In the late 1950s, a top Soviet military intelligence officer decided he was no longer in agreement with the direction of the USSR's leadership. They were corrupt, greedy, and full of thieves and murderers.
The officer's son was very sick, and he wanted him to be sent to the United States for treatment. However, the USSR's top leaders said no. After that, Dmitri Polyakov was done. From that point forward, he decided he was going to give intelligence information to the United States.
Turning on The USSR
Polyakov was a decorated World War II veteran. After the war, he joined the Soviet GRU, the USSR's military, foreign intelligence agency. In 1951, he was a member of the Soviet delegation to the UN in New York City.
After Polyakov's son passed away, he went up to an American diplomat at an event and indicated that he would be available to give the Americans information.
After ten years of service to the GRU, he spent the next 30 feeding information to the Americans. The information he provided helped them remove moles from the CIA and affected how the Gulf War ended, among other things.
Even as he moved locations with the GRU, he made sure to keep giving the Americans information. He used the same techniques that the GRU were famous for to pass on the information.
Many of the technological advances that did not seem real were used by Polyakov. He used self-immolating microfilm, burst radio transmissions, and more to send and store all kinds of information.
Saving His Russia
Working against his country came with high risks. If he was caught, Polyakov would be tortured to death and likely buried in an unmarked grave.
Ultimately, he decided the risks were worth it to keep his country and its people safe. He was afraid that the USSR could win the Cold War, and he did not want that to happen.
Polyakov did not want to leave the USSR, and he did not want payment. So the CIA gave him gifts related to hunting and carpentry, two of his favorite hobbies.
He gave the Americans vital information about China and the North Vietnamese ahead of the Vietnam War. When he was in Moscow, he gave President Nixon the information he used to divide Russia and China.
He was eventually caught by the KGB and likely killed.