA analyst and part of the American delegation to the Soviet Union. It is revealed that the CIA’s most highly-placed agent, codenamed CARDINAL, is none other than one Colonel Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov: the personal aide to the Soviet Minister of Defense and a national war hero. (This persona may have been based on Ryszard Kukliński, a Polish agent for the CIA, or on Dmitri Polyakov, a Russian CIA spy executed in 1988 following betrayal by Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames.) Filitov had won three Hero of the Soviet Union medals over the course of his career, most notably at the Battle of Stalingrad. He was recruited by GRU (Soviet Military Intelligence) Colonel Oleg Penkovskiy, a British agent; he offered his services to the CIA after his wife and two sons died. The two sons died as a result of service in the Red Army, the youngest in a training accident, and the eldest during the Hungarian Uprising. As a result, Filitov began passing political, technical, and military intelligence for the CIA; This operation continued for over thirty years until the start of the book.

The American military discovers through "National Technical Means" that the Soviets were working on a ABM defense system—an equivalent to the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative—based at Dushanbe in Tajikistan. Unbeknownst to most of the protagonists, the CIA has deployed a liaison, one Emilio Ortiz, to the region to aid the rebels. One Mujaheddin groups leader, a man known only as "The Archer," is questioned about a strange light he witnessed (after a Soviet test of their weapon, which devastated an obsolete satellite). The Archer, noting the fear that the Americans have of the light in their questions, determines that the installation is a threat to him and his people, and tasks his group with attacking and pillaging the installation. In the end, the guerrillas partially succeed, destroying a large amount of equipment, though most of the scientific staff survive, and the Afghans suffer horrendous losses, including the death of The Archer.

Eventually, Filitov's identity is uncovered by the KGB, and he is subsequently arrested while attempting communication with his control officer, Mary Pat Foley. However, Ryan concocts a plan to secure the return of both Filitov and arrange the defection of the sitting KGB Chairman, Nikolay Borissovich Gerasimov. Gerasimov was angling to take over as General Secretary in the aftermath of Filitov's arrest, something the CIA and Ryan were determined to avoid because of Gerasimov's unyielding Cold War views and anti-American ideology. Ryan schemed to go public with the defection and capture of Soviet submarine Red October, banking on the political instability of the Soviet Politburo. Filitov and Gerasimov are to be exfiltrated on the departing American delegation's aircraft, and Gerasimov's family is to be extracted from Estonia by John Clark onto the submarine Dallas. Gerasimov plotted a counter-move where a brilliant American researcher on "Star Wars" was abducted by Soviet agents in New Mexico, but quick law enforcement action allowed the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team to kill or wound the researcher's captors and retrieive him unharmed. Ryan let Gerasimov know this and Gerasimov, though enraged, recognized he was out of options and had to accept the defection offer.

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