118. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the 40 Committee (Ratliff) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Covert Activities against the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe

Attached is a status report and renewal of CIA’s eight-project covert action program of publishing, distribution and contacts directed at [Page 463] intellectuals in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (Tab A).2 CIA has sponsored some of these activities for more than 22 years. The program includes the publishing and distribution efforts formerly sponsored by Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. An expenditure of $3,759,000 is planned for Fiscal Year 1974.

Included in the program are:

[Omitted here are the organizations receiving support.]

State, Defense, JCS and CIA 40 Committee principals approve continuation of this program.


That you approve continuation of this covert action program.3

Tab A

Memorandum for the 40 Committee4

Washington, March 1, 1973.


  • Covert Action Activities Directed at the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe

1. Summary

CIA conducts a coordinated covert action program designed to sustain pressures for liberalization and socio-political change from within the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc. This program, which supports media publication and distribution to Soviet and East European citizens, consists of the following individual projects:

[Omitted here is a list of the organizations receiving support.]

2. Status Report

This covert action program is a coordinated publishing and distribution effort directed against the Soviet/East European target. Books and periodicals produced under this program have the objective of stimulating and sustaining pressures for political liberalization within the Soviet Union and other Eastern European nations. The program aims at and, in a measure, has succeeded in generating pressures on [Page 464] these regimes from indigenous dissidents who have been seeking increased intellectual freedom, social and economic reforms, and, for non-Russians, a recognition of their national identity, culture and heritage. This program also uses CIA propaganda assets in non-Bloc areas to place items reporting Soviet repressive acts and encouraging free world support for the dissident movement.

The USSR is experiencing a marked increase in political and religious dissent and nationalist anti-Russian sentiment in its various republics. Arrests and convictions of dissenters are increasing, and under the guise of a comparatively generous emigration policy Jewish dissenters have been permitted to leave the country, ridding the Soviets of a troublesome group. There is no abatement in the well-established Soviet practice of committing dissident intellectuals to mental institutions in an effort to reorient their thinking.

The Russian dissident democratic movement is still producing the bi-monthly Chronicle of Current Events, a samizdat (self-published) record of repressive measures and arrests taking place in the Soviet Union. The Chronicle is exfiltrated to the West in spite of the vigilance of the KGB and the increase of repressive measures. Entire manuscripts of books which cannot be published in the USSR are being made available for publication abroad. CIA’s covert media program supports their initial publication in many instances and their subsequent infiltration into Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Responses from individuals in the target area substantiate the receipt of this material. The effectiveness of the program is also clearly demonstrated by vituperative attacks in Bloc printed media and on the radio. These attacks are made not only against the books and periodicals, but also against individual authors and the editors of our publications. These editors have been brought to national attention within their former homelands by their constantly being portrayed in regime propaganda as bourgeois anti-Communist traitors.

Impressive testimony to the validity and impact of our efforts to communicate developments and provide moral support to Soviet citizens has been volunteered by a group of recent émigrés with whom we have held wide-ranging discussions in Europe and the United States. These well-educated, perceptive observers represent the post-Stalin era professional intelligentsia and afford a unique insight into that critical community.

The group unanimously described Russian-language communication of news, information and ideas as the most important service the West can render their self-styled democratic movement, and specified broadcasting, newspapers, periodicals and books as the prime Western vehicles for informing and stimulating the expansion of the movement. Materials thus disseminated enable the Soviet intelligentsia to criticize [Page 465] their society more articulately and provide heartening evidence of the free world’s moral support. One of the regime’s principal curbs on the movement’s expansion is constant economic pressure. Dissidents are dismissed from their jobs, are unable to obtain new ones, and find economic survival increasingly difficult. Thus, the émigrés emphasized the importance and sustaining influence of prompt, detailed and continuous international reporting of every known act of regime repression, as well as objective and sophisticated comment on other negative aspects of Soviet society.

Soviet reader interest in CIA-reprinted Russian literature may be gauged by Moscow black market prices: [8 lines not declassified] The latter, first published over twenty years ago, will be reissued shortly with our assistance.

All of the persons of varying national backgrounds who are associated with this program have several years of experience in combating communism and Soviet-inspired repression in their own countries. Many were involved in underground operations as young men during World War II, and almost all have prices on their heads. [2½ lines not declassified] The rich background provided by the cumulative experience of these men is invaluable to CIA in assuring an effective propaganda program designed to encourage a more genuinely liberal internal policy and a freer flow of ideas from the West, leading to genuine détente.

During the past year more than 500,000 books, periodicals and pamphlets have been distributed to individuals in the target areas or to travelers from the Bloc. The content and quality of these publications have been improved through closer coordination of these activities within CIA, and new distribution techniques have been introduced to evade Bloc censorship and border controls. Nearly every significant samizdat document which has been received in the West has been published and redistributed in the target area. Dissident events within the Soviet Union and the East European countries continue to receive wide publicity, not only in the Bloc, but throughout the remainder of the world. During the coming year it is planned to continue this program, expanding wherever possible.

3. Alternatives

The United States Government could disassociate itself partially or completely from Soviet Bloc émigré activities and discontinue or scale down the support given to this type of publication and distribution program. This would inevitably result in a loss of capability to maintain pressure on the Soviet and East European governments for liberalizing measures. Cessation of U.S. Government support to all or part of this program would serve to dishearten and thereby lessen the effectiveness of those Soviet and East European residents who are presently [Page 466] sustained both by the materials the programs provide and the feeling of contact with émigrés and the West. The Soviet leadership would also tend to view such a step as evidence of Western disinterest in their repressive policies, which would likely be intensified.

The publication and distribution of this type of literature to a receptive Communist audience could be subsidized by other Government agencies, or by private enterprise. There are, however, no known initiatives on the part of any other agency to enter this field, and such initiatives would lack the unattributable nature of the CIA program. Sponsorship by private corporations, institutions or universities would lack the elements of governmental control and coordination which are essential to the effective operation of the program.

4. Risks and Contingency Planning

[Omitted here is the section on “Risks and Contingency Planning.”]

5. Coordination

This covert action program was last approved by the 40 Committee on 22 September 1971. The current submission was approved on 2 January 1973 by the Deputy Director for Coordination, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State.

6. Cost

The FY 1972 costs and FY 1973 budget for this covert action program are as follows:

FY 1972 FY 1973
[Omitted here is a list of the organizations that received funding.]
TOTAL $3,014,000 $3,561,000

Funds for these programs are included in CIA’s FY 1973 budget.

7. Recommendation

It is recommended that the 40 Committee approve the continuation of this covert action program directed against the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, including the projected funding level.

  1. Source: National Security Council, Nixon Administration Intelligence Files, Subject Files, USSR. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only; Outside System. Sent for action. Sonnenfeldt and Kennedy concurred.
  2. For the report on an earlier operation, see Document 149 in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970.
  3. Kissinger initialed his approval on June 18.
  4. Sensitive; Secret; Eyes Only.