3. National Security Council Report1

NSC 5502/1


General Considerations

Composition and History of the Emigration

Within the free world today exists a considerable emigration of former Soviet or Russian citizens, numbering over 1 million, widely dispersed individuals, varying greatly in age and experience. These émigrés represent wide divergences in political, social and national backgrounds. The overwhelming majority, although to varying degrees interested in Russian problems, are not politically active and are more concerned with the difficult problems they face in adjusting themselves to the foreign environment of exile. A minority, sometimes referred to as “the political emigration”, is passionately interested and dedicated to the general proposition of the overthrow of the Bolshevik regime.
The existence of a large Russian emigration living abroad in exile is not a new phenomenon. In particular, the 19th century witnessed a large and fluid emigration centered particularly in western Europe, whose members were either forced or voluntary exiles from Czarist Russia. Scattered among the larger cities of Europe, and even to a certain extent in the United States, these émigrés pursued their mission of overthrowing czarist autocracy in the atmosphere of idealism and intrigue, theoretical speculation and frustration, violent activity and apathetic despair which is characteristic of the environment of exile. But from this 19th century emigration sprang many of the divergent political parties, ideals and leaders, which played important and often tragic roles in the 20th century revolutions and civil war which eventually ended with Bolshevik seizure of power throughout Russia.
The present emigration resembles in many ways its 19th century predecessor as well as other Russian emigrations even further removed in history. Generally, however, it dates its existence from the Bolshevik revolution and the subsequent civil war. As a result, within its ranks it has collected a great variety of conflicting [Page 13]political tendencies ranging from a few remaining older monarchists to survivors of the various Russian “White” armies, Social-Democratic and Social-Revolutionary exiles who opposed both former groupings, down through subsequent political movements newly formed and reformed in exile without ever having had a root in the political life of Russia. The emigration itself, since 1917, has been periodically injected with new blood through the continuous addition of exiles who have fled ever since the establishment of the Soviet regime. In the latter category, the most important recent addition is a very large group of refugees representing former German-held Soviet prisoners and forced labor who did not wish to return to Russia following the war, together with former members of the Russian Vlasov army which fought on the German side in the final stages of World War II.
For purposes of this paper the Soviet emigration is understood to be limited to persons coming from the area included within the 1939 boundaries of the Soviet Union. Specifically, this definition excludes émigrés from the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), which are in a separate category by virtue of the fact that the United States Government has never recognized their incorporation into the Soviet Union and continues to receive their diplomatic representatives. Relations with the Baltic emigrations therefore come within the purview of the Free Europe Committee, not the American Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism.
The political history of the emigration since 1917 has not been a happy one. In the aggregate it has been characterized by failure. Cut off from the actual experience of Soviet life, deprived of adequate means of communication or the material ability to affect Russian life, the various attempts of different disunited émigré groupings to bring about either by revolution or other means the overthrow of the Soviet government, or accurately to predict the course of events within the Soviet Union, have met with failure. If the small politically active parties and organizations of the émigrés could themselves unite, or if they could succeed in uniting the mass of the emigration itself behind them, it is obvious that their influence and usefulness in the free world struggle with Soviet communism would be enhanced. The emigration’s capability to achieve its final objectives—liberation in various forms—would not be significantly changed, however. The future of the peoples of the Soviet Union and of the Soviet regime itself, depends on factors and forces outside the control of the emigration. This fact is realized by most of the emigration, and they in turn envisage liberation as usually coming about as the result of a war between the Soviet Union and the West. Some would frankly wish to hasten this event; all wish to position themselves in a manner favorable to the successful pursuit [Page 14]of their particular political objectives in the event of such a conflict. As a result, the emigration represents in a real sense a present-day cold war ally of some value, but many deficiencies, and a potential ally in the event of war of greater, but equally indeterminate, value.
At the present time no particular unity or cohesion characterizes either the mass of the emigration or the small and fragmentary politically active groups which try to speak in its name. Although such cohesion and unity is desirable, and periodic attempts are made in this direction, it is improbable that much success will be achieved in the foreseeable future in this respect. It would appear that not only are the real divisions of ideology and interest too great among the émigrés but that the very environment of exile in itself renders such unity impossible, to judge from past history.

