WWI and Russia

In his tour de force conspiracy theory book series Victor Suvorov(a pen name) makes a number of claims about alternative interpretation of the origins of the Soviet Union, Germany and the events which culminated in WWII. He was a Soviet GRU defector. And he used those credentials to claim a certain expertise in geopolitical analysis, as it was practiced in the then-still-existing USSR.

One of his claims was that V.I.Lenin was a German WWI spy and that the October revolution was financed by the Germans to install a government which would be likely to withdraw Russia from the war. The Bolsheviks did withdraw Russia from the war in a peace treaty which was very unfavorable to Russia. But they later re-joined the war, when the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey) were almost certain to lose, and took back the conceded territory.

2016 US

After the 2016 election was lost by Hillary Clinton, it was a widely circulated belief that Donald Trump's campaign was directly assisted by the intelligence services of the Russian Federation. There were a number of circumstantial pieces of evidence for that claim, but while some were stronger than others, all had possible alternative interpretations. While this is close to "current events", I don't want to make a claim one way or another about this event. Suffice it to say, that the claim remains controversial with millions of supporters and opponents of its thesis.

The cosmic rise of Putin

Putin's rise to power is somewhat enigmatic. Most of his KGB career was spent in East Germany. When the USSR fell apart, he had to drive back to the USSR from Germany in his own car. He was presumed broke. He even claimed that one of his Stasi friends gave him a 20-year-old washing machine to take home with him.

He left with the rank of lieutenant colonel of the KGB. He became the head of the KGB very quickly. And then, soon after, he became the Prime Minister of Russia (long before he became President). He had no political experience. Russia had no mechanisms for tracking shadow money.

I think a good case can be made that Putin is (or was) a German spy, or at least a double agent. His ties to Stasi go back to the Soviet days. He has made Russia into Germany's gas tank. Putin has provided a golden parachute to the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, by making him a head of a Russian energy company. As of today, Schroeder still has not left his position despite his entire staff leaving in protest of the Russo-Ukrainian war. Germany remains the main financier of Russia despite the rest of G7 severing economic ties with Russia to prevent further financing of the hostilities.

This is not a widely-circulated conspiracy theory. You can dismiss it as my own, if you want. All I am saying is that there is some evidence for it.

The Question

Has there ever been a proven case of a sitting head of state being a foreign spy? And I am not looking for something Biblical or something from the pre-industrial history. I am asking about the mostly-trusted part of history. That means history whose 1st sources are still available to us. If there was such a case, was it proven after the fact or was the head of state removed from power?

  • 1
    Do you mean "spy while being leader", or "spy at one time"? Andropov and Putin were KGB, Bush the Elder was CIA.
    – WPNSGuy
    Mar 3, 2022 at 1:11
  • @WPNSGuy I did say "sitting head of state" in the body of the question (although not in the title). And the question asked about FOREIGN spies. The examples you gave were not it.
    – wrod
    Mar 3, 2022 at 1:12
  • oops, I missed that.
    – WPNSGuy
    Mar 3, 2022 at 1:19
  • 4
    Sorry, Putin a German spy? I am downvoting for that speculation alone.
    – Obie 2.0
    Mar 3, 2022 at 2:17
  • 2
    @wrod - I don't know enough about Lenin to say that it is wrong off the bat as with Putin, but my instinct is that it is probably wrong as well.
    – Obie 2.0
    Mar 3, 2022 at 3:13

2 Answers 2


The former German chancellor, Willy Brandt, worked with American counterintelligence after WWII. This supposedly ended in 1952, but how does one ever get out of something like that? He had worked undercover for various socialist groups during WWII.

  • Bit ironic since he resigned because of his personal assistant being an Eastern spy... Mar 3, 2022 at 11:22
  • I guess it makes some sense that so many instances of this would revolve around Germany/Russia after WWII just because of Germany being split in 2 provided a perfect microcosm of the Cold War. But it still doesn't explain V.I.Lenin.
    – wrod
    Mar 3, 2022 at 19:29
  • @wrod, a "has there ever" question can be answered by examining one case, not all of them.
    – o.m.
    Mar 3, 2022 at 19:34
  • @o.m. I know... but you can still have a lot of "hmmm, close" answers before the "ding,ding,ding."
    – wrod
    Mar 3, 2022 at 19:36
  • 1
    @wrod, one of the hallmarks of conspiracy theories is people looking for patterns. The human brain is wired to detect patterns, even if there are none. Do you believe that a relationship between the German high command and Lenin which goes beyond what is commonly known (i.e. that Germany hoped Lenin would destabilize Russia and hamper their war effort) does make this Putin theory any more or less likely? Do you propose spy rings which lasted through Stalin's purges and WWII? German consumers are suffering from high has prices. Would a hypothetical German handler allow that?
    – o.m.
    Mar 3, 2022 at 20:38

I wouldn't think spy in the 'James Bond' undercover intelligence sense, but at present in the UK there are strong suspicions that PM Boris Johnson is under the influence of Russia:

  1. His Conservative Party has received sizable donations from Russian donors
  2. He had (when Foreign Secretary) attended parties in Lebedev's Italian villa without his security detail (and was spotted alone and hung-over wandering around in an Italian airport next day)
  3. He was paid about £25k p.a. for writing a column in the Telegraph Newspaper since 2002. In 2007 this was upped to £275k. At the same time, RIA Novosti (Russian propaganda outlet) started payments of £480k p.a. to the Telegraph)
  4. The "Russia Report", about Russian influence in the 2016 referendum has only partly been published by the government and in that form is inconclusive.

As a consequence, only four minor banks and three people have so far been sanctioned in connection with the Ukraine invasion. And banks have been given a grace period (in which they can move their assets...)

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