Moscow Rules

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For the Daniel Silva novel, see Moscow Rules (novel).

The Moscow Rules is the name for rules said to have been developed during the Cold War to be used by spies and others working in Moscow.

The rules are associated with Moscow because the city developed a reputation as being a particularly harsh locale for clandestine operatives who were exposed. The list may never have existed as written; agent Tony Mendez wrote "Although no one had written them down, they were the precepts we all understood ... By the time they got to Moscow, everyone knew these rules. They were dead simple and full of common sense...".[1]

List[edit]

An abbreviated list of the probably-fictional Moscow Rules has circulated around the Internet and in fiction:

  • Assume nothing.
  • Murphy is right.
  • Never go against your gut; it is your operational antenna.
  • Don't look back; you are never completely alone.
  • Everyone is potentially under opposition control.
  • Go with the flow, blend in.
  • Vary your pattern and stay within your cover.
  • Any operation can be aborted. If it feels wrong, it is wrong.
  • Maintain a natural pace.
  • Lull them into a sense of complacency.
  • Build in opportunity, but use it sparingly.
  • Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. (borrowed from Muhammad Ali, aka Cassius Clay.)
  • Don't harass the opposition.
  • There is no limit to a human being's ability to rationalize the truth.
  • Pick the time and place for action.
  • Keep your options open.
  • Technology will always let you down.
  • Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action. (taken from Ian Fleming's novel Goldfinger)
  • Don't attract attention, even by being too careful

In the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., the Moscow Rules are given as:[2]

  1. Assume nothing.
  2. Never go against your gut.
  3. Everyone is potentially under opposition control.
  4. Don't look back; you are never completely alone.
  5. Go with the flow, blend in.
  6. Vary your pattern and stay within your cover.
  7. Lull them into a sense of complacency.
  8. Don't harass the opposition.
  9. Pick the time and place for action.
  10. Keep your options open.

Fictional references[edit]

Moscow rules are prominently referenced in John le Carré's cold war books including Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People, as tradecraft, including use of inconspicuous signal markers (thumb tacks, chalk marks), the use of dead drops, and the ways to signal the need for a (rare) face-to-face meeting. Moscow Rules are important at the beginning of Smiley's People, where the General invokes the rules to request a meeting with Smiley, but he is followed and killed by KGB assassins before it can happen. The applicable rule states that no documents may be carried that cannot be instantly discarded, in this instance a 35mm negative concealed in an empty pack of cigarettes.

In Ian Fleming's 1959 novel Goldfinger, Auric Goldfinger mentions this last rule to James Bond in Goldfinger's warehouse in Geneva.

In Spooks there are references to the Moscow Rules. In particular, in Season 6 Episode 10, Harry Pearce tells someone, "Treat London as enemy territory, keep your head down, find an opportunity, and make a move." In an earlier episode in Season 5, rogue MI6 agent Richard Dempsey is said to be in disguise and following the Moscow Rules, where the idea of treating the place as enemy territory is repeated.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mendez, Antonio and Jonna Mendez, Spy Dust: Two Masters of Disguise Reveal the Tools and Operations That Helped Win the Cold War, Simon & Schuster, 2003, p. 36
  2. ^ The Spy Museum, Moscow Rules, accessed May 19, 2013
  • Whidden. Glenn H. A Guidebook For Beginning Sweepers. Technical Services Agency