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From Warsaw with Love: Polish Spies, the CIA, and the Forging of an Unlikely Alliance

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From Warsaw with Love is the epic story of how Polish intelligence officers forged an alliance with the CIA in the twilight of the Cold War, told by the award-winning author John Pomfret. Spanning decades and continents, from the battlefields of the Balkans to secret nuclear research labs in Iran and embassy grounds in North Korea, this saga begins in 1990. As the United St From Warsaw with Love is the epic story of how Polish intelligence officers forged an alliance with the CIA in the twilight of the Cold War, told by the award-winning author John Pomfret. Spanning decades and continents, from the battlefields of the Balkans to secret nuclear research labs in Iran and embassy grounds in North Korea, this saga begins in 1990. As the United States cobbles together a coalition to undo Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, six US officers are trapped in Iraq with intelligence that could ruin Operation Desert Storm if it is obtained by the brutal Iraqi dictator. Desperate, the CIA asks Poland, a longtime Cold War foe famed for its excellent spies, for help. Just months after the Polish people voted in their first democratic election since the 1930s, the young Solidarity government in Warsaw sends a veteran ex-Communist spy who’d battled the West for decades to rescue the six Americans. John Pomfret’s gripping account of the 1990 cliffhanger in Iraq is just the beginning of the tale about intelligence cooperation between Poland and the United States, cooperation that one CIA director would later describe as “one of the two foremost intelligence relationships that the United States has ever had.” Pomfret uncovers new details about the CIA’s black site program that held suspected terrorists in Poland after 9/11 as well as the role of Polish spies in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In the tradition of the most memorable works on espionage, Pomfret’s book tells a distressing and disquieting tale of moral ambiguity in which right and wrong, black and white, are not conveniently distinguishable. As the United States teeters on the edge of a new cold war with Russia and China, Pomfret explores how these little-known events serve as a reminder of the importance of alliances in a dangerous world.


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From Warsaw with Love is the epic story of how Polish intelligence officers forged an alliance with the CIA in the twilight of the Cold War, told by the award-winning author John Pomfret. Spanning decades and continents, from the battlefields of the Balkans to secret nuclear research labs in Iran and embassy grounds in North Korea, this saga begins in 1990. As the United St From Warsaw with Love is the epic story of how Polish intelligence officers forged an alliance with the CIA in the twilight of the Cold War, told by the award-winning author John Pomfret. Spanning decades and continents, from the battlefields of the Balkans to secret nuclear research labs in Iran and embassy grounds in North Korea, this saga begins in 1990. As the United States cobbles together a coalition to undo Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, six US officers are trapped in Iraq with intelligence that could ruin Operation Desert Storm if it is obtained by the brutal Iraqi dictator. Desperate, the CIA asks Poland, a longtime Cold War foe famed for its excellent spies, for help. Just months after the Polish people voted in their first democratic election since the 1930s, the young Solidarity government in Warsaw sends a veteran ex-Communist spy who’d battled the West for decades to rescue the six Americans. John Pomfret’s gripping account of the 1990 cliffhanger in Iraq is just the beginning of the tale about intelligence cooperation between Poland and the United States, cooperation that one CIA director would later describe as “one of the two foremost intelligence relationships that the United States has ever had.” Pomfret uncovers new details about the CIA’s black site program that held suspected terrorists in Poland after 9/11 as well as the role of Polish spies in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In the tradition of the most memorable works on espionage, Pomfret’s book tells a distressing and disquieting tale of moral ambiguity in which right and wrong, black and white, are not conveniently distinguishable. As the United States teeters on the edge of a new cold war with Russia and China, Pomfret explores how these little-known events serve as a reminder of the importance of alliances in a dangerous world.

