MOSCOW -- George Blake, triple agent, came in from the bitter cold of a Moscow day yesterday and declared that even though communism hadn't quite worked out this time, it still deserved another chance.
George Blake was a highly placed British intelligence officer 30 years ago when he was revealed as a Soviet spy who had betrayed 50 Western agents. He served six years in a British prison before making a dramatic escape to the Soviet Union.
Yesterday he chatted companionably about his treason with reporters, more like a pensioner from an office job than a character worthy of James Bond "007" films. His favorite topic was communism, the ideology for which he gave up everything.
"I believe the time will come when human beings will return to this experiment," he said. "No, it wasn't wrong. It was a noble experiment."
But he conceded there were problems with the way it was practiced in the Soviet Union -- like terror and violence and loss of freedoms.
"I believed [that] in this country a new type of man was emerging," he said. "My big disappointment was I found people here were like everywhere else." Instead of Utopia, he found husbands and wives arguing over who would get the car and dacha when they divorced.
He said he was shocked to arrive in Moscow after escaping from London's Wormwood Scrubs prison in 1966 to find the ruthlessness with which communism was being administered.
The fault, he concluded, was with people. "We people living at the end of the 20th century are not mature enough to build a communist society," he said.
People still put themselves first, he said, instead of the common good.
"If communism had succeeded," he said somewhat nostalgically, things would have been quite different. Germany would have been united, but under East Germany. Instead of having American advisers here telling Russians how to run a market economy, Soviet citizens would be in America giving advice on how to build socialist communities."
Blake, born in the Netherlands, had been trained by the British as a double agent, but instead spied for the Soviet Union from 1953 until his arrest in 1961. He was sentenced to 42 years in prison, which at the time was the longest sentence in recent British history for any kind of crime.
He was 38 then. Ever since his sensational prison escape in 1966, he has lived in Russia and, he said, been well taken care of by the KGB.
Now that the cold war is over, he said, it wasn't spies but economics that won it.
Tatyana Samolis, a KGB spokeswoman, said Blake had been asked to speak to the reporters because they were always calling up the KGB wanting to talk to a spy like Blake. And besides, he has written a book about his life.
Blake said he is not sorry he delivered the 50 agents from Britain, the U.S. and Germany to the Soviets.
"They promised me none would be executed," he said. And he hopes none of those 50 hold it against him. He said he doesn't hold it against whoever it was who found him out.
"If I met him today, I'd have him in for a cup of tea," he said.
He was asked what he thought of Vadim Bakatin, the head of the KGB, recently giving the U.S. ambassador the plans for bugging the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
"I believe it was a beautiful gesture," he said, "beautiful but totally unnecessary. That gesture made the Americans feel awkward, like when you visit someone's home and give them a gift, and they have nothing to give you in return."
He left a wife and family back in England when he fled but now has another family in Moscow. Yes, he said, it would be nice to go back to Britain for a vacation. He said he's always admired the way the British do things.
"But I've gotten used to conditions here," he said. "I'm too old to change."