Momentous events are occurring in the communist world today. The dizzying pace of occurrences and revelations issuing from the Soviet Bloc makes it difficult to grasp the meaning of it all. Soviet psychiatric hospitals, for example, infamous for their administration of mind-altering drugs and psycho-torture, pass from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) to--if of all things--the Ministry of Health. The organs of state coersion, the MVD ably assisted by the KGB, actually relinquishing health care to the medical bureaucracy? Mind boggling. This development could mean not only a net gain for the dissident citizen consigned to Soviet psychiatric care--until now an art of state control--but might even signify a sea change in the Party's modus operandi.
Big changes are in the works in the vast Soviet communist enterprise. The command economies of the Bloc, with their lines of strict, doctrinaire control, all emanating from Moscow, have fallen into such disrepair that, in economic terms, the communist system has slipped from a poor second to a full third in world status. To arrest the slide, General Secretary and President Mikhail Gorbachev has boldly and at great risk attempted to force perestroika (`the revolutionary renovation of our society, our system,' as he explains it) on the degenerative shambles that is the communist economic arrangement. The only way to reverse the decline of the communist economic system is to restructure it--radically, and fast.
Perestroika, however, according to Andrei Sakharov, Soviet human rights activist and winner of the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize,' can only develop with real democratic foundations. Without them, reform is at a dead end,' The Washington Post quotes him as saying. Sakharov, who himself has consistently supported Gorbachev's perestroika, nonetheless believes that granting the Soviet leader the power he seeks, `in a country that does not have a multi-party system is just insanity. * * * This is practically boundless power,' Sakharov warns. Crazy or not, the Communist party of the Soviet Union, in its urgent drive to reorganize the system, is disinclined to yield any of its monopoly of political power. `Perestroika does not mean sharing power with noncommunists, and it does not mean giving them a voice in government,' Jeane Kirkpatrick wrote in The Washington Post. `The dictatorship of the Communist party remains untouched and untouchable,' affirmed Robert Gates, as Soviet affairs specialist and former deputy director of the CIA.
Perestroika, in any case, has so far flunked the course, and faith in Communism has declined accordingly. Try as they have, Soviet leaders have failed to force perestroika, on an apathetic people and an entrenched and redolent bureaucracy. Restructuring the nation's `booze habit,' for example, has been a spectacular and costly failure, and the vodka ration, so drastically cut, must be restored. Perhaps that was a particularly difficult reform to effect and the United States, for its part, can hardly be smug on the question of dependence. Nevertheless, official efforts to impose perestroika, are to be redoubled and, ostensibly for that purpose, power concentrated in a new, combined party/state organization--the formulation that distrubs Sakharov so much.
One of the many strengths of the Western democracies (and those of the Eastern persuasion, too) is a certain freedom of thought, an open exchange of ideas--a give and take, if you will. Productivity, economic and otherwise, stems in large part from that freedom. The Soviet leaders know this and are determined, however distasteful, to pay the necessary price for perestroika: glasnost--candor (or `openness,' as it is often called in the West) for certain sectors of the Soviet system. Non-Party people who practice it find themselves vilified, harassed, detained and imprisoned, for Gorbachev, as a classical Leninist, wants to improve the Party and the system, not pull the plug.
It is the consumer part of the Soviet economy that experiences particularly ill health, and it is this aspect that needs perestroika, so urgently. The military/space sector is doing just fine. Military spending has doubled on Gorbachev's watch, its real growth continuing to accelerate 3 percent a year. Absorbing between 15 and 20 percent of Soviet GNP annually (a spectacular sum when compared with 6.5 percent for the United States), it remains a very heavy burden on the economy. There are to be no restrictions on the wherewithal to advance Soviet plans for world supremacy: offensive strategic and conventional weapons, and the means to control space. It is the long-neglected and short-changed domestic economy (food, clothing, housing and so on) that needs repair and overhaul--their jury-rig lash-up.
Socialism remains irreversible under Gorbachev, and power concentrated in his hands. Moreover, `* * * we know that no essential goals of Soviet domination have changed--or, at least, the Soviets have made no statements of such a change,' reports William Webster, Director of U.S. Central Intelligence. Perestroika. Glasnost. What the leaders of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union are really angling for, of course, is peridishka, or breathing space, as put by Lenin himself in 1921 and as pointed out by Natalie Grant, a long-time observer of Soviet affairs. They need a break--to restructure the jury-rig part of the system so that the military-space appendages can continue to develop full bore.
As the Soviets fall back and regroup, the West should exercise caution. If the Soviet has plenty of resources for military hardware and space shuttles--as it most certainly does--would it not be wise to wait for it to reshuffle its guns-or-butter priorities? If the Soviet Union were to make the necessary reapportionment on its own, without massive and cheap Western loans, the whole world benefit. Yet, the United States' NATO allies are offering billions of dollars in soft loans and credit lines, including `untied' loans not designated for specific projects or purposes. According to Roger Robinson, former senior director for economic affairs at the National Security Council, most of the $9 billion in loans from U.S. NATO allies to the USSR are government guaranteed; that is, will fall on Western taxpayers if the Soviets default.
