106. Memorandum for the 303 Committee1


  • U.S. Policy on Support for Covert Action Involving Emigrés Directed at the Soviet Union


The Department of State was instructed by NSDM 252 of September 17, 1969, to review and up-date NSC 5502/13 dated January 31, 1955 on the subject of “U.S. Policy Toward Russian Anti-Soviet Political Activities.” That document, which was reviewed and approved again by the NSC Planning Board on November 1, 1960, has provided the authorization for CIA covert action programs directed at the Soviet Union involving émigrés from Soviet-dominated areas. In view of the essentially covert nature of these CIA programs, it has been determined [Page 321] that decisions not only on programs but also on policy should be the responsibility of the 303 Committee.

The principal policy recommendations in this paper are:

  • —that the present policy of selective support of émigré-related activities be continued;
  • —that the United States avoid policies, such as those favored by some émigrés, supporting separate nationhood for racial or language groupings within the Soviet Union; and
  • —that covert support activities be kept under periodic review, keeping in mind the option of withdrawing support in return for identifiable political advantages.

The CIA has distributed a related memorandum on “United States Government Support of Covert Action Directed at the Soviet Union”4 dated December 9, 1969 which serves both as background for examination of this revised policy document and to support a request for funding for FY 1970. The CIA request does not include funds for the Radio Liberty Committee (current budget is $13,131,000) [1½ lines of source text not declassified] because those programs were approved by Higher Authority on February 22, 1969. The [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] programs for which CIA is requesting continued support involve the expenditure of $766,000 in FY 1970. These [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] programs have the approval of appropriate officers in the Department of State: Bureau of European Affairs (Deputy Assistant Secretary Swank and Soviet Union Country Director Dubs) and the Planning and Coordination Staff (Mr. R. Davies).

Trends in US-Emigré Relations

Anti-Soviet émigrés5 were regarded as an important potential asset in the early post World War II years, at a time when fear of eventual if not imminent war with the USSR was very real in the West. Emigré organizations and individual Soviet refugees were in demand to help staff proliferating anti-Soviet activities and serve generally as a reserve for a possible war emergency.

After the 1950’s, the United States became more selective in its support for émigré activities. It had become clear that the émigrés were hopelessly split between groups with opposing aims, philosophies and ethnic composition and that it was difficult for any government working closely with them not to be dragged into the morass of émigré politics. In the mid-1950’s, efforts were, in fact, abandoned to try to unite the anti-Soviet émigrés behind a common program. The declining interest in émigrés was also related to the realization that they were aging and had grown increasingly out of touch with developments in the [Page 322] USSR. The relations between the United States Government and the émigré community also became more distant as the United States and the Soviet Union moved toward a more normal relationship.

In the early 1960’s, the more responsible émigré leaders came to realize that there was no hope of returning to their homeland in the wake of a Soviet-American war or after the overthrow of the Soviet regime. They therefore shifted the emphasis of their activities toward stimulating and publicizing the growing intellectual ferment and expressions of dissidence within the Soviet Union.

United States officials had come to understand that assistance to the émigrés for the eventuality of war with or revolution within the USSR was unrealistic. The skills of the émigrés would be available in the event of war, regardless of whether or not the United States was subsidizing émigré organizations. The sort of mass unrest and revolutionary changes predicted by some émigrés were unlikely to occur within the USSR under conditions short of war. To the extent that significant changes in Soviet policy or leadership might take place, they were likely to result from the actions of a relatively narrow circle of leaders responding to changing attitudes and imperatives within Soviet soviety.

It was recognized, at the same time, that the émigrés could play an important role in overcoming the resistance to change in Soviet society by stimulating dissatisfaction with existing policy among the Soviet people, especially under the less repressive conditions which followed Stalin’s death. As broadcasters, editors and scholars working for Radio Liberty and other émigré information activities, the émigrés were able to address themselves more candidly than U.S. officials could to developments within the USSR; and there was evidence that the émigrés reached an important audience in the USSR precisely because they spoke with special intimacy and concern about developments in Mother Russia. In short, the United States Government concluded that anti-Soviet émigrés had a special contribution to make to United States information programs, both overt and covert, which collectively aimed at influencing the attitudes of the Soviet people and their leaders in directions which would make the Soviet Government a more constructive and responsible member of the world community.

It was also recognized that the émigrés had a certain role to play per se. For some Soviet intellectuals and liberals, they served as in the 19th century as the “conscience-in-exile” and repository of the best cultural traditions of the Russian people and in extremis as a haven of refuge. The émigré organizations accordingly provided—and continue to provide—encouragement to intellectuals in their struggle for personal freedom against the Soviet regime.

Emigré groups have continued to seek official American recognition and support for their particular organizations and aims. In their response, American officials have been authorized to express traditional [Page 323] American sympathy for all peoples struggling to preserve their cultural traditions and religious beliefs and to protect the human rights of their people. At the same time, it has long been United States Government policy to remain neutral between the Russian proponents of a unitary Russia and émigrés from national minority areas favoring separatist policies.

Nature of Present Activities

The United States Government is presently involved with the émigré community in a number of activities which are summarized below. Details regarding these activities are set forth in the CIA memorandum.

a. Radio Liberty Committee (RLC): (successor organization to the American Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism), RLC is composed of three major divisions: (1) a radio station (Radio Liberty) which broadcasts via shortwave to the Soviet Union 24 hours a day in 18 languages; (2) a book publication and book distribution program designed to provide Soviet citizens with books not normally accessible to the Soviet public, and; (3) the Institute for the Study of the USSR which produces research papers and publications targeted at the developing countries in Africa, Middle East, and the Far East. In all instances RLC émigré employees are picked for talent and ability without regard to private émigré political beliefs or affiliations.

[3 paragraphs (28 lines of source text) not declassified]

United States Policy Options


High Profile Support

The United States could reverse field and follow a more vigorous pro-émigré policy, which might take the form, for example, of (i) more forthcoming identification by United States officials with émigré activities and objectives, (ii) extension of subsidies for émigré activities or organizations not presently receiving U.S. Government assistance; (iii) adoption for the first time of a policy of open support for the independence of national minority areas like the Ukraine.


  • —Blatant support of anti-Soviet émigré activities would suggest the determination of the Administration to follow a tough policy toward the USSR, exploiting any vulnerability, in the event that the USSR does not become more cooperative on major issues in dispute.
  • —Any substantial intensification of émigré propaganda activities might have some feedback in terms of defections, in acquisition of information, and in stimulating dissension inside the USSR;
  • —United States identification with the independence of national minority areas would strike a responsive chord in an area like the Ukraine and could strengthen nationalist resistance to Russian domination.

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  • —The Soviet leaders, who are chronically suspicious of US policies, could conclude that the United States Government had embarked on a frankly subversive and hostile course of action and that it is disinterested in negotiations on outstanding issues.
  • —The Soviet leaders will not be induced to be more cooperative by the threat of increased American aid to the émigrés since they believe that the émigrés are feeble and that the Soviet government can control internal dissent.
  • —Inside the USSR, hard-line supporters of strict conformity and suppression of dissent would have their hands strengthened.
  • —Repression would retard the process of evolution in popular and leadership attitudes which United States policy has sought to promote.
  • —Support for the national independence of minority areas would alienate and unify Russian opinion everywhere so that the United States would lose with one hand what it might hope to gain with the other.
  • —The USSR would be encouraged to increase its own anti-American activities around the world, including support for radical and subversive movements within the United States.
  • —The problems of finding émigré organizations which are potentially effective and useful to the United States Government have increased with time many émigrés are now even more out-of-touch with Soviet reality, older and less active than in the early post-war years.


Withdrawal of All Support

The question of support for specific émigré activities is periodically reviewed. For example, a decision was taken in February 1969 to continue to finance the Radio Liberty Committee.

It can be argued that it would be in the national interest to divorce the United States Government entirely from the emigration and its activities.


  • —There would be a financial saving.
  • —A decision to withdraw American financial support from all émigré/[activities?]
  • —The existence of émigré voices speaking from abroad would continue to provide moral support and information to those Soviets who have the courage to voice their convictions openly in the USSR.
  • —Continuation of U.S. Government support for émigré activities on their present limited scale is not incompatible with negotiations with the Soviet Union on matters of mutual concern.
  • —Withdrawal of U.S. Government subsidies would eliminate, not merely the information activities which reach directly into the USSR, but also useful auxiliary activities which provide anti-communist information to target audiences in non-communist areas.


  • —By continuing the present level of activities, the United States would not realize the advantages cited under the earlier options.

Recommended Courses of Action

On balance, the low profile policy which has evolved toward the emigration appears both realistic and well suited to United States objectives. Accordingly, it is recommended:

That the United States continue to work with émigrés and their organizations for the primary purpose of encouraging an evolution in attitudes within the USSR.
That the present general level of involvement with anti-Soviet émigrés be regarded as compatible with our limited adversary relationship with the USSR.
That the effectiveness of the activities presently being subsidized be reviewed periodically.
That the possibility of withdrawing support from émigré-related organizations, including the Radio Liberty Committee, be kept under review, on the understanding that any withdrawal should be based on concrete political advantage.
That any proposals to organize the émigrés for the possible eventuality of war with, or revolution in, the USSR be opposed as unrealistic and likely to damage US-Soviet relations.
That the United States support the aspirations of minority peoples in the USSR for preservation of their national culture, religious identity and human rights, but that it avoid identification with any émigré policy favoring separate nationhood for racial or language groupings within the Soviet Union.
That the United States policy of non-recognition of incorporation of the Baltic States into the USSR be maintained, subject to possible review, but that Baltic refugee organizations [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] be discouraged from active propaganda or other efforts to detach the Baltic States.
That émigré activities should continue to be monitored as appropriate even where no US subsidy is involved, since the émigrés occasionally obtain useful information on the USSR through their own channels, and are a potential source of embarrassment to the United States in its relations with the USSR.

  1. Source: National Security Council, Nixon Intelligence Files, Subject Files, USSR. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. NSDM 25 directed the “Disposal of Outdated NSC Policy Papers.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–211, NSDM Files, NSDM 25)
  3. See footnote 2, Document 103.
  4. Document 103.
  5. [3 lines of source text not declassified] [Footnote in the source text.]