The Fourth Protocol

The Fourth Protocol

Infobox Book
name = The Fourth Protocol
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Frederick Forsyth
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
subject =
genre = Thriller novel
publisher = Hutchinson
release_date = August 1984
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 447 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-09-158630-5
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Fourth Protocol" is a novel written by Frederick Forsyth and published in August 1984.

Explanation of the novel's title

The title refers to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which (at least in the world of the novel) contained four secret protocols. The fourth was meant to prohibit the non-conventional delivery of nuclear weapons i.e. by means other than being dropped from aircraft or carried on ballistic missiles. This included postal delivery services or being assembled in secret close to the target before being detonated.

Plot summary

On New Year's Eve 1986, professional thief Jim Rawlings breaks into the apartment of a senior civil servant in the United Kingdom. Out to steal some valuable diamonds, he also, unintentionally, discovers stolen top secret documents. Although one of the most notorious crooks in London, Rawlings is enough of a patriot to send the documents, anonymously, to MI5 in order that they find the traitor.

In Moscow, the British traitor Kim Philby drafts a memorandum for the General Secretary (Soviet president) stating that, if the Labour Party wins the next general election in the UK (scheduled for sometime in the subsequent eighteen months), the "hard left" of the party will oust the moderate, populist Neil Kinnock in favour of a radical new leader who will adopt a true Marxist-Leninist manifesto, including the expulsion of all American forces from England and the country's withdrawal from and repudiation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In conjunction with a GRU colonel, an academic named Krilov and a chess grandmaster and nuclear physicist, Philby devises Plan Aurora to ensure a Labour victory by exploiting the party's support for unilateral disarmament.

MI5 officer John Preston - who was, until recently, exploring hard left infiltration of the Labour party - investigates the stolen documents and finds out that they were leaked by George Berenson, a passionate anti-communist and supporter of South Africa. Preston is being pushed towards retirement by a young MI5 officer who wants older MI5 hands to leave the agency, but SIS chief Sir Nigel Irvine notices and is impressed by Preston's work. Berenson passed on the documents to a Jan Marais, a man he believes is a South African diplomat, but who Preston discovers is a Russian sleeper agent. Nigel Irvine confronts Berenson with the truth and "turns him", using him to pass disinformation to the KGB.

A Russian "illegal" agent, Valeri Petrofsky arrives in England under the cover of James Duncan Ross and sets up home at 32 Cherryhayes Close, Ipswich. From there, he travels around the country collecting packages from various couriers who have smuggled them in harmless-looking artefacts. One of the couriers, disguised as a sailor, is attacked by thugs in Glasgow and taken to hospital, where he commits suicide rather than submit to questioning. Preston flies to Glasgow to investigate and finds three strange looking metal discs in a tobacco tin in his gunny sack: two light coloured with a darker one between them. He shows the discs to a metallurgist who identifies the outer two as aluminium but the other as polonium, a key element in the initiator of an atomic bomb. Preston brings his findings to his MI5 superior, who ignores them and has Preston taken off the political embarrassing case. Nigel Irvine then has Preston work unofficially for him to search for other Russian couriers connected to the Glasgow incident.

The director of operations for the KGB, General Karpov, suspecting that the General Secretary is mounting an operation in England without consulting him, blackmails Krilov into confessing by revealing his knowledge of Krilov's son's homosexuality. Plan Aurora involves smuggling the component parts of an atomic bomb into England - in contravention of the Fourth Protocol to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signed by all the superpowers which bans such activity - to explode near a USAF base a week before the general election. The plan also involved assistance from a disillusioned Israeli nuclear scientist who works for the Russians and a "crisis" that would be created by the General Secretary and then "ended" with all credit going to Labour Party leader Kinnock. Evidence would be left that the explosion was an accidental detonation of an American weapon, leading to a wave of anti-Americanism, support for unilateral disarmament and for the only major party committed to disarmament, the Labour Party. The day after they win the election, the Hard Left will take over and basically begin to dismantle the Western alliance in Europe.

Preston searches for other couriers, without luck, for a month until a Czech agent under the name of Franz Winkler arrives at Heathrow with a forged passport and is followed to a house in Chesterfield. In the house is a radio transmitter used by Petrofsky who shows up to use it one last time after the bomb has been assembled at his house. Preston and his team follow Petrofksy to 12 Cherryhayes Close where he calls in the SAS to storm the house. They manage to wound Petrofsky before he can get to the bomb, but, against Preston's express wishes, the leader of the SAS team shoots the Russian agent in the head. Before dying Petrofsky manages to say one last word: “Philby”.

Preston confronts Sir Nigel Irvine with the accusation that the operation was deliberately blown by Philby; that Philby couldn't have given away Petrofksy's location but instead sent Franz Winkler, with his obviously forged passport and superfluous visa, to the home of the transmitter, where they could wait for Petrofksy to show up. Sir Nigel confesses that he blew the operation himself by sending a message to General Karpov that they were closing in on their suspect. Karpov sent Winkler on the proviso that Petrofsky could not be taken alive. It transpires that Sir Nigel leaked the information to Karpov via Berenson and Marais. At the novel's end, Preston's MI5 adversary is denied a leadership role for his misjudgement in the case and then resigns from MI5 altogether; Preston finds lucrative private-sector employment that enables him to earn full custody of his young son; Marais is captured by South African intelligence and begins a very unenjoyable retirement; and Berenson's spy work is left unusable by KGB, the last stroke of master spy Sir Nigel Irvine.


*In 1985 "The Fourth Protocol" was adapted into a computer game for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 home computers.
*In 1987 the book was made into a film starring Michael Caine and Pierce Brosnan.

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