`Gorbachev is trying to save Communism and we are helping him * * *' said Gen. Jan Sejna, high-ranking Czech defector and an analyst of Soviet affairs for the U.S. government for 20 years. The West could actually delay implementation of communist reform with its unseemly haste to bail ou the corrupt Soviet system. Robinson estimates the Soviets lost up to $25 billion in revenues under Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign, for example. Should U.S. allies underwrite those losses or chip in more for the European common defense, helping to alleviate the U.S. balance of payments problem in the process? The United States spends $150 billion a year to defend Western Europe against those Soviet forces deployed to the East. And, as everyone knows, overall it spends a good deal more than it makes every year.
Oddly enough, Congress is out front on this one: in late October a sense-of-the Senate resolution, proposed by Sen. Steve Symms (R-ID) and passed by a lopsided vote, called on the president to instruct the secretaries of state, defense, treasury and commerce to consult with the United States' allies on the impact on allied security of untied Western loans to the Soviet Union. The Senate, at least, counsels caution.
In the meantime, is the Soviet Union becoming any nicer? What does this current phase of detente mean to the United States? The U.S. embassy in Moscow must be torn down and replaced at a cost of $200 million to $250 million because the Soviets not only bugged it relentlessly while building it, but actually made the whole building into a single huge resonance microphone. Moreover, Soviet active measures, `designed to subvert and deceive, to `disinform' the public opinion upon which our democracies are built,' as them President Reagan once described them, have actually increased during Gorbachev's tenure.
`No more lying. No more disinformation,' the general secretary promised during the Washington Summit in December 1987. Meanwhile, his country continued as before its `virulent, anti-U.S. disinformation and forgeries,' as the U.S. Information Agency calls them. Among the scurrilous themes: that the United States created the AIDS virus, that it manufactures an `ethnic weapon'; that kills only non-whites, that the FBI assassinated the Rev. Martin Luther King and that the CIA assassinated Swedish Prime Minister Palme and Indian Prime Minister Gandhi and tried to kill Pope John Paul II.
Last summer the Soviets even managed to have a French communist member of the European Parliament (EP) slip a resolution through `charging American with trafficking babies for spare parts.' This vicious disinformation theme has been promoted by the Soviet Union and its foreign surrogates for years now, and the gullibility of certain Western institutions seems boundless. Shortly before the EP's bizarre resolution, three London dailies--The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Evening Standard--succumbed to a Reuters item about a Paraguayan kidnap gang killing babies for sale of their vital organs in the United States. In that case, fortunately, Reuters recanted quickly, followed by the embarassed newspapers that had been so readily duped.
Knowledgeable observers of the Soviet scene have predicted that as the age of glasnost unfolds, Soviet active measures will increase rather than decrease, and so they have. Things have been looking up for the disinformation and forgery crowd in the Party's Central Committee secretariat and the KGB since Gorbachev took power four years ago. As Soviet anti-U.S. and anti-Western propaganda--the overt arm of doctrine--is toned down in accordance with the new era of good feeling, the hidden hand has become even more active in promoting Soviet policy themes.
And what are the Soviets up to in the United States as detente warms relations? According to William Webster, `* * * the threat against us has grown. The number of operations against us has certainly increased. * * * Over the past three years, we have discovered more penetrations of the U.S. defense and intelligence communities than at any time in history. The costs of these compromises are estimated in the billions of dollars * * * [T]he Soviet intelligence services * * * represent by far the most significant threats in terms of size, ability, and intent to act against U.S. interests--both at home and abroad. And despite Soviet glasnost and perestroika, we have actually seen an increase this year in Soviet attempts to recruit U.S. sources.' Although the DCI was making a point about Soviet espionage against the United States, and how it has prospered despite perestroika and glasnost, he might as well have been talking about Soviet influence operations.
The Soviet `new way of thinking'--perestroika's international concomitant--will be promoted by a `broad dialogue,' according to Gorbachev. The Soviet `new way of thinking' and the expected new wave of Soviet visitors to the West opens up a host of problems for the United States. There will, of course, be a preponderance of dedicated, ideologically committed persons from their side arrayed against ordinary citizens, largely open and naive, on ours. The situation will be somewhat analogous to U.S./Soviet competition in sports: our amateurs against their professionals.
`It is important to realize that most of the Soviets visiting this country to study in American universities, or as members of scientific, cultural, sports and trade exchange programs, are involved in gathering intelligence,' says Stanislav Levchenko, former KGB major now working against communism in the United States. `Many of them are not professional spies, but are co-opted by the KGB or the GRU. If any Soviet citizen refuses to fulfill the intelligence requirements, he or she will never be permitted to travel abroad,' Levchenko points out. `Better relations can reduce the threat of another war. But we have to realize that in the secret espionage war there is no such thing as detente. The secret war conducted by Soviet espionage is perpetual,' Levchenko warns. Levchenko, as in the case of DCI Webster, might have said the same thing about the secret active measures war, as well.
