149. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Exploitation of Tensions in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe

Attached is an excellent CIA paper describing covert action programs being undertaken to exploit tensions in the Soviet Union and [Page 456] Eastern Europe and identifying activities which may be emphasized in the future. In assessing Soviet vulnerabilities the report notes that:

  • —Although the internal dissident is not likely to significantly influence Soviet society in the short term, existing trends toward more active dissidence could be affected by external developments. The discrediting of the regime by a serious economic crisis or another Czech-type crisis might promote radical changes in the internal political climate.
  • —Suppression of the growing intellectual dissent by Soviet authorities has disillusioned many foreign Communists and Soviet sympathizers.
  • —Among the non-Russian minorities in the Soviet Union dissent is vocal and widespread.
  • —There is also increasing criticism of the Soviet economy.
  • —In Eastern Europe where the tensions are greater and the Western orientation much stronger the Soviets will have to rely on force to maintain hegemony.

There are numerous indications of the effectiveness of the program CIA conducts to capitalize on Soviet vulnerabilities:

  • —Radio Free Europe, which broadcasts to an Eastern European audience of over 30 million that swells dramatically during crises, is frequently denounced by Communist leaders. Czech Party Secretary Husak, for example, has blamed RFE for his party’s inability to win over the Czech population.
  • —Radio Liberty which broadcasts to the Soviet Union has had a significant role in increasing manifestations of dissent and opposition among the Soviet intelligentsia. Defectors have often commented on the significant impact of the broadcast of documents written by protesters.
  • —The $150 million spent annually by the Russians for jamming operations which are only marginally successful is indicative of the value of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty which cost less than $35 million to operate.
  • —Publication of smuggled manuscripts and magazines geared to the Eastern European audience and distribution of books not available in Communist countries have also made an impact.

Emphasis on the following activities is being considered in planning for future operations:

  • —greater exploitation of dissent through modernized radio transmitting facilities, wider dissemination of criticism by the intellectuals, and stimulation of nationality aspirations among Soviet minorities;
  • —attacks on Soviet activities outside the bloc and intensified exploitation of anti-Communist themes abroad;
  • —developing leaders capable of providing a democratic alternative to Soviet-supported front organizations;
  • —selective use [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to increase distrust of Russians in developing countries and exploiting Soviet sensitivity to local hostility and exposure of their activities;
  • —preparations for covert programs to offset the threat of Communist election victories in the Free World. Past examples of successful operations include Guyana in 1963 and Chile in 1964.

Tab A

Paper Prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency 2



At no time in the history of the Soviet Union to date have political forces outside the Communist Party leadership played a significant role in influencing events. The Party apparatus, the KGB and the deeply vested interests of the Soviet State hierarchy are experienced in coping with dissidence of all types, and have an impressive record of asserting their will at any cost to the rest of society. The KGB in particular has an almost perfect record of successful penetration, manipulation and suppression of opposition elements. In addition there is an historic tradition of public apathy, largely unchanged even today among the workers and peasants of Russia, and dissident elements find little encouragement at the grass roots. The authorities have often exploited the antipathy of the working class toward the intelligentsia in suppressing incipient demonstrations.

Thus the experience of Russian history strongly argues against the proposition that the internal dissident will significantly influence Soviet society in the short term. The conditions, nevertheless, which abet existing trends toward more active and articulate dissidence could be [Page 458] affected by external developments. A discrediting of the regime by, say, another Czechoslovak crisis or a serious economic crisis, might well promote radical changes in the internal political climate. The paragraphs that follow should be considered in this light.

Intellectual Dissent

To describe the nature and scope of dissidence in the Soviet Union today poses the risk of over-emphasis. The Soviet regime is by no means on the brink of collapse. On the other hand, something new has indeed emerged in Soviet society since Stalin’s death. The growing demand for freedom of expression has been widely reported in the Western press, and its suppression by Soviet authorities has in turn contributed to disillusionment among foreign Communists and Soviet sympathizers.

The top rank of dissenters in the Soviet Union includes leading scientists, some of whom share the views of Andrey Sakharov, an eminent scientist. In 1968, Sakharov in a long pamphlet advocated radical changes in human society the world over. Speaking of his own country, he called for tolerance of political opposition, elimination of censorship, and frank discussion of Stalin’s use of terror. Later in 1968, other prominent scientists including Peter Kapitsa, the Soviet Union’s leading theoretical physicist, told Western colleagues that they agreed with Sakharov. The Sakharov pamphlet has never been published in the Soviet Union, but through Western radio broadcasts and publications Sakharov’s words have been carried back to his countrymen.

