103. Memorandum for the 303 Committee1


  • United States Government Support of Covert Action Directed at the Soviet Union
[Page 311]

1. Summary

In accordance with NSC 5502/1,2 as revalidated on 10 November 1960, CIA sponsors a covert action program which supports media3 and contact activities aimed at stimulating and sustaining pressures for liberalization and evolutionary change from within the Soviet Union.

[4 paragraphs (16 lines of source text) not declassified]

This paper recommends that the 303 Committee approve the continuation of the covert action program directed primarily at the Soviet intelligentsia and reaffirm the approval it has given in the past to the program generally and the individual projects specifically.

The total cost of this program is $766,000. The program as a whole was discussed with and endorsed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Swank and Soviet Union Country Director Dubs on 21 October and 6 November 1969. The individual projects had been approved by the 303 Committee in 1967 and 1968.

2. Proposal

While these projects differ in their approach to the Soviet target, they share common objectives which provide the justification for continued support of their activities. The primary objective is to stimulate and sustain pressures for liberalization and change from within the Soviet Union. The neuralgic points of this disaffection—desire for personal and intellectual freedom, desire for improvement in the quality of life, and the persistence of nationalism in Eastern Europe and among the nationality groups in the Soviet Union—are the main issues exploited by these projects. A secondary objective is to enlighten important third-country elites, especially political leaders and the public-opinion shaping professions, about the repressive nature of the Soviet system and its imperialistic and self-aggrandizing foreign policy.

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Anticipating the persistence of these trends in the intellectual climate of the Soviet Union in the 1970’s, there is long-range merit in continuing to encourage and support the publication and distribution of dissident literature and socio-political commentary on the broad current issues and the conditions of life in the Soviet Union, even though the regime will continue to repress dissidence. Operations aimed at influencing third-country elites are based on the assumption that U.S.-Soviet competition for prestige and influence in strategic areas will continue for an indefinite period of time. It would, therefore, seem prudent to maintain a capability of influencing third-country intellectuals and elite groups through the words and voices of distinguished Soviet nationals who are disaffected.

The intellectual dissidence movement has demonstrated a vitality of its own. It is reasonable to assume that these dissidents will continue to seek outlets for literature and socio-political commentary that has thus far been suppressed. Each time the regime has silenced a group of dissidents a new group has emerged to produce a new generation of protest literature.

An American professor [2 lines of source text not declassified] reported that the dissidence is widespread among the Soviet intelligentsia and they “yearn for exposure to Western literature and cultural influence.” Graphic evidence of the existence of this dissidence was provided in October 1969 by Dr. Pyotr L. Kapitsa, the “dean” of Soviet physicists, when he publicly endorsed in Washington the thesis of Dr. Andre D. Sakharov, a distinguished Soviet physicist credited with a major role in the development of the hydrogen bomb, that the United States and the Soviet Union can avoid a clash only through the convergence of their systems of government. The Sakharov thesis is set forth in a lengthy essay which has been circulating underground in the Soviet Union and which has been a staple of the CIA distribution program. Recent press dispatches from Moscow [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] indicate that the convergence ideas expounded by Dr. Sakharov are being widely circulated among the intelligentsia, including military personnel, in the form of underground mimeograph publications.

3. Effectiveness

[4 paragraphs (65 lines of source text) not declassified]

4. Alternatives

The United States could follow a policy of encouraging more vigorous émigré activities by more forthcoming identification by United States officials with émigré objectives, the extension of subsidies for émigré activities or organizations not presently receiving assistance from [Page 313] the United States Government, and adoption of a policy of open support for the independence of national minority areas such as the Ukraine. Substantial intensification of émigré propaganda activities might result in stimulating dissension inside the USSR, inducing defections and improving the collection of intelligence; identification with the independence of national minority groups could strengthen ethnic nationalist resistance to Russian domination. On the other hand, a more vigorous emigration probably would strengthen the forces of conformity and repression would retard the process of evolution in popular and leadership attitudes which the program is trying to promote.
It could also be argued that it would be in the national interest to divorce the United States Government entirely from the emigration and its activities. In this event the efforts of Soviet conservatives to justify repression of dissent on the basis of American “subversion” would lose some of their credibility. This argument, however, is negated by the fact that suspicions of U.S. intentions are so deeply ingrained that any change in U.S. policy toward the emigration would have minimal impact on the conservatives. Moreover, a source of support for those in the Soviet Union who are sustained by a sense of contact with the emigration would be removed and the Soviet authorities would be able more easily to foist their own version of events on the people and be under less pressure to make reforms.

5. Risks and Contingency Planning

All of the above projects have been subjected, at one time or another, to attacks by Soviet regime media, including allegations of CIA sponsorship. Each project has weathered the attacks without any apparent loss of effectiveness. It would be prudent to anticipate that the attacks will continue sporadically but without any effect on the operations.

6. Coordination

A. CIA’s covert action program set forth herein was discussed with and endorsed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Emory C. Swank and Soviet Union Country Director Adolph Dubs on 21 October and 6 November, 1969. The individual projects4 had been coordinated previously within the U.S. Government as follows:

[5 paragraphs (32 lines of source text) not declassified]

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7. Costs

The allocations for the covert action program are as follows:

[6 lines of source text not declassified]

Total $766,000

These funds for the program are available in the FY 1970 CIA budget.

8. Recommendation

It is recommended that the 303 Committee approve the continuation of CIA’s covert action program directed against the Soviet Union and reaffirm the approval it has given in the past to the individual projects, as described herein. The 303 Committee is also requested to approve the funding level for these projects as set forth in paragraph 7 above.

  1. Source: National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, Subject Files, USSR. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. Extracts from NSC 5502/1, “Statement on U.S. Policy Toward Russian Anti-Soviet Political Activities,” January 31, 1955, are printed in Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XXIV, Soviet Union, Eastern Mediterranean, Document 3.
  3. The activities directed at the Soviet Union by Radio Liberty Committee and Free Europe, Inc., were approved by higher authority on 22 February 1969 and are, therefore, not treated in this paper. The Radio Liberty Committee, successor organization to the American Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism, is composed of three major divisions: Radio Liberty which broadcasts via short wave to the Soviet Union 24 hours a day in 18 languages; a book publication and distribution program designed to provide Soviet citizens with books not normally accessible to the Soviet public; and the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] which produces research papers and publications targeted at the developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. [4½ lines of source text not declassified] [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. Additional documentation on these projects is in the National Security Council, Special Group/303 Committee Files.