30 review for From Warsaw with Love: Polish Spies, the CIA, and the Forging of an Unlikely Alliance

  1. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Disclaimer: ARC via a Librarything Giveaway. Most people love spy stories. Some of these people love them because of the romanticized aspect – more of a James Bond view than the Le Carre. Pomfret’s book is a spy story, but it is also a how spying impacts international relations between countries. Pomfret details the relationship between the Polish spy service, both during and after the Cold War, with America. The first part of the book concerns the Polish service spying on American, focusing on Disclaimer: ARC via a Librarything Giveaway. Most people love spy stories. Some of these people love them because of the romanticized aspect – more of a James Bond view than the Le Carre. Pomfret’s book is a spy story, but it is also a how spying impacts international relations between countries. Pomfret details the relationship between the Polish spy service, both during and after the Cold War, with America. The first part of the book concerns the Polish service spying on American, focusing on industrial spy craft. What is interesting about this section is the reason the Polish spy becomes a spy and the ability he has to “turn” the American source. The second half of the book details not only tells the story of a Polish spy getting Americans got of Iraq during the invasion of Kuwait but what occurs after. I should note that I am usually not interested in Cold War history, but Pomfret’s writing style is so engrossing that I read over one hundred pages before I looked up. There is something compelling about Pomfret’s style. In part, this is because he does not editorial to a great degree, any degree really. It is like you are reading a report of the action as it comes in. Pomfret’s relating of the Iraq mission is particularly good, and he uses it to highlight how relations between countries in terms of spy craft do not only shift from respected enemy to friend to friend who has been used and now has complex feelings. It would be accurate to say that Pomfret is more sympathetic to Poland in the later part of the book. The focus on making a deal with a hippo that rolls over on you because it is a hippo attests to this. But there is also a sense of that is what it is, what did you think was going to happen. But it also raises the question of morality and responsibility as well as the cost that is not always paid by the spies themselves. It is interesting that some of the spies that Pomfret writes about seem to have decided to become spies because of the whole romantic view of James Bond. Popular, accomplished, and loved, if at least physically. This is not true of the more professional spies whose views are a little cutthroat if realistic. This is an enjoyable read that moves quickly.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Peterson

    Every November I try to squeeze in at least one nonfiction book in honor of the trendy #nonfictionnovember challenge. While I enjoy nonfiction, I have to really be sure to read a topic I’m truly interested in or else the reading becomes more of a burden than a joy. I’ve always been fascinated with history and espionage so “From Warsaw With Love” by John Pomfret instantly peaked my interest. It was a fascinating, fast read and at times read as more of a spy thriller than a nonfiction account. Pom Every November I try to squeeze in at least one nonfiction book in honor of the trendy #nonfictionnovember challenge. While I enjoy nonfiction, I have to really be sure to read a topic I’m truly interested in or else the reading becomes more of a burden than a joy. I’ve always been fascinated with history and espionage so “From Warsaw With Love” by John Pomfret instantly peaked my interest. It was a fascinating, fast read and at times read as more of a spy thriller than a nonfiction account. Pomfret’s writing style is engaging, addicting and at the same time educating. The history of the Polish intelligence forming an alliance with the CIA during the Cold War is fascinating and even more impressive is the length of time that alliance has held strong. As much as I loved the overall story of the operation to send an ex-communist spy to rescue the trapped US officers, it’s how the events in the book made me think bigger picture that really took it next level for me. Considering the state of our world currently, it’s a scenario that reminds us how important alliances are with our neighbors around the world during a time of turmoil and unease.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rafał Grochala

    Rehash of well-known stories

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christian James

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I had a hard time putting it down. It might be because I've always had a fascination/softspot for Poland due to its tragic history. The chapters about the evacuation of U.S. citizens from Baghdad reads kind of like a spy thriller, and its a nice chance of pace if you're not interested in just reading the history of collaboration between the intelligence services. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I had a hard time putting it down. It might be because I've always had a fascination/softspot for Poland due to its tragic history. The chapters about the evacuation of U.S. citizens from Baghdad reads kind of like a spy thriller, and its a nice chance of pace if you're not interested in just reading the history of collaboration between the intelligence services.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hassel

