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1945 - Farewell

All governments actively seek to acquire significant military technology and equipment. The spy versus spy game had long attempted to acquire technological breakthroughs and to break adversary cryptographic codes, so as to design counter measures that could neutralize a potential adversary. However, seemingly it was not until the early 1980's that the extent of such a program by the Soviet Union was once again fully appreciated.

After the Cold War, in 1994 Gorbachev's science adviser, Roald Sagdeev, wrote that in computers and microelectronics -- the keys to modern civil and military technology -- the Soviets trailed Western standards by 15 years and that the most striking indication of their backwardness was the absence of a domestically made supercomputer.

During the Cold War, and especially in the 1970s, Soviet intelligence carried out a substantial and successful clandestine effort to obtain technical and scientific knowledge from the West. To address the lag in technology, Soviet authorities in 1970 reconstituted and invigorated the USSR's intelligence collection for science and technology. The Council of Ministers and the Central Committee established a new unit, Directorate T of the KGB's First Chief Directorate, to plumb the R&D programs of Western economies. The State Committee on Science and Technology and the Military-Industrial Commission were to provide Directorate T and its operating arm, called Line X, with collection requirements. Military Intelligence (GRU), the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and the State Committee for External Relations completed the list of participants. The bulk of collection was to be done by the KGB and the GRU, with extensive support from the East European intelligence services.

Beginning in 1972, delegations of Soviet specialists came to the United States to visit firms and laboratories associated with their commissions. Line X, ever alert, populated these delegations with its own people: in an agricultural delegation of 100 about one-third were known or suspected intelligence officers. On a visit to Boeing, a Soviet guest applied adhesive to his shoes to obtain metal samples. In the early 1970s, there were no US intelligence collection requirements for technology transfer and scientific espionage, and few, if any, reporting sources. But, by observing the behavior of Soviet delegations visiting US plants and by keeping in mind the clever 1972 grain purchase, a few government officials began to suspect that a master plan was in place to obtain our know-how. Direct evidence was nonexistent--only anecdotal clues were at hand.

The Soviet effort was suspected by a few US Government officials but not documented until 1981, when French intelligence obtained the services of Col. Vladimir I. Vetrov, "Farewell," who photographed and supplied 4,000 KGB documents on the program. In an extraordinary exchange between President Mitterand of France and US President Reagan in Ottawa, Canada, in July, 1981, the French President briefed his American counterpart on "Farewell."

"Farewell" was the cryptonym for a high level Soviet source within the Soviet Intelligence service technological theft program. "Farewell" may be one of the greatest agents the West as a whole has ever run against in the Soviet Union. The man, who was prophetically code-named "Farewell," nevertheless elected to disclose to the West the entire order of battle for the massive Soviet effort to acquire Western technology. It lead to a great number of Soviet KGB and GRU expulsions from France and other Western countries and produced extremely detailed intelligence into the methods of operation ofthe Soviet effort, their take, and targets.

Vetrov fell into a tragic episode with a woman and a fellow KGB officer in a Moscow park. In circumstances that are not clear, he stabbed and killed the officer and then stabbed but did not kill the woman. He was arrested, and, in the ensuing investigation, his espionage activities were discovered; he was executed in 1983.

A later book, The "Stormbirds," included even more detailed information. It is reported that over 2,000-plus secret and top secret intelligence documents and two personnellists of secret Russian, agents which he copied directly from the card indexes of Department "T", were initially provided only to the French. This allowed the identification of many KGB Line X officers and their assets. Information was obtained which was so detailed as to include the devastating statistics that 61.5% of all technical information then collected by the Russians came from American sources.

CIA and the Defense Department, in partnership with the FBI, set up a program under which modified products were devised and "made available" to Line X collection channels. The CIA project leader and his associates studied the Farewell material, examined export license applications and other intelligence, and contrived to introduce altered products into KGB collection. American industry helped in the preparation of items to be "marketed" to Line X. Contrived computer chips found their way into Soviet military equipment, flawed turbines were installed on a gas pipeline, and defective plans disrupted the output of chemical plants and a tractor factory. The Pentagon introduced misleading information pertinent to stealth aircraft, space defense, and tactical aircraft.

US intelligence would match Line X requirements supplied through Vetrov with American versions of those items, ones that would hardly meet the expectations of that vast Soviet apparatus deployed to collect them. If some double agent told the KGB the Americans were alert to Line X and were interfering with their collection by subverting, if not sabotaging, the effort, the United States still could not lose. The Soviets, being a suspicious lot, would be likely to question and reject everything Line X collected. If so, this would be a rarity in the world of espionage, an operation that would succeed even if compromised.

In spite of constant exhortations by the leadership to shift away from the economically inefficient extensive growth formula to the more efficient intensive strategy, the reality was a continued downward trend in capital efficiency and labor productivity, and only modest improvement in output quality. The deterioration of factor productivity was a powerful and persistent in the Soviet system.

Imbalances throughout the economy and specific problems in key economic sectors were recognized impediments to the general transition to intensive development. The imbalances in the production processes tended to frustrate any effort to improve productivity and relieve critical bottlenecks. In addition, the Soviets had been unable to efficiently and effectively absorb new, advanced technologies, either domestic or foreign, into their industrial processes.

The assimilative capacity of Soviet industries, meaning their ability "to import, put into operation and diffuse foreign technologies to other parts of the economy," remained poor. The lead times for starting up operations using foreign technologies are long and once started these operations run less efficiently than their Western counterparts. The ability to distribute and absorb imported technology among various sectors of the Soviet economy was quite limited.

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Page last modified: 21-07-2018 06:03:24 ZULU