Friends’ Event – Talk on 3 November 2021 – Peter Williams

Licence to Spy? BRIXMIS and the Search for the Robertson-Malinin Agreement

A little-known feature of the Cold War in Germany was the agreement between the occupying Four Powers to exchange bilateral military liaison missions. The Anglo-Soviet deal, known as the ‘Robertson-Malinin Agreement’, was finalised on 16 September 1946 and permitted the accreditation of 11 officers and 20 other ranks to the other party; the British Mission was always called ‘BRIXMIS’, and its Soviet counterpart was known as ‘SOXMIS’. In April 1947 the French and then the Americans signed similar, but not identical, bilateral agreements with the Soviet commander-in-chief in Germany: their missions were limited to only 18 and 14 members.

For reasons that remain unclear the location of the original, signed version of the ‘Robertson-Malinin Agreement’ has for many years been unknown. Ongoing searches in the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence, as well as in the Soviet archives in Moscow, have thus far failed to unearth an original, signed version. This talk will descibe what has come to light in The National Archives about the process that produced the Agreement. This research has, for instance, shown that the use of BRIXMIS as an intelligence collection asset was envisaged from the earliest stage of that process, whereas it had long been assumed that this non-traditional ‘liaison’ activity had emerged after the collapse of the era of Four Power collaboration. The talk will also look at how ‘liaison’ protocols and restrictions developed over the course of more than four decades.

Major General Peter Williams read history at Magdalene College, Cambridge before joining the Coldstream Guards and spending the next three decades or so serving in West Berlin, Northern Ireland, Oman, Hong Kong, and the former Yugoslavia. In the early 1980s he studied Russian and went on to serve two 2-year tours in the British Commanders’-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany (‘BRIXMIS’) as a liaison officer. His final posting was in Moscow, where he set up and led the NATO Military Liaison Mission to the Russian Federation from 2002 to 2005. He is Chairman of the BRIXMIS Association.

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