After the scientists, next in prestige come the writers, whose tradition of social concern goes back to Turgenev, Tolstoy and even earlier. Their involvement in politics and protest has almost always been reluctant. Alexander Solzhenitsyn tried for years to remain aloof, but his determination to write what he believed and his refusal to conform to the requirements of the Party put him squarely against the censors and the Soviet Writers’ Union. Last fall the Writers’ Union expelled Solzhenitsyn for his recalcitrance. Learning that he had been expelled without an opportunity to defend his position, Solzhenitsyn wrote a letter to the leaders of the Union that epitomizes the attitude of the creative intelligentsia toward the Party hacks who control the institutions of Soviet society. “The face of your clock has been rubbed out: Your clock is far behind the times. Open your heavy curtains. You do not even know that outside it is already day….3 In this time of crisis in our dangerously sick society you are not able to suggest anything constructive, anything good, only your own hatred and your spying on others and your determination to coerce and never to let go.”

[Page 459]

Beyond the circle of leading scientists and writers there are the active dissidents themselves. Most of them are younger members of the intelligentsia, but their ranks also include workers, teachers, and other professionals. A leading physicist in this group runs the only “underground press” known to exist in the Soviet Union. In May 1969 fifteen of the most active dissidents organized a Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, and petitioned the United Nations to protest against violations of human rights in the USSR. They were joined by some fifty other persons who publicly announced their support of the Committee. When the first petition received no answer, they sent a second. Now, ten months afterward, ten of the fifteen of the organizers of the Committee have been imprisoned or placed in mental hospitals, a favorite device of the regime for handling awkward cases.

In April 1968 the group began a bi-monthly Chronicle of Current Events, reporting in detail on arrests, threats and other coercive acts the Soviet regime uses to suppress opposition, plus the latest news concerning underground literature and petitions. Ten issues of the Chronicle were subsequently circulated in hundreds of typewritten copies inside the USSR. A few copies of each reached the West, where they have been republished and broadcast back into the Soviet Union.

The writing and circulation of protest documents of many varieties, typed in carbon copies or handwritten, continues in the face of regime repression. In early 1968 the trial of Ginsburg and Galanskov inspired hundreds of Soviet citizens to risk censure, job loss or imprisonment by appealing to the authorities on behalf of the defendants. The petitioners and protestors have since supported other causes, and have proposed their own political programs as alternatives to the Communist Party’s dictatorship. As one leader of the dissident movement, Lydia Chukovskaya, wrote: “The conspiracy of silence is at an end.”

In reaction to the increasing repression of creative freedom in the USSR, outstanding representatives of the Soviet intelligentsia have forsaken their homeland for life in the West. In addition to Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, they include three distinguished writers, a prominent philosopher and editor, a young nuclear physicist, two outstanding musicians, a magazine editor, two leading experts on cybernetics, a movie director, a film critic and three students from Moscow University’s Institute of Eastern Languages.

The picture of the Soviet Union that these defectors paint is one of increasing cynicism and alienation on the part of the intelligentsia, and apathy and bitterness in the working class. The philosopher mentioned above had this to say on the subject: “People are still afraid to trust one another entirely. I shared my real views only with three other men. Yet one knows how everybody feels—disillusioned, contemptuous of the bosses and frustrated by the Party careerists who know nothing [Page 460] but how to win and keep power. Now these careerists sense their isolation from the rest of the population. They no longer believe in anything. There are no idealists like my father left among them. They only know that to keep their power they must stick together, like cattle surrounded by wolves.”

Minority Repression

Among many of the non-Russian minorities in the Soviet Union, dissent is vocal and widespread. It is also vigorously repressed. In the Ukraine, the arrests of hundreds of Ukrainian dissidents in 1965 and 1966, and subsequent repressions, have been vigorously protested by leading Ukrainian scientists, artists, and writers, including Oleg Antonov, one of the Soviet Union’s leading aircraft designers.

The contempt of the Baltic people for Soviet rule remains as strong as ever. It is no longer expressed in hopeless armed resistance, as it was twenty years ago. Instead, these small nations manifest a vigorous determination to preserve their national cultures. Even the local Communist Party apparatus has sought to assert a degree of autonomy. In Estonia many works of Western literature that have never been published in Russian are printed in the native language. Two of the major underground documents recently proposing alternatives to the Communist dictatorship originated in Estonia.