The Nationalities Problem

Within the present emigration are apparent two generally opposed broad groupings: one composed of political parties which claim to speak in the name of the non-Russian nationalities, the other composed of organizations purporting to speak for the Russian nationality, although at the same time frequently claiming to reflect the views of the peoples of the Soviet Union as a whole. Each of these two divisions is itself divided and fragmented into smaller groups representing divergent and conflicting political traditions and beliefs, ranging from extreme rightist concepts to Social-Democratic and other leftist philosophies. The overriding issue, however, which divides the emigration into these two fairly distinct camps is the question concerning the manner in which the nationality problem will be solved within the borders of the present Soviet Union, following liberation. Although both Russian and nationality groups adhere to various principles and formulas of self-determination for all the peoples of the Soviet Union they are in fact sorely divided on this question and may be expected to remain so for the foreseeable future. In essence, the non-Russian nationalities’ representatives favor, and desire U.S. support for, the independent existence as national states of the various national groups within the USSR, although occasionally envisaging some type of loose federation. There is a significant number of non-Russians, however, who do not identify themselves with such “separatist” ambitions. In general, political groups representing Russian, as distinguished from other nationalities, question both the desirability of, and the will for, separate national existences on the part of the non-Russians within the Soviet Union, although envisaging some form of autonomy as probably necessary and desirable for the nationalities.
Most elements within each of the two broad groupings are eager and anxious to aid in liberation whether by means of propaganda directed toward the peoples of the Soviet Union or other more activist means. They are equally anxious to gain official U.S. support, material and moral, for their particular solution to the problem of the future organization and government of the Soviet Union. To further their ends, they have frequently attempted to inject their views into domestic United States politics, with some success, both in the sense of urging greater efforts on the part of the U.S. Government to support émigré undertakings for revolution in general, and to support one or the other side of the two opposing camps—Russians and Nationalities in particular. To oversimplify, the nationality émigrés would desire U.S. support now for the concept of independent, separate national states for the Nationalities, including diplomatic recognition for their governments in exile along with practical measures in propaganda and other means to further this objective. The Russian émigrés warn, on the other hand, that the United States would thus incur the enmity of the Russian people and solidify support for the Soviet regime either in time of peace or war, thus strengthening rather than weakening Soviet communism.

Relation between U.S. Objectives toward the Emigration and toward the USSR

The United States has traditionally upheld the principles of freedom and self-determination for all peoples to establish governments and other institutions of their own choosing as soon as they are prepared to manage their affairs in an orderly, peaceful and stable manner. These fundamental political ideas are the expression of the American belief that the security and welfare of individuals, as well as states within an international society, are best preserved by such systems of government. In a limited sense, therefore, the United States does indeed regard sympathetically the concept of “liberation” of the peoples of the Soviet Union from the present despotic system of government—if by force of circumstances this becomes feasible in terms of U.S. and free world security interests. But in the light of present-day U.S. security interests, it is neither feasible nor desirable that the U.S. either consider, or run the risk of, initiating war to support such an objective.
It is widely held within the emigration that the Soviet regime carries within it the seeds of its own decay and destruction. Tensions, strains and vulnerabilities may lead, particularly if exploited by the free world, either to the violent overthrow, or radical change by other means, of the Soviet regime. It is important to realize that while the emigration furnishes both a means for studying and influencing these vulnerabilities, the more dispassionate [Page 16]study and experimentation which has thus far been undertaken by the United States Government in this direction does not as yet indicate enough evidence to support the overly optimistic hopes and ambitions of the émigrés in this respect. Some of the beliefs and assertions of the nationality émigrés regarding support for independent States among nationality minorities within the Soviet Union are a case in point. The best evidence to date indicates that there are in fact considerable minority discontents within the Soviet Union. Some, perhaps a majority, of these discontents are no different in kind or quality than the general dissatisfactions felt by Russians as well concerning life under the Soviet regime. Of a different nature are discontents among the nationalities directed against the Russians. These feelings are complex and not subject to finite evaluation. Careful study indicates, however, that such sentiments do not find a significant expression in a desire for independent national existences. Often the desire is simply for better relations of equality with the Russians. Thus, those real discontents within the minorities of the Soviet Union, which the U.S. should indeed exploit, differ greatly in motivation and content from the discontents which nationality émigrés out of contact with their homeland are apt to attribute to groups living under the Soviet regime. This does not mean that the United States must either neglect the continuous investigation, or positive experimentation with appropriate courses of action in this direction, but suggests rather the caution with which such activities must be pursued until better evidence is available on which to base U.S. supported activities.
During the next five years it is unlikely that short of war the stability or effective authority of the Soviet regime can be either overthrown or seriously threatened by the action of forces outside the leadership or by a struggle for power within the ruling hierarchy. The regime will probably be able to maintain the largely invulnerable omnipotence of the State with the concomitant ability to control public opinion and render popular discontent impotent. Accordingly, cold war operations of the type which may be promoted by the U.S. and undertaken by émigrés, aimed to create disaffection or opposition within either the broad strata of the Soviet population or specific groups, cannot be expected to influence these characteristics to the point of stimulating major change. Such activities, the most important of which are sponsored by the American Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism, are, however, of major importance. Although evaluation of their effectiveness is difficult, they already appear to have achieved results of significance. In the long term, the ideas and information thus transmitted to the peoples of the Soviet Union aids in preconditioning them to alternative forms of political and social life more in their own interest, and in [Page 17]ours. Stated another way, the objective of such anti-Soviet political activities is to create support for alternative forms of Soviet governmental structure and behavior which would both better satisfy the natural aspirations of the Soviet peoples as well as the interests of U.S. and free world security. In the short term, such activities may have significant results in fostering defection and in creating doubt in the minds of Soviet leaders concerning the loyalty of both individuals and groups within Soviet society.…
…A real alternative which must be kept open for development and exploitation is that gradual change in Soviet behavior and belief which may be brought about more by the growing strength and cohesion of the free world and its ability successfully to resist and deter Soviet aggression than by any other means. Some anti-Soviet activities, either by émigrés, or supported…by the U.S., might within the context of growing free world strength help such a process, although it must be noted that the attainment of such objectives would by and large not be consistent with the objectives of the emigration. On the other hand, the indiscriminate fomenting of unrest within the Soviet Union on a broad scale might have the opposite effect and be a contributing factor to an increase in Soviet intransigeance and the risk of a general war launched by the Soviet Union.

