Having studied journalism on a Fulbright Scholarship in New York in 1958, Kalugin was appointed Radio Moscow’s correspondent in New York in June 1960, a post he was to hold for five years before joining the KGB’s rezidentura in Washington, D.C., in July 1965. In March 1973, at the age of 40, Kalugin was promoted chief of foreign counterintelligence, the youngest KGB general since the end of the war. However, in November 1979 he was transferred to Leningrad following disagreements with the KGB’s top management, and eventually resigned in February 1990. In his retirement he became a critic of the KGB and was elected to the Duma to represent Krasnodar, but was not reelected in August 1992.
Kalugin’s memoir Spy Master was published in 1994, but soon afterward he was accused of having been indiscreet in his book and compromised a source he had run in Washington. The spy had been Robert Lipka, a former National Security Agency analyst, and although he had been traced and arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1992, their tip had come from Vasili Mitrokhin, not Kalugin. Nevertheless, Kalugin was charged with treason and, during a visit to the United States, was convicted in absentia, making it difficult for him to return home. Accordingly, he found work in America as a lecturer on counterintelligence issues, and in 2003 became an American citizen.