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Marine in Russia

Clayton Longtree was lonely in Moscow. The weather was dreary, the Marine barracks were dirty, old, and cold, and he didn’t get much mail. Though guard duty at the U.S. embassy was a trusted position of honor, his work was often dull and exhausting; it was a ceremonial job with little action. In letters home he doodled U.S. planes dropping bombs on Red Square; he tried writing to an old girlfriend, only to learn she had married someone else.

It was when Clayton met Violetta in the fall of 1985 that life in Moscow began to brighten. Tall, fair-skinned, and beautiful, she was a translator at the embassy. Though Clayton had been warned about fraternizing with Soviets, he had seen enough friends and superiors date Russian women to feel comfortable doing the same. He and Violetta took long walks in the park, had tea, and even managed to be alone a few times in her apartment.

Violetta introduced Clayton to her “Uncle Sasha,” who peppered him with questions about his life in the United States, his political views, life in Moscow, and life in the embassy. Clayton enjoyed the older man’s interest. Then one day Sasha pulled a prepared list of detailed questions from his pocket—and Clayton finally realized that Violetta’s “Uncle” worked for the KGB.

But Clayton kept meeting with Violetta, and with Sasha. He began making excuses to his superiors, using elaborate techniques to make sure he wasn’t being followed when he met with his Russian friends. Life became more interesting—more like the spy novels Clayton loved to read.

After he had been seeing Violetta for six months, Clayton’s Moscow tour came to a close. He asked to be reassigned to guard duty at the U.S. embassy in Vienna...

Clayton Lonetree was lonely in Vienna. But soon Uncle Sasha arrived, bearing photographs and a letter from Violetta. As he watched the young Marine excitedly rip open the package, Sasha knew Clayton was ready for something more than talk. The first item Clayton delivered to the KGB agent was an old embassy phone book. Next came a map of the embassy interior, for which Clayton received $1,800. He used $1,000 of it to buy Violetta a handmade Viennese gown. Then came three photographs of embassy employees thought to be CIA agents, and another $1,800 payment.

Sasha proposed an undercover trip back to Moscow, where Clayton could at last visit Violetta—and receive KGB training. Clayton arranged for vacation leave from the embassy. But now he began to get nervous. He started to drink more; he lay awake nights trying to think of a way out of the KGB web. He hadn’t realized that when he traded the trust of his nation for sex and cash, he traded his soul as well.

So in December 1986, Clayton tried to trade it back. At a Christmas party he approached the Vienna CIA chief, a man whose real identity he would not have known except that Uncle Sasha had pointed him out earlier. “I’m in something over my head,” he said.

The confession begun that evening ended in August, 1987 when Clayton Lonetree was found guilty on all charges of espionage. Today he sits in a military prison cell, a thirty-year sentence stretching before him.

Against the Night, Charles Colson, pp. 59-61

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