56. Telegram From the Embassy in Chile to the Department of State1

3333. For Crimmins.

1. Embtel 33252 sent today provides details of an anti-Soviet operation [less than 1 line not declassified] published in Mercurio as a series entitled the Kunakov Archives. The purpose of this message is two-fold: to transmit my assessment of its effects and to request Dept support of my recommendations.

2. The Kunakov Archives operation was executed under a stand-ing [less than 1 line not declassified] mandate that encourages such activities. It was mounted with the high professional skill [less than 1 line not declassified] although the content of the series so far justifies Patricio Silva’s deprecatory comments (Embtel 3325).

3. No one in the Embassy including myself had any knowledge of the Kunakov operation until they read Mercurio Sunday morning. I have now been informed it was long in preparation. Major targetting of the Soviets during the final months of the electoral campaign was explicity and repeatedly prohibited by me in talks the past few months (most recently two weeks ago) [2 lines not declassified]. I have heard no acceptable explanation for my lack of prior information.

4. The point of this message however is not to provoke recriminations over what is done and cannot be undone. Indeed I would implore the Department to eschew such wasteful indulgences and concentrate on the future and the implications for US interests of the Kunakov Archives. [2 lines not declassified]

5. My only preoccupation is that US interests be protected as best they can in a particularly vulnerable pre-electoral period and for the post-electoral years. Publication at this time of the Kunakov Archives in the [name not declassified] Mercurio is my considered judgement ex[Page 159]traordinarily inopportune. To any sophisticated reader (and I must assume that the hyper-sensitive Foreign Ministry of this country, many other Christian Democrats and other officials are sophisticated) the archives bear the imprint of the USG. [8 lines not declassified]

6. [less than 1 line not declassified] nobody could prove anything involving the US since the documents that form the basis for the articles are authentic. While I welcome the affirmation, it does not alter the impact; I do not require any overt Chilean response to measure that effect since there are many Americans in our Mission who promptly drew the same conclusion that Chileans will draw. In political life, it is what people believe that determines their future actions.

7. I am particularly concerned about the long-term effects on a Christian Democratic Party that is already nursing frustrations with the USG on many doctrinaire and practical levels. The Kunakov Archives mention one detail that will particularly strike a sensitive nerve; it concerns an operation prior to my posting to Chile [3 lines not declassified]. Recently UnderSec of Foreign Affairs Patricio Silva made reference to it in a conversation with the DCM. [2½ lines not declassified]

8. If Tomic loses as badly as everyone expects, the campaign of terror [less than 1 line not declassified] will be held responsible by many in the PDC and a significant portion of that party will not forget. The Kunakov Archives will confirm their suspicions that the US had something of a hand in the campaign of terror and that, in turn, will be interpreted as a purely pro-Alessandri intervention despite the Frei conviction that anti-Communism was the critical electoral element. So the likes of Senator Fuentealba will batten once again on the US and will solidify these anti-US elements in a party that still represents the center of the Chilean spectrum and the repository of longer-term hopes of fashioning a broader centrist coalition.

9. Dept is aware of my decision to postpone until after the elections action on the agricultural sector loan. The PDC will interpret that action as less than supportive of its Presidential candidate. Dept also aware of Valdes’ bruised feelings that have most recently been rubbed by Frei’s forcing him to withdraw the denunciation of the extradition treