158. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Helms to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Action Program to Exploit “Tensions in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe—Challenge and Opportunity”


  • Memorandum to the Director from Henry A. Kissinger, dated 14 April 1970,2
  • Subject: Exploitation of “Tensions in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe—Challenge and Opportunity”
This will be the first in a series of monthly progress reports3 that I propose to make on our program of action designed to put pressure on the Soviets. It will be keyed to my conversations with you on this subject, and will tie in with our Tensions paper. It will also respond to your 14 April memorandum, which asked for specific plans for operations that we consider feasible and for additional steps we recommend to exploit tensions in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
I have instructed my staff to pursue this program as a high priority undertaking. Many of our on-going operations fit precisely into the pattern we have discussed, and while calling on our stations for an intensification of current effort in this specific direction, I propose at the same time to give you a more detailed picture of what is actually being done. Thus, Attachment No. 14 presents a breakdown by region of a number of active operations, many of which are already causing the Soviets considerable discomfiture.
I have alerted [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] virtually all—of our stations and bases to the urgency I attach to rapid [Page 483] development of new initiatives in this field. I have made it clear that the objective is not only harassment of the Soviets, but sustained pressure through covert means to induce on their part a more cooperative posture on international issues of vital importance to the U.S. Government. This is to be done by exacerbating their sensitivities both within the USSR and East European countries, and abroad in areas where the Soviet presence or interests are significant political factors. The over-all program, however, is not to be limited to short-term impact operations. We will also give careful thought to corresponding action efforts of a long-term and positive nature, aimed at neutralizing Soviet covert political operations in important “third countries.” In addition to stepping up the pace of their current operations, I have asked our stations to give us their best thinking and ideas for new programs. To date, we have received detailed and thoughtful responses [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], and the outlook is encouraging.
To give you further perspective on this effort, I would like to say that we have refined our analysis of Soviet vulnerabilities somewhat since completing the Tensions paper, and it seems to me that the majority of our operational approaches will be concentrated in a number of sensitive zones where we believe the Soviets are particularly susceptible to covert action exploitation. These include the following:
Sino-Soviet tensions. The Sino-Soviet border conflict and the world-wide struggle for control of Communist parties make the Soviets highly susceptible [1 line of source text not declassified].
Soviet involvement in the Middle East. Because the Soviet presence in the Middle East entails many volatile factors, there will be opportunities for inducing strain between the Arabs and the Soviets.
Soviet relations with East Europe. The steady growth of nationalism in East Europe in the face of Soviet military intervention and economic exploitation makes this area a fertile ground for [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] operations to heighten tensions between the USSR and its vassal states.
Soviet/Cuban relations. Castro’s well-founded suspicion regarding Soviet maneuvers to dominate political and economic life in Cuba, possibly affecting Castro’s own future leadership, creates a situation that invites [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] manipulation.
Soviet domestic dissidence and economic stagnation. By fostering unrest among the Soviet intelligentsia it may be possible to create pressures inducing the Kremlin to curtail its foreign involvements in order to concentrate on critical domestic situations.
As we move ahead, I naturally expect to draw more heavily on proposals coming in from the field, supplementing what we have under way and what we can generate at the Headquarters end. Attachment No. 25 will give you a cross-section of plans now in the mill, many [Page 484] of which I hope to go ahead with as soon as possible. Attachment No. 36 offers ideas for possible action in the future. Most of these are still in the process of scrutiny and appraisal, but they give you a picture of our trend of thought.
I will look forward to your initial reaction to this material and I will be happy to discuss any aspect of it at your convenience.7
Richard Helms 8
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Executive Registry Files, Job 80–R01284, Box 5, S–17.10, Tensions in USSR, 1970. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. On June 16, Peter Jessup, staff member for the 303 Committee, informed Helms of the following: “General Haig requests that this office do the summary of the exploitation of tensions in the USSR and the bloc from now on. The first memorandum from Kissinger to higher authority was drafted by Commander [Jonathan] Howe. It seems perfectly reasonable that this should be done by the Chapin/Jessup/DePue axis, thereby reducing outside access to this material.” (National Security Council, Intelligence Files, Box 7, CIA/Exploitation of Tensions, 4/7/70–12/4/72)
  2. Not printed. (Ibid.)
  3. Monthly progress reports, using a similar format to this first report, were issued through 1972. Helms’ covering memoranda and the reports are ibid.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. Attached but not printed.
  6. Attached but not printed.
  7. At the bottom of the page is the handwritten comment, “P.S. Please return these papers for safe keeping. R.H.”
  8. Printed from a copy that indicates Helms signed the original.