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.
    • Filitov 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.
  • 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.
      Col. Filitov: I killed for the motherland! I bled for the motherland! I burned for the motherland!
    • 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.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: The U.S.S. Dallas brings Soviet defector and veteran submarine captain Marko Ramius along for advice on their infiltration of Soviet waters. This turns out to be very useful when they're spotting and fired on by a Soviet ship: Ramius takes over and, in his native Russian, proceeds to chew out the Soviet captain for "using live ammo during an exercise," and identifying the Dallas by the name of a Soviet submarine that he knows is constantly involved in secret operations. This buys them the time to escape.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Alexandrov and Gerasimov. As head of the KGB, Gerasimov easily has more power, but he needs the legitimacy that Alexandrov, as chief ideologue, can provide.
  • 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:
    • Nikolay Borisovich Gerasimov, Chairman of the KGB. He suborns the vote of a Politburo member by blackmailing him with his daughter, who has been found to be working for Western intelligence, and then does the same to Defense Minister Yazov using the knowledge that Filitov is also working for Western intelligence, in a bid to unseat Narmanov and 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.
    • Discussed in that this is supposed to be the Russians' national trope, in contrast to Americans as a nation of gamblers. And yet, it's the CIA that end up thinking like chessmasters - trying to checkmate Gerasimov so that defection is his only option - and Gerasimov who responds with a gamble, kidnapping America's top SDI scientist in the hopes that the prestige from this operation will save him.
  • Code Name: CARDINAL.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: Ed and Mary Pat Foley know that their apartment is bugged by the KGB. This does not seem to have an adverse effect on their sex life, and they even seem to get a thrill out of having sex while the KGB listens.
  • Commie Land: A significant portion of the novel is set within the Soviet Union.
  • Cruel Mercy: Gerasimov's view of what Soviet justice has become. In the old days, he reflects that a politician at his level who'd fallen into disgrace would simply be executed, especially under Stalin who was very much into You Have Failed Me. But nowadays, it just means being removed from all the circles of power and left to waste away in a normal existence, while the ordinary people around you stop fearing you and even laugh at you behind your back. The prospect of this happening to him is what ultimately motivates him to accept the CIA's offer of defection, as he prefers living in America to suffering this perceived indignity.
  • 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.
  • Gaslighting: Used as an interrogation technique by the KGB.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: done interestingly. Jack Ryan seems to be one, when a loud and public argument with a gay liberal congressman culminates in him using an attack that would've been crudely homophobic even in the eighties. This turns out to be an act, meant to make the KGB believe that Ryan was falling out of favor with the American authorities as well as garnering some sympathy from the equally homophobic Soviets. The congressman in question had spent time in the Soviet Union before, enough to fall in love with a Soviet citizen, causing the latter to be sentenced to the gulag for "antisocial activity." This results in a strong case of It's Personal towards the Soviet government, which, combined with the congressman's national security expertise and basic patriotism, made him all too happy to participate in the CIA operation against the KGB Chairman. As Ryan puts it to Gerasimov: "so, I guess you could say we used your own prejudices against you.
  • Historical-Domain Character:
  • 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.
  • Inter Service Rivalry: Taken up to eleven between the Red Army and KGB. At the top, it's simple power politics - Defense Minister Yazov and KGB Chairman Gerasimov are in opposite factions on the Politburo, hence the latter's attempts to compromise the former. It's equally intense in the ranks, though. Filitov considers the "chekists" to be incompetent meddlers, whose main contribution to World War Two was spying on their own men and executing those who'd been forced to retreat. Bondarenko considers their guards to be amateurs playing at war, and takes great pleasure in embarrassing them on his morning exercise run. Even Vatutin's sympathetic counterpart from military intelligence lampshades this, asking him how he thinks the military will react if the KGB were to try torturing a confession out of a war hero.
  • 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.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Filitov, a CIA mole who's also a Soviet patriot and veteran, seems to both avert and play straight this trope. It's lampshaded by his KGB interrogator, who marvels that he never stopped performing his job as adviser to the Defense Minister, including calling for many changes in weapons procurement that genuinely improved the country's defense readiness, all at the same time that he was selling secrets to the Americans.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Altunin's death, by genuine misadventure, is assumed to be this by the Russian authorities.
  • 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.
    • Also discussed by Ryan, when justifying the decision to bury Filitov in an American military battlefield: "one way or another we all fight for the things we believe in. Doesn't that give us some common ground?"
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: a villainous example with Gerasimov, though he has the good sense not to say it out loud. His partner, Alexandrov, is a true believer in Marxism-Leninism and sees the coup they're plotting as an attempt to save their country from Narmonov's reforms. Gerasimov only cares about the power and perks - some of his plans for Russia are even Not So Different from those of the man he's trying to overthrow.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Nobody suspects that Ed Foley is a CIA field agent because he deliberately pretends to be a lot dumber than he really is (it's even mentioned that he's received the highest compliment a spy can get: "That guy's not smart enough to be a spy"). The same applies to his wife, Mary Pat, who acts like a ditzy bimbo so that nobody will suspect her. The really good KGB agents catch on when the pair come under suspicion, realizing that it's just a bit too convenient that a US Embassy worker and his wife both turn out to be dull as doorknobs.
  • Odd Friendship: Representatives Alan Trent (a gay Democrat from Massachusetts) and Sam Fellows (a Mormon Republican from Arizona), both members of the House Select Intelligence Committee.
  • 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.
  • The Starscream: Gerasimov to Narmonov.
  • 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.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Discussed when Ryan points out that nuclear reductions treaties are nice, but really amount to little more than PR stunts that don't affect the nuclear war equation. His analogy is figuratively pointing a gun with an eighteen round magazine at a man and then agreeing to remove six rounds from it, then asking if the man feels any safer.
  • Torture Always Works: KGB torture techniques are shown in great detail, and rarely do they involve physical abuse. One captured agent breaks from sensory deprivation, and another from sleep deprivation and psychological deception.
  • 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.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/TheCardinalOfTheKremlin