Before he was the KGB’s top analyst, Lt. Gen. Nikolai Sergeevich Leonov was a field officer of the First Chief Directorate specializing in Latin America. With experience in Mexico and ties to Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Leonov was a key player in the USSR’s strategy of prying Latin America from Washington’s grip. In 1968 a left-leaning military junta came to power in Peru – shortly thereafter, Leonov was sent to Lima on a fact-finding mission under journalistic cover.
I returned to Moscow at the very end of 1968, and I had just turned 40. My time in the service seemed to be going without any problems. Soon I was appointed the deputy chief of the Latin American Department. Such a promotion was unprecedented – I had immediately jumped through two positions. But at that time, I apparently ascribed to the maxim later formulated by future First Chief Directorate head Leonid Shebarshin: “Don’t ask for anything, and don’t refuse anything.” I still wholeheartedly believed that “the leadership saw things the clearest,” and consequently, it would know what to do.