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Books and Reviews

My memoir,  How Not to Become a Spy,  is out now! 

My memoir, How Not to Become a Spy, is out now! 


Two decommissioned nuclear missiles – one Soviet, one American - coexist coexist peacefully in the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum. The taller of the two, a Soviet “RSD-10,” the other, an American “Pershing.” These missiles will never again be targeted at their countries’ enemies.

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Today, they are only exhibits illustrating the conclusion of a treaty on the elimination of intermediate and short range missiles (INF), signed during the years of Perestroika.

If you look closely, you can see a small family group in the photograph near the Soviet missile. If not for the treaty, this family would never have come to be.

Since childhood, American Justin Lifflander dreamed of becoming a spy. Who better for an American to spy on if not the Russians? Thus he learned Russian, and after graduating from college in the hopes of applying his newfound knowledge Lifflander took a job at the American embassy in Moscow…as a school bus driver. His “career” took off when he joined a group of American inspectors monitoring Soviet compliance with the conditions of theINF Treaty inat a Soviet missile plant located in the Udmurtian city of Votkinsk.

Here, in the birthplace of Tchaikovsky, Lifflander met and fell in love with a Russian translator. En route to their happy ending, they had to overcome as many obstacles as Reagan and Gorbachev faced in concluding the Treaty. Forgotten were the childhood dreams of “spy” Justin. Most importantly, as understood by the wise cat Kuzia, despite their differences the Americans and Russians are more alike than they realize.


Damn-well written... I delighted in reading it. It often made me laugh. Often with spy books, everything is so serious. Your book felt like slapstick... an “undercover” clown, and a beautiful romantic quest!
— Patch Adams, MD
A real-life Cold War tale filled with nostalgia, exuberance and satirical wit.
— Kirkus Reviews
A memoir of a time and place which was rich in comedy and Justin had a keen eye. Anybody who knows Russia from that period will enjoy the ride down memory lane. For everybody else, a better understanding of Russia as it was being born will
help make more sense of the country today ... perhaps an exaggeration, but a great read and a pleasant change from the plethora of academic works and the “Russia is evil” genre clogging airport book stands.
— Chris Weafer, Macro Advisory
The book should resonate with history buffs interested in a first-hand account of how the greatest arms-control agreement was implemented, but it is more importantly one that holds universal appeal to any expat in Russia and anyone who wants to “scratch beneath the surface” of Russians and Americans.
— The St. Petersburg Times
He cites the need to address the current “crisis of misunderstanding” between the United States and Russia, and urges us to challenge everything we think we know in that effort.
— The Foreign Service Journal
Lifflander’s excellent comic memoir...holds universal appeal to any expat in Russia and anyone who wants to “scratch beneath the surface” of Russians and Americans.
— Matthew Bodner, The Moscow Times
It’s a good story that made me smile a lot and laugh outright more than once. Justin has written a better history of the VPMF than OSIA did and it brought back a lot of happy memories.
— George Connell, Colonel USMC, former Site Commander in Votkinsk and Director for Portal Monitoring, OSIA.