Western journalists, including those in the United States, have been dealing with the blandishments of Soviet cadres for decades, as A.M. Rosenthal, journalist and former editor of The New York Times, makes clear. `Earlier and later, I met various kinds of agents of Communist intelligence,' Rosenthal writes in the Times.' At the United Nations, I met a jovial KGB agent accredited as a journalist but almost out in the open who specialized in offering royalties to American reporters, even if they hadn't written any books.' These `royalties,' of course, are one means the Soviets use to influence and perhaps eventually gain control over the gullible targeted journalist.
At United Nations headquarters in New York, the Soviets have had a field day for decades with their intelligence collection and influence operations. Experience in the U.N. arena gives us an idea of what an increase in Soviet visitors to other places in the United States means. `Soviet U.N. employees use their positions to spot, assess and recruit spies, and to collect scientific and technical information of value to the USSR,' says Col. Kalitka, a retired army intelligence officer. `What is significant,' he points out, `is that the Soviets, obviously knowledgeable of American CI [counter-intelligence] awareness, brazenly continue attempts to challenge and overwhelm U.S. CI efforts by saturating the U.N. operation area with agents.' Although referring to Soviet intelligence collection operations in the U.N. in New York, NY, Col. Kalitka's observations, like those of Webster and Levchenko, also apply to Soviet influence operations and to other parts of the United States.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) for its parts has long recognized that `[i]n their attempts to `secure tha active collaboration' of `political, economic and media figures in the West,' Soviet intelligence--both operations officers and others working as Soviet agents--`offers intangible rewards tailored to meet the specific requirements or vulnerabilities of the individuals involved.' Rewards include access to special channels of communication to important Soviet policy makers, recognition of accomplishments on the part of the collaborator, and so forth.'
Most Americans have a pretty good idea of what foreign hostile espionage in the United States is all about. There has been plenty of media coverage of espionage over the years. What many Americans may not track very well, however, are `active measures'--hostile, often clandestine, influence operations. As the lead government agency for foreign counterintelligence in the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which monitors all hostile intelligence activities--influence activities as well as espionage--says that `[t]he Soviet Union continues to conduct espionage and active measures against its main enemy--the United States.' It relies `on Eastern European intelligence services to assist them,' the Bureau affirms. The term `main enemy,' it should be pointed out, important in the training and motivation of its personnel, remains a firm doctrinal concept of the Soviet Union despite the twists and turns in its overt foreign policy. The United States hs long been and remains the `main enemy' of the Soviet Union.
`Certain KGB officers * * * are in regular contact with officials of the Communist Party, USA (CPUSA), the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship (NCASF) and other front groups,' the FBI explains. `The KGB is also responsible for developing agents of influence, planting media stories and resurfacing forgeries in support of active measures campaigns * * * [I]t is important to note,' the FBI points out, `that many active measures operations utilize overt or semi-overt elements as well as clandestine or covert ones.' Furthermore, the Bureau warns,' * * * it should be emphasized that all Soviet officials, journalists, scholars, trade union officials, scientists and even some students who visit the United States could be used for active measures and influence operations. * * * Thus active measures operations involve individuals from virtually every element of Soviet society and are closely integrated and coordinated with traditional diplomatic activities and long-term Soviet foreign policy objectives.'
Non-official Soviet citizens abroad also carry out active measures, the FBI says. Private U.S. groups and the media for their part, facilitate active measures by providing the Soviets--both officials and private citizens--with access to large, often unsuspecting audiences. Officials of Soviet `religious' organizations, for example, speak to groups in the United States, spreading `propaganda or disinformation about religious freedom in the Soviet Union,' the FBI explains. `It appears that the Soviet have acquired an appreciation of the vast audiences and substantial political influence of conservative religious leaders in the United States.'
The Soviet party and intelligence services take full advantage of the access provided them by the U.S. media, presenting `Soviet active measures themes to a vast American audience * * * appearing candid and forthright * * * a new generation of refined and articulate Soviet spokesmen' delivers the Soviet message `in Western style that the America public and media can better identify with and appreciate.' Those of us who have met these Soviet operatives affirm that they are indeed formidable adversaries.
The FBI describes the value U.S. front groups render their Soviet sponsors, by allowng, for example, Soviet representatives `* * * to travel in areas closed to Soviet diplomats * * * meet with U.S. persons of influence, spot and assess U.S. persons for recruitment operations, and influence certain groups of activists in the U.S. peace movement.' The front groups, by facilitating these Soviet operations, are sponsoring their sponsors, as it were. Some of the groups at the U.S. end, of course, are talking up `peace' and `friendship,' all of which is difficult to absorb in light of the opinion of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, for example, that the Soviet Union `has become a historical heir to the cancerous hatred so effectively utilized by Nazi Germany a generation ago.'
In early 1985, Dusko Doder in The Washington Post quoted Andrei Gromyko's remarks to the Central Committee while endorsing Gorbachev's election as general secretary. `Comrades, this man has a nice smile, but he's got iron teeth,' Gromyko said. When it comes to the new president of the Soviet Union, we in the West have seen the engaging smile. It behooves us to watch those iron teeth. And as Rudyard Kipling said, `The bear is most dangerous when he hugs you.'