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KGB - Active Measures

Active measures were clandestine operations designed to further Soviet foreign policy goals and to extend Soviet influence throughout the world. This type of activity had long been employed by the Soviet Union abroad, but it became more widespread and more effective in the late 1960s. Among these covert techniques was disinformation: leaking of false information and rumors to foreign media or planting forgeries in an attempt to deceive the public or the political elite in a given country or countries.

The United States was the prime target of disinformation, in particular forgery operations, which were designed to damage foreign and defense policies of the United States in a variety of ways. Defectors reported that the Soviet Union and its allies circulated forged documents--often purporting to be speeches, letters, or policy statements by United States officials--containing false information. The use of international front organizations and foreign communist parties to expand the Soviet Union's political influence and further its propaganda campaigns was another form of active measures. The World Peace Council was the largest and most important of Soviet front groups. Together with the International Department of the Central Committee, the KGB funneled money to these organizations and recruited Soviet agents to serve on their administrative bodies.

As a result of a disastrous KGB loss, the West gained encyclopedic, inside knowledge of how the Soviet Union conceived and conducted Active Measures. In late 1979 Maj. Stanislav Aleksandrovich Levchenko escaped from Japan to the United States, and he turned out to be one of the most important officers ever to flee the KGB. Levchenko had worked at the Center as well as, in front organizations in Moscow. At the time of his escape he was Active Measures Officer at the KGB's Tokyo Residency. From his unique background, he disclosed strategy, tactics and myriad examples of Active Measures, while unmasking Soviet fronts and key KGB operatives.

“Few people who understand the reality of the Soviet Union will knowingly support it or its policies,” Levchenko stated. “So by Active Measures, the KGB distorts or inverts reality. The trick is to make people support Soviet policy unwittingly by convincing them they are supporting something else. Almost everybody wants peace and fears war. Therefore, by every conceivable means, the KGB plans and coordinates campaigns to persuade the public that whatever America does endangers peace and that whatever the Soviet Union proposes furthers peace. To be for America is to be for war; to be for the Soviets is to be for peace. That's the art of Active Measures, a sort of made-in-Moscow black magic. It is tragic to see how well it works.”

Active Measures include both overt and covert propaganda, manipulation of international front organizations, forgeries, fabrications and deceptions, acts of sabotage or terrorism committed for psychological effect, and the use of Agents of Influence. Vy the early 1980s the KGB had concocted more than 150 forgeries of official U.S. documents and correspondence portraying American leaders as treacherous and the United States as an unreliable, warmongering nation. One of the most damaging was a fabrication titled U.S. Army Field Manual FM30–31B and classified, by the KGB, top secret. Field manuals FM30–31 and FM30–31A did exist; FM30–31B was entirely a Soviet creation.

The local Communist parties constituted a ready reservoir of disciplined demonstrators who could take to the streets simultaneously in cities throughout the world to foster an illusion of spontaneous concern. They provided the indefatigable cadre of planners, organizers and agitators who help stage mass demonstrations that attracted non-communists. The vast Soviet Active Measures apparatus — the overt propaganda organs, foreign communist parties, international fronts, KGB Residencies around the world, the factories of forgery and disinformation, the Agents of Influence — was well coordinated and disciplined and can respond to commands rapidly and flexibly.

The KGB relied heavily on the intelligence services of satellite countries in carrying out both active measures and espionage operations. The intelligence services of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Cuba formed important adjuncts to the KGB. Although formally subordinated to their own governments, these satellite intelligence services were, according to many Western experts, heavily influenced by the KGB.

A former official in the Czechoslovak intelligence service stated that Soviet intelligence was informed about every major aspect of Czechoslovak intelligence activities, and Soviet advisers (called liaison officers) participated in planning major operations and assessing the results. As far back as the 1960s, the KGB introduced a new element of coordination with the satellite intelligence services through the creation of departments for disinformation in East German, Czechoslovak, and Hungarian intelligence services and the establishment of direct lines of communication from these departments to the KGB.

Soviet active measures involved not only KGB and satellite intelligence services but also several other Soviet agencies, which all participated in a coordinated effort to further Soviet policy objectives. In addition to the KGB, the Central Committee's International Department took a leading role in directing and implementing active measures.

A few days after Reagan won, the Soviet Union instigated the great new Active Measures campaign to prevent NATO from countering the SS-20s and to reverse the American election results by nullifying the rearmament program implicitly mandated by the voters.

The KGB, the International Department and the immense Active Measures apparatus began a campaign against American deployment of Euromissiles - the Perching II, and Ground Launched Crusie Missile, With the World Peace Council, its foreign affiliates and local communist parties again the principal organizers, a new series of mass demonstrations occurred in Europe. An estimated 250,000 people marched in Bonn, protesting against any new missiles or nuclear weapons. Soviet fronts helped assemble a throng estimated at 350,000 in Amsterdam, a reported 400,000 in Madrid and 200,000 in Athens. The KGB all along played its traditional part.

Dutch authorities in April 1981 expelled KGB officer Vadim Leonov who, in the guise of a TASS correspondent, associated closely with leaders of the Dutch peace movement. Leonov made a number of professional mistakes, including a drunken boast to a Dutch counterintelligence source. “If Moscow decides that 50,000 demonstrators must take to the streets in the Netherlands, then they take to the streets. Do you know how you can get 50,000 dem- onstrators at a certain place within a week? A message through my channels is sufficient,” Leonov bragged.

In November 1981 Norway expelled KGB officer Stanislav Chebotek for offering bribes to those Norwegians who would write letters to newspapers denouncing NATO and the proposed missiles for Europe. In January 1982 Portugal ousted two KGB officers, Yuri Babaints and Mikhail Morozov, for attempting to incite riots against NATO. That same month the Portuguese also denied visas to Soviet Peace Committee representatives who wanted to join a communist-sponsored demonstration against NATO and the missiles on grounds that they were Soviet subversives.

The KGB manufactured a spate of forged documents intended to buttress the theme that American rather than Soviet nuclear weapons most imperil Western Europe. It succeeded in circulating in Great Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Malta, Greece and France a pamphlet entitled “Top Secret Documents . . . on U.S. Forces Headquarters in Europe . . . Holo caust Again for Europe.” The contents consisted of alterations and fabrications based upon authentic military-contingency plans stolen by a KGB agent, Sgt. Robert Lee Johnson, from the Armed Forces Courier Center vault at Orly Field in 1962.

The fabrications purported to show that the United States planned to blow up much of Europe with nuclear weapons to save itself.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 14-12-2017 17:13:34 ZULU