Literature: The Cardinal Of The Kremlin

The Cardinal of the Kremlin is the third Jack Ryan novel to be written by Tom Clancy, and the fifth to occur chronologically. It was published in 1988, and takes place in 1987.

One year after the events of The Hunt for Red October, during the START talks of the mid 80's, Jack Ryan serves as a CIA representative during the negotiations as both sides work to reduce their nuclear weapon stockpiles. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, a mujaheddin called "The Archer" fights against the Soviet oppressors, using American Stinger missiles to terrifying effect. Back in the US, the secretive Tea Clipper program seeks to develop a laser defense weapon against nuclear missiles launchers, fearful that the Soviets are working towards the same end.

And in the middle of it all, a US agent known to a very select few as CARDINAL sends top secret Soviet information to the CIA. And he's just been compromised...

Focusing much more on spy games than any other novel in the Ryanverse, The Cardinal of the Kremlin is set against the backdrop of the "warming" of the Cold War, as the US and USSR start serious talks to reduce the threat of nuclear war while still butting heads around the world. The Strategic Defense Initiative (AKA Star Wars) features prominently, as does the similar Soviet program, and there's plenty of technology porn and spy thriller, though very little action.


This book contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Klementi Vladimirovich Vatutin of the KGB's counterintelligence division. It's mentioned that, as a borderline alcoholic, he has difficulty falling asleep at night unless he has a couple of drinks first, and this is made note of by Gerasimov himself as well.
  • Artistic License Physics: The work of the SDI scientists seems to be on the verge of a breakthrough for the entire novel. As we now know, SDI lasers were barely ever more than a pipe dream, and never had a working prototype, especially not a free-electron laser (SDI focused on chemical and X-ray lasers instead). Later books in the series would go on to admit that neither Russia or the US was able to make a laser powerful enough to reliably shoot down a missile, resulting in the projects eventually getting shelved.
  • Ascended Extra: Cardinal of the Kremlin is the first published novel in which John Clark appears. So great was his popularity that he was given a major supporting role in the next book, Clear and Present Danger.
  • Badass: Many.
    • The Archer, who is the first character introduced in the novel. Lost his family to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, deals with the angst by shooting Soviet aircraft down and generally making a royal nuisance of himself. Also a Religious Bruiser - he is a devout mujaheddin. Serves as a foil to Gennady Bondarenko, and his death at Gennady's hands is surprisingly moving.
      The Archer: Allahu Akhbar! Colonel Bondarenko: Yes, I suppose He is.
    • Gennady Iosifovich Bondarenko, initially introduced as a gofer that Filitov uses to obtain information on Bright Star, soon establishes himself as one of these through personally leading the defense of the Bright Star complex against invading Afghan freedom fighters.
    • Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov is thoroughly established as being one of these over the course of decades. Fought for Russia against the Germans, famous for killing Germans whilst on fire. Even as a crippled old man, he's considered extremely tough and even scares the bodyguards of various Soviet officials.
    • Through innuendo and guesswork, the people that meet Clark assume he is very much this trope, though how accurate their assumptions are is not examined until other novels.
  • Badass Grandpa: Though he has no grandchildren of his own, Filitov is well-respected and never underestimated even decades after his war service.
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands: Played straight. When Gus Werner leads the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team to save Major Gregory from the KGB officers who kidnapped him, he does this to the last surviving officer by shooting at his hands. He comments later that he didn't know why he did it, despite having trained other men specifically not to do it.
  • Call Back: The events of The Hunt for Red October have long-lasting implications for everyone involved in this story, and frequent references are made to that story.
  • The Chessmaster: Multiple instances.
    • Nikolay Borisovich Gerasimov, Chairman of the KGB. Once Filitov is caught as a Western spy, he uses the information as leverage against two of Narmonov's allies on the Politburo in an attempt to gain the seat of General Secretary for himself.
    • Jack Ryan himself performs this as well in response to the above. By using political disinformation and the Red October scandal against Gerasimov, he threatens the latter with disgrace and removal from power, forcing him to betray his country.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Misha Filitov, one of the Soviet Union's greatest war heroes, had been giving information to the West for thirty years, shortly following the death of his children and wife.
  • Defector from Commie Land
    • Marko Ramius, Red October's commanding officer and one of the leading characters from the previous novel, makes a few appearances in Cardinal of the Kremlin.
    • Enforced on Chairman Gerasimov and his family, very much against the former's will.
  • Dirty Communists: Effectively made to be the very reason Filitov decided to betray the Soviet Union.
  • Double Agent: Peter Henderson, Agent CASSIUS, who had been previously compromised in Hunt for Red October, makes his second (and, chronologically, final) appearance.
  • Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: The sensory deprivation tank used against Svetlana Vanayeva.
  • Fake Defector: Ryan himself. Part of the reason why it works is because KGB has identified him as a part of the Intelligence Directorate, which is populated by desk weenies with no experience out in the field.
  • False Flag Operation: Vatutin suspects this of Eduard Vasillyevich Altunin's death, when he discovers his mutilated body on top of some rail tracks. Gerasimov later uses this as an excuse for kidnapping Gregory.
  • Feed the Mole:
    • Ryan's "Canary Trap" is a refinement of the method of feeding a suspected mole information to see if it ends up in the hands of the enemy: each copy of a sensitive document contains a unique permutation of certain details, so that if any leaks occur it will be possible to narrow down which copy was leaked.
    • The FBI get a known Russian mole to feed false information to Gerasimov regarding Ryan and the nuclear treaty talks, in order to further increase Ryan's "credibility" and to give Ryan additional ammunition with which to threaten Gerasimov.
  • For Want of a Nail: The action that causes the detection of CIA's longest-lived and most valuable agent is a bump on a train. It causes a courier to drop a roll of film containing sensitive documents, which itself isn't that big a deal. But he does it within view of an agent of the KGB's counterintelligence department.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Marshals Ustinov, Sokolov and Yazov were the actual Defense Ministers of the Soviet Union at the time of writing of The Hunt for Red October and The Cardinal of the Kremlin. Of course, due to the time gap between publishing of the two novels, Filitov manages to somehow serve as senior aide to all three within the span of a year.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Filitov's last heroic feat in WW2 was, after his tank was set ablaze by a German round, to stay inside and shoot back at the tank while on fire, and then continue to lead his regiment for several more days without medical treatment. Of course, his right arm does end up becoming next to useless due to this.
  • Kill Sat: The U.S. missile defense system in The Cardinal of the Kremlin works by means of bouncing a laser beam off of orbital mirrors.
  • Last Stand: Bondarenko's defense of the Bright Star complex when the Archer and his men perform a cross-border raid. Bondarenko successfully holds off the Archer's men, killing him in the process, while defending the complex staff and waiting for reinforcements to arrive.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Altunin's death, by genuine misadventure, is assumed to be this by the Russian authorities.
  • Moscow Centre: The KGB takes a primary role in the novel.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Andrey Ilyavich Narmonov is effectively Clancy's version of Gorbachev.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The KGB uses a sensory deprivation device to interrogate a Russian woman who is spying for the British. The device works by depriving her of all sensory input (no sight, no sound, no smell, no touch), and since the human brain is conditioned to expect some kind of sensory input at all times, the experience causes her to react with stark, unreasoning terror. She tells her captors everything just to make it stop.
  • Not So Different: Sergey Nikolayevich Golovko is introduced as Ryan's counterpart at the treaty talk, and is friendly with Ryan. Though they are on opposite sides of the debate at hand, they find that they agree on quite a lot.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Both Ed Foley and Mary Pat Foley use this as cover for the fact that they're both CIA agents.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Beatrice Taussig, an administrator at Tea Clipper, essentially hands her male co-worker over to the KGB in order to (clumsily) attempt to seduce the guy's fiancee.
  • Rich Bitch: Bea Taussig, as well as Svetlana Vanayeva.
  • Sadistic Choice: Ryan attempts to enforce this on Gerasimov: either defect along with Filitov, or suffer disgrace and fall from power.
  • Salt the Earth: Gerasimov leaves orders that should bringing Gregory back to the Soviet Union prove impossible, he is to be killed and thus deny his knowledge to the Americans as well.
  • The Smart Guy: Major Alan Gregory is emphasized as this early in the novel, touted as being one of the biggest driving forces behind Tea Clipper. It's one of the major reasons why Gerasimov decides to attempt to kidnap him.
  • Spy Fiction: The best example of it in the Ryanverse, as most of the action is the work of spies and the agencies that are trying to catch them, rather than military action.
  • Technobabble: This actually becomes a hindrance to using the Canary Trap to find leaks in Tea Clipper, as the language used by scientists is so precise that altering it too much could completely change the meaning of what they're trying to say.
  • Take a Third Option: Faced with two alternatives that both mean the end of his career, Gerasimov decides to attempt to kidnap Alan Gregory and use his knowledge to bolster Bright Star, hoping that the prestige of doing so will allow him to survive the disgrace of Red October, the loss of Agent Cassius, and weakening the Soviet side of the nuclear arms negotiations.
  • Torture Technician: The unnamed doctor in charge of the KGB's sensory deprivation tank project.
  • We Have Ways of Making You Talk: Played with when Vatutin apprehends Filitov, as his intention is to use the sensory deprivation tank. He is denied permission to, however, because Filitov's advanced age could result in his death.
  • Zerg Rush: The Afghan fighters are capable of using tactics, but generally prefer to rush their targets from ambush.