Chapter 5, in which the Soviet plan begins to emerge.
The idea seems too audacious for any hope of success. Its brutality is almost unimaginable. It’s a near-perfect combination of two of the most savage mentalities of the twentieth century: a massive and devastating onslaught–the Soviet contribution–that relies on a stunningly evil application of technological expertise–the Nazi half of the equation. The chance that the Soviet Union’s cautious leadership will approve such a bold stroke seems unlikely to Yevegny Nikolaievitch Kasparanov, the plan’s progenitor and relentless driving force. He sits in a small office in the Kremlin where he and two other men, both veterans of the Great War for the Fatherland, meet for one last time before Kasparanov’s appointment with the General Secretary.
The oldest of the three speaks up first.
“History will condemn us, Yevgeny Nikolaievitch.”
“We will write the histories. Will we condemn ourselves? Do the Americans condemn themselves for what they did to Dresden? Tokyo? Hiroshima? Of course not.”
The other war veteran, a chain smoker whose right leg is buried along with 5,000 Red Army soldiers in East Berlin, asks, with the memory of that loss still haunting his voice, “And our reliance on the fascists? Suddenly it is acceptable to be in bed with the same men who brought so much misery to our people, our home?”
Kasparanov is undeterred. His logic is simple.
“We must use whatever and whoever is at our disposal to advance the interests of socialism around the globe. And this is not just a slogan, not just some empty propaganda; it is a matter of survival. Do the Americans flinch at the notion of using German scientists in their quest to conquer space? Do we? Will we wait until American satellites are orbiting unchallenged above our heads, armed and ready to rain nuclear weapons or worse down on our people? Is it not our responsibility to silence that threat by any means at our disposal? What will our grandchildren think of us if they knew we had the ability to ensure the triumph of collectivism over capitalism and shrugged because of some ambiguous moral dilemma? I tell you, this plan represents not only an opportunity, it is our responsibility.”
Kasparanov’s one-legged comrade puts out his cigarette. As he pulls another one from its pack, he responds.
“Yevgeny Nikolaievitch, there is no need to lecture the two of us about our responsibilities. We have the scars and medals to attest to our sacrifices in the name of duty.”
“I assure you, it was not my intention to lecture you. I love you and all the veterans of that horrible conflict as if they are my brothers and each is my father. But you know the point is unassailable. We cannot turn our backs on any opportunity to defeat capitalism, or we will lose at least another generation. Probably much more.”
“What are these places? Parrot Cay? Moline? Gustavia? You know that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and there are many, many links in your chain, Yevgeny. Perhaps too many?”
“Your concern is valid. But we have friends throughout the world, and their dedication in the face of political persecution has been remarkable. They are ready, even eager, to act on behalf of a global movement.”
“When is your meeting with the General Secretary?”
“A week from tomorrow.”
A moment of silence follows. The oldest of the three stands up. His veteran comrade follows, propping himself on his crutches.
“You will tell our friend Nikita Sergeyevich that you have our complete support. The rest is up to him.”
The sight of these two men who gave so much for their country is almost enough to bring Kasparanov to tears. Instead, he hugs each of them in turn before they leave his office. They depart slowly, burdened as much by a past of unspeakable horror as by the specter of what they are about to unleash.