Economic Unrest

Since the December 1969 Central Committee Plenum, the Soviet press has given increasing attention to the lethargy of the economy. The best informed defectors and even Soviet economists depict the economy as suffering from overcentralization, rigid control, and a system of falsification and misrepresentation that prevents anyone from knowing what the true conditions are. A recent letter to Brezhnev circulated through underground channels in Moscow described the problems of the economy in the following terms: “It is obvious to everyone that in our system nobody is involved in real work. They only throw dust in the eyes of the bosses. Phony events, such as jubilees and special days, have become for us more important than the real events of economic and social life…. Other states in which the economy is not ruled from the heavens, but from earth … are outdistancing us more and more … Freedom to discuss problems openly, only such freedom, can put diseased Russia on the road to recovery.”

Eastern Europe

In addition to its domestic problems, the Soviet Union has had chronic difficulty in managing its satellites in Eastern Europe. In Eastern Europe the tensions in society are much greater than in the Soviet Union, the Western orientation much stronger, and the possibility [Page 461] exists that at some future time one or more of these countries may successfully make the transition that Czechoslovakia essayed in 1968. It seems inevitable that, as long as the Soviet Union maintains its current system, it will be impossible for the peoples of Eastern Europe to live in real harmony with the Soviet Union and that, to maintain hegemony in the area, the Soviets will have to continue to rely upon force.

Dissident elements in the USSR and Eastern Europe display remarkable sympathy and understanding for their fellows throughout the whole Soviet dominated region. Pavel Litvinov, Larissa Daniel and others were exiled from Moscow for trying to stage a peaceful demonstration against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Others protested the biased reporting in the Soviet press and Soviet threats before the troops moved in. Intellectuals in all Eastern European countries have actively collaborated with the Soviet dissidents, and have expressed their sympathy for those arrested and imprisoned.

With its easier access to the West, Eastern Europe acts as a conduit for books, letters, manuscripts and ideas. The flow back and forth across the Soviet borders is relatively easy and constant. The fact that Eastern European standards of tolerance and freedom of expression, although restrictive, are well above the levels permitted in the Soviet Union makes the region’s ability to influence the Soviet Union a consideration of major importance to the United States.


Covert Action Programs Targeted at Eastern Europe and the USSR

Current CIA operations targeted at Eastern Europe and the USSR are designed to foster the tensions and cleavages outlined above. Their aim is not to promote armed rebellion, but rather to encourage the movement for greater personal freedom within the Soviet Union and to weaken the ties between the nations of Eastern Europe and Soviet Russia.

Radio Broadcasts

Free Europe, Inc., and Radio Liberty Committee, Inc., were organized in 1949 and 1951 respectively by the CIA. The major activity of each operation is radio broadcasting. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty programming centers are located in Munich, Germany. Their staffs, composed largely of Soviet and Eastern Europe expatriates with Americans in key policy positions, represent a unique concentration of expertise and professional talent.

Radio Free Europe (RFE)

RFE currently broadcasts 19 hours daily into Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, 12 hours to Romania, and 8 hours to Bulgaria. It also conducts an extensive and respected research program on Eastern [Page 462] Europe. The radio has achieved a high degree of Eastern European listener acceptance as a station which identifies with their needs, thoughts and aspirations. It is estimated that over 30 million people listen to RFE broadcasts. This percentage rises dramatically during periods of international crisis. RFE is denounced almost daily by Communist media, and on occasion by key figures of the Eastern European governments. Czechoslovak Party Secretary Husak has publicly placed a large share of the blame on RFE for his Party’s inability to win over the Czechoslovak population.

The station is a political force with which the Eastern European regimes must reckon. The reason for this lies partly in RFE’s pattern of cross-reporting—i.e., reporting in detail to all the Eastern European countries on domestic developments in the individual countries. This is in effect the principal way the peoples of the area learn of significant developments in their own and neighboring countries. It can be demonstrated that RFE’s repeated exposure of domestic policies and methods has forced modification of censorship and similar restrictions in several of the Eastern European countries.

RFE’s role in the 1968 Czechoslovak crisis is a striking example of the radio’s effectiveness. Prior to the ousting of Party First Secretary Novotny in January 1968, RFE was the chief source of factual information and research analysis on domestic affairs for much of the Czechoslovak population. After the Soviet invasion and the loss of their new-found freedom, the Czechoslovak people again became dependent on the round-the-clock reporting of RFE. Audience research indicates that RFE’s listenership rose to 70 percent of the population. The station received thousands of letters extolling its programs, while the Communist news media unleashed an unprecedented series of attacks on RFE. The Soviet journal Red Star described the radio as the “most strategic weapon in the global psychological war being carried on by the United States against the world socialist system.”