U.S. Posture toward the Emigration

In the balance, therefore, it may be said that it is in the interest of the United States…to give limited aid during the present period of the cold war to émigré or other related anti-Soviet activities within the context here described, and provided sufficient U.S. control can be exercised in order that there be no conflict with other U.S. policies and objectives.…
It is not desirable that the United States, in an official and overt manner, formulate at the present time its objectives towards the future of either a “liberated” or defeated Russia. It is neither in our interest, due to our objective of bringing about a change in Soviet behavior favorable to U.S. and free world security, nor within our capabilities, due to the inconclusive nature of present evidence concerning basic political factors within the Soviet Union. The nationalities problem is again a case in point. In the event of general war, a rapid and successful conclusion of hostilities might, under certain circumstances, be furthered by U.S. promises of support of independence for the nationalities. On the other hand, it is certain that such a U.S. position would influence unfavorably important groups both within and without the Soviet leadership who otherwise might take actions in the U.S. interest. Furthermore, it is even less [Page 18]clear whether in a nebulous post-war world the minority nationalities would be capable of maintaining separate national States, and whether such a dismemberment of Russia would be in the U.S. interest.…In this respect, cooperation with, assistance to, and education of the emigration in American political ideals and methods, will be useful undertakings.…
The emigration also provides a valuable means at the present time of carrying forward those studies necessary for investigation of the problems of a future non-Soviet Russia, and an organization such as the American Committee presents a useful place for the conduct of some of the necessary U.S. study of these problems. In the event of general war and the possible defeat and removal of the Soviet regime, it may be neither desirable nor feasible for the United States to assume a large degree of responsibility in readjusting the inevitable political, economic and social dislocations resulting from the war; but it is nevertheless probable that in such an event any number of U.S. actions and inactions with regard to the Russian scene will play an important, and perhaps decisive, role in determining the future forms of society and government which might arise there. Should this be the case, the number of choices and decisions which would confront the United States would be myriad and complex, necessitating clarity and effectiveness in U.S. policies in order to influence individuals and events in a manner favorable to U.S. and free world security.

Policy Conclusions

The United States should pursue, to the extent deemed feasible under evolving military and political conditions, a policy of non-predetermination and self-determination with respect to the future forms of government, territorial arrangements and status of nationalities or minorities within the present Soviet Union, while avoiding specific U.S. commitments or the assumption of responsibility as to the detailed means by which this policy might be carried out.
Consistent with this policy, the United States should support,…anti-Soviet émigré groups from the Soviet Union and other similar activities, in order to further the following objectives:
To exploit demonstrable or potential present-day Soviet vulnerabilities in order to bring about a change in governmental behavior which will further U.S. security and preservation of peace. Such exploitation should be accomplished primarily by (1) promoting the elimination of those totalitarian-aggressive Soviet practices and policies which now threaten the security of free peoples and which violate the fundamental rights of the Soviet peoples, and (2) furthering the development by the peoples of the Soviet Union of government [Page 19]institutions and practices which, in the conduct of domestic and Foreign Relations, will protect fundamental human rights of all citizens and permit Russia to become again a peaceful member of the international community.
To provide human resources and experience which can be utilized in reducing Soviet power, or otherwise influencing and changing Soviet behavior, in the event of general war.
To create and maintain, where feasible, doubt in the minds of the Soviet leadership concerning the reliability of the Soviet peoples, including minority nationalities, in the event of general war.
To develop capabilities for producing a change in the Soviet state structure, or behavior, during or following a period of general war, along lines of development which would contribute to the attainment of U.S. security objectives while satisfying the legitimate aspirations of the peoples of the USSR.
To demonstrate the traditional American belief that the fundamental aspirations and interests of all peoples are best secured through a free union of self-governing nations within the world community.

Courses of Action

Continue…to support…anti-Soviet émigré organizations and activities as appear capable of contributing to present and possible future U.S. purposes in both cold and hot war conditions.
Continue comprehensive study of the various alternative situations which might exist within the Soviet Union following either radical change or general war, and the corresponding policies and courses of action which it might be in the U.S. interest to follow.
As appropriate, attempt to secure non-partisan Congressional understanding and support for the present U.S. policy of non-predetermination and self-determination.
  1. Source: Department of State, S/P–NSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, Soviet Vulnerabilities. Top Secret. Circulated to the members of the Council as an enclosure to a note from Lay, dated January 31, which noted that its implementation would be coordinated by the Special Committee established pursuant to NSC Action No. 1314–d, i.e., the Planning Coordination Group chaired by Rockefeller.