Anthony Blunt: Asking for an absolution?

Did the member of Cambridge Five really regret the spying for Stalin?

Question:

Blunt wrote in his published memoirs he regrets his work for Moscow. Do you think he was honest?

Answers:

Nigel West, Author on many books, British military historian (his civil name is Rupert Allason), his next book will be published under the title TRIPLEX: Secrets from the Cambridge Spies

I think the Cambridge Five were important in the following respects:

1. They proved a glimpse into British security and intelligence methodology that could not be obtained elsewhere.

2. Blunt answered individual questionnaires concerning past and current MI5 cases, reassured the NKVD about hostile surveillance in London and compromised TRIPLEX, among many other sources.

3. Philby exposed just about every detail of SIS personnel and operations between 1941 and 1951.

4. Cairncross tipped off Stalin to the MAUD Report, revealing the possibility discovered by Frisch and Peierls, of a viable miniaturized atomic weapon.

5. Maclean provided access to top-level British foreign policy options and decisions.

No other group of spies in the history of espionage has offered such an opportunity to penetrate the establishment of an adversary over such an extended period at a critical time in the Cold War.

My impression was that Blunt regretted being caught, and having to suffer the consequences of public exposure. I did not witness any remorse on his part. On the contrary, he was coldly detached about his entire experience.

Richard Aldrich, Professor, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick

His memoirs are a mixture of self-delusion and self-justification mixed with a little regret above all. I think Anthony Blunt regretted being caught! I don’t think he regretted assisting Moscow against fascism during the war, but clearly in the post-war period he began to have his doubts about Stalin. Blunt’s real problems were perhaps reconciling his political views as a communist with his obsession with social position and class – he was a terrible snob – and so his life was a contradiction. The great scandal that was the Blunt affair was so much about his role as Keeper of the Queen’s Pictures. If he had only been an obscure professor of art history at a university the interest would have been much less

We also have to acknowledge his skill – none of the other key agents in his circle managed to live out their time in Britain and avoid prosecution. The others had to go on the run – or went to jail. He was very clever.

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