    From Warsaw with Love: Polish Spies, The CIA and the Forging of an Unlikely Alliance. By John Pomfret I had previously read Pomfret’s, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom about the early relationship between the US and China. En excellently thoroughly original and well researched book. I expected the same and was not disappointed. In this book Mr. Profret explains how to former foes on opposite sides of the Cold War came to work together with the break-up of the Soviet Union and her East From Warsaw with Love: Polish Spies, The CIA and the Forging of an Unlikely Alliance. By John Pomfret I had previously read Pomfret’s, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom about the early relationship between the US and China. En excellently thoroughly original and well researched book. I expected the same and was not disappointed. In this book Mr. Profret explains how to former foes on opposite sides of the Cold War came to work together with the break-up of the Soviet Union and her Eastern European neighbor. What is unique about this story is the first real cooperation between the US and Poland was their intelligence services. This includes spies on both sides who worked against each other now in complete cooperation. The Polish Intelligence was considered perhaps the 5th best in the world behind the US, Soviets, Israel and the UK; Heady company. Much of the cooperation was new to me including the leading role Polish Intelligence played in the planning of the War on Iraq and safely getting CIA members out of Baghdad. Perhaps more important was the slowness of many countries to change the status of Poland. So Polish Intelligence made a significant upgrade in the US understanding of places like North Korea and Cuba due to their close ties and large embassies in these countries. Most of the stories are easy to understand and are told in an almost Ben MacIntyre was using individual accounts rather than dry statistics. All in all, I heartly recommend this book for a detailed account of the US and Polish Intelligence agencies building a cooperative team effort in a rapidly changing world.

  6. 4 out of 5

    E. Wood

    I'm very impressed with the writing here, and likewise with the well-elucidated backstory of the downfall of Communist Poland in the 1980s. There were clearly nuances at play of which I never knew back then. I went to the index first, to see what mention there might be of Polish Underground missionary Jan Karski's arrival in the UK some 85 years ago tonight, delivering him into the tender mercies of MI-19's center for the interrogation of continental refugees at Royal Victoria Patriotic School in I'm very impressed with the writing here, and likewise with the well-elucidated backstory of the downfall of Communist Poland in the 1980s. There were clearly nuances at play of which I never knew back then. I went to the index first, to see what mention there might be of Polish Underground missionary Jan Karski's arrival in the UK some 85 years ago tonight, delivering him into the tender mercies of MI-19's center for the interrogation of continental refugees at Royal Victoria Patriotic School in Wandsworth (which is still there, south of the Thames, and looks as menacing inside as ever). My bio of Professor Karski came out from Wiley in 1994 and in a revised edition, covering his posthumous honors, from a U. Press in 2014 Well, there is no index. It's obviously the fault of publisher Holt, rather than the author, that such a simple and essential pedagogical tool would be missing. The text does mention Karski on p. 53, appropriately, and leaves me curious about what he would say about the tradecraft of the two sides. He was coy about his history with the CIA, but it was clear there had been such a history. I look forward to finishing this worthy book in the next few nights. All best, Tom Wood

  7. 5 out of 5

    C Manuel Contente

    This book was really quite informative and well written. Unfortunately, the last two chapters are very weird and out-of-place puff pieces for Joe Biden. Which, it doesn't matter to me if you like Biden or not, but they felt completely forced and ruined what could have otherwise been a good book. It never makes sense to me why people writing about history wish to perpetually inject their thoughts modern politics. This book was really quite informative and well written. Unfortunately, the last two chapters are very weird and out-of-place puff pieces for Joe Biden. Which, it doesn't matter to me if you like Biden or not, but they felt completely forced and ruined what could have otherwise been a good book. It never makes sense to me why people writing about history wish to perpetually inject their thoughts modern politics.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michelene Hart

    Found it interesting. but I don't know if I would off I was night Polish. Found it interesting. but I don't know if I would off I was night Polish.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Scott Tong

    highly readable account of an undertold spy story. Another great one from John Pomfret

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barbara M. Rondeau

  11. 4 out of 5

    Louise Gomer Bangel

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Shapiro

  13. 4 out of 5

    Przemelek

  14. 4 out of 5

    Richard PH

  15. 5 out of 5

    Btursell

  16. 4 out of 5

    Douglas R Molin

  17. 5 out of 5

    Peg - The History Shelf

  18. 5 out of 5

    Heatherbarber

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shimon Rolnitzky

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  21. 4 out of 5

    margaret mehan

  22. 4 out of 5

    John Pomfret

  23. 5 out of 5

    John L. Holden

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bartek Węglarczyk

  25. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Mclaughlin

  26. 5 out of 5

    Barry Royden

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  28. 5 out of 5

    George Bobinski

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Newsome

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carl L

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