It is well documented that Russian President Vladimir Putin spent more than 15 years serving in the Soviet Union’s intelligence service. His time as part of the KGB has long been credited with how he is able to masterfully manipulate those he meets. However, the 70-year-old’s time as an intelligence agent was not always as illustrious as it may have sounded, with one biographer saying he was far removed from James Bond — instead he was more like the fictional spy’s secretary.
Putin’s first foreign post as a KGB officer was to the city of Dresden in what was then East Germany or the German Democratic Republic (GDR).
The young Putin, who was at the time married with two children, had hoped of being a “real spy”.
But instead, his job was mundane and he was not even posted to the epicenter of the GDR, East Berlin, according to Putin biographer and critic Masha Gessen.
She told the BBC: “He had been hoping for a challenging post in the West, for being a real spy. In fact, he was sent to backwater, it wasn’t even the capital of East Germany.”
Boris Reitschuster, Putin’s German biographer and expert, explained how the idea that Putin was some kind of master spy is purely a Kremlin fantasy.
The Putin expert chuckled as he said: “Russian propaganda always tries to tell the story that Putin has been some kind of James Bond but he definitely was no James Bond.
“He was closer to being a secretary of James Bond.”
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According to Stasi archive documents, “Comrade Putin” carried out mundane tasks such as requesting help in order to install a telephone line.
However, it is thought that he would try to recruit those who had access to the West, such as students, to travel on behalf of the KGB and spy on the West.
Putin became fascinated with the intelligence service when he was in his early teens, according to journalist and author of the 2022 biography, Putin, His Life and Times, Philip Short.
The new head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov, who was appointed in 1967, had put the organization through a rebranding exercise in order to attract those who were young, educated and patriotic.
He sought to inspire young Russians through TV shows about spies such as The Shiel and The Sword into joining the “Soviet Harvard”, Mr Glasser explained.
Although Putin realized his dreams of joining the KGB, he managed to make his way up to the rank of lieutenant colonel before he quit in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Mr Glasser added: “People who had been generals in the Soviet KGB did not consider Vladimir Putin to be made of the same stuff that they were.”
Following the collapse of the Berlin wall in 1989, Putin, his then-wife, Lyudmila, and his two daughters, returned to Russia.