Mikhael Sagetelyan’s life reads like a chapter from a Cold War spy novel, complete with clandestine operations, international intrigue, and high-stakes diplomacy. Born in 1927, Sagetelyan was not only a prominent Soviet journalist and author but also a KGB agent and a pivotal figure in the flow of information during a tense period between the United States and the Soviet Union.
His career began with an academic foundation at the prestigious Moscow Institute of International Relations, after which he joined the ranks of “Izvestia,” a major Soviet newspaper. Sagetelyan’s journalistic journey took him to Washington, D.C., where he worked for “Novoye Vremya,” and served as the head of TASS, the principal news agency in the Soviet Union, in the United States from 1959 to 1965.
It was during this period that Sagetelyan’s role as a journalist provided the perfect guise for espionage activities. His position gave him access to influential circles in American politics and media, which he used to gather intelligence and, at times, disseminate disinformation. A notable instance of his espionage work came to light in 1962, seven months before the world stood on the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sagetelyan reportedly exploited his status to plant false information regarding the Soviet stance on disarmament talks, a move that could have had significant strategic implications during the delicate negotiations of the era.
In 1965, Sagetelyan’s connections and skills as an intermediary were again utilized, this time in a more diplomatic capacity. He acted as a liaison between the Soviet Union and Pierre Salinger, a presidential adviser, concerning peace negotiations for Vietnam. This pivotal role highlighted the dual nature of his career, balancing public journalism with the secretive work of espionage.
Sagetelyan later ascended to senior positions back at “Izvestia,” where he continued his work in journalism. However, his authorship took a controversial turn in 1972 with the publication of his book “Who Killed John Kennedy?” In this book, Sagetelyan posited the theory that President Kennedy’s assassination was the result of a right-wing conspiracy, a claim that added to the myriad of speculations surrounding the tragic event.
The life of Mikhael Sagetelyan serves as a reminder of the complex interplay between journalism, intelligence, and international politics during the Cold War. His activities, veiled beneath the responsibilities of his public persona, played a part in the intricate ballet of information and influence that characterized the Soviet-American relationship. Sagetelyan’s legacy remains a fascinating study of a time when the pen and the cloak were tools wielded with equal dexterity in the great game of international espionage. He passed away in 1994, leaving behind a history as enigmatic as the era he helped shape.