Radio Liberty (RL)

Radio Liberty broadcasts round-the-clock in the Russian language, 14 hours a day in Ukrainian, and at varying lengths in 15 other national languages. In contrast to RFE, RL is targeted against the more restrictive Soviet system. Effectiveness is more difficult to measure. However, letters from listeners, defector reports and legal travelers indicate that there is a sizeable audience. It is generally agreed that RL merits a significant share of the credit for the increasing manifestations of dissent and opposition among the Soviet intelligentsia. In this respect the Sinyavskiy–Daniel trial of 1966 was a landmark. RL played a unique role in conveying the facts, the significance, and Western reactions to the trial to the Soviet people. RL has also broadcast back into the Soviet Union detailed information on every important letter, protest [Page 463] document, and piece of underground literature which has reached the West through underground channels. Recent Soviet defectors, among them the author Anatole Kuznetsov, have specifically cited RL’s vital function in providing such information and thereby expanding the scope and depth of dissident attitudes.

Communist Attacks on the Radios

Soviet and Eastern European attempts to discredit RFE and RL are intensive and coordinated. The Communist regimes are particularly discomfited by the two radios’ detailed news coverage and highly effective cross-reporting of internal developments, and by their exploitation of intellectual ferment, nationalist tendencies and general dissent within the Soviet Union.

A measure of the Soviet concern over Western broadcasts is the extent of the Soviet jamming effort. At this time, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria also extensively jam RFE broadcasts. According to a VOA study, the Soviets use 2,000–2,500 jammers at an estimated annual cost of $150,000,000. As indicated above, however, the jamming is marginally effective inasmuch as the target audiences hear the radios on one or more frequencies. The cost of the Soviet jamming effort can be put into perspective by comparing it with the annual operating costs of FE, Inc., and RLC, Inc., $21,723,000 and $12,770,000 respectively. The radios represent a 20-year investment of over $400,000,000.

Non-Radio Programs of Free Europe, Inc., and Radio Liberty Committee, Inc.

In addition to the radios, FE, Inc., and RLC, Inc., sponsor book distribution programs. FE, Inc., also administers a program of support for exiles who fled Eastern Europe during the early post-war period. RLC, Inc., sponsors the Institute for the Study of the USSR in Munich, Germany.

FE, Inc., and RLC, Inc., have distributed a total of two and one-half million books and periodicals in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe since the late 1950’s. The titles comprise works which are not available in those countries because their content is considered ideologically objectionable.

The book programs are, for the most part, demonstrably effective in reaching directly significant segments of the professional and technical elite, and through them their colleagues in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, with material that can inferentially be said to influence attitudes and reinforce predispositions toward intellectual and cultural freedom, and dissatisfaction with its absence.

The [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] is a research organization supported by Radio Liberty Committee, Inc. It is also heavily engaged in a publications program designed to counter Soviet propaganda [Page 464] in underdeveloped nations. In 1969 over 135,000 copies of its publications were distributed to the Arab countries of the Middle East. The [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] also publishes the prestigious “Prominent Personalities in the USSR” and sponsors symposia which bring together the foremost Western experts on the USSR to consider new approaches to dealing with the Communists. A recent budget reduction levied on Radio Liberty Committee, Inc., has led to a decision to terminate the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], although efforts are being made to find ways to carry on certain of its activities independently.

[6½ pages of source text not declassified]

Election Operations

There have been numerous instances when, facing the threat of a Communist Party or popular front election victory in the Free World, we have met the threat and turned it successfully. Guyana in 1963 and Chile in 1964 are good examples of what can be accomplished under difficult circumstances. Similar situations may soon face us in various parts of the world, and we are prepared for action with carefully planned covert election programs when U.S. policy calls for them.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 711, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VI. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Kissinger and Haig on April 6. Haig sent it to Kissinger on April 6 under a covering memorandum that reads: “Attached is a memorandum for the President forwarding the excellent CIA paper on Tensions in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. I have informed Director Helms that you believe this is a first-rate paper and appreciate his forwarding it to you.” The memorandum is an unsigned copy.
  2. Secret; Nodis. Helms sent this paper to Kissinger under a March 30 covering memorandum that reads: “Pursuant to the interest expressed by the President [see Document 147] in a review of our covert action activities with respect to the Soviet Union and, more particularly, what we might additionally do, we have prepared the attached paper.” (Ibid., Box 433, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, Black Operations)
  3. All ellipses are in the source text.