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Reviewed by Leonard William Smuts for Readers' Favorite
Underwater espionage is not a topic that receives much public attention due to its highly classified nature, so Spies of the Deep will come as a revelation to many readers. W. Craig Reed, himself an experienced submariner and diver, describes a world of intrigue, danger, advanced technology, and events that have the potential to bring about a global nuclear conflict. It was the apparent testing of a secret rocket-powered torpedo that is believed to have led to an incident aboard the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk in August 2000, in which all 118 men on board perished. The book describes in fascinating detail the events that led up to the loss of the Kursk, the attempts to rescue the doomed crew, and the international recriminations that followed. The Kursk had been involved in a large-scale naval exercise, monitored by NATO member submarines, which led to allegations that one of these had inadvertently collided with the Kursk. Either this or a malfunction with the torpedo itself had triggered two massive explosions which destroyed the forward part of the vessel. The reluctance of the Russians to accept Western assistance with rescue attempts is debated, while new, more powerful, and sinister weapons are described. The Kursk incident illustrates the unhealthy rivalry between the superpowers, while the resulting arms race has the potential to destroy the world and its economy.
W. Craig Reed writes from a position of expert knowledge and describes clandestine submarine missions in a style that is informative and entertaining. The complexities and hazards of deepwater diving are explored, as well as operations in the ice-cold seas of the Arctic region. The Kursk incident raised serious questions about American involvement and the evidence is reviewed, together with the alleged cover-up that followed. The role of the Russian President Vladimir Putin is prominent, along with his stated ambitions of restoring Russian military might to attain global dominance. Spies of the Deep is a masterful dissection of power politics and global trade routes. The comments on the economy are unusual in a military publication and are particularly welcome. Apart from the traditional rivals, China, North Korea, and Iran have joined the mix. Each of these players has nuclear capability and all are flexing their military muscles. For Russia, the economic prize will be control over the mineral, oil, and gas-rich Barents Sea. The meticulous research is documented at the end of the book, which is superbly illustrated with numerous photographs. The insights provide a chilling reminder of the delicate balance of world power and the serious consequences of national ambitions. It is a compelling read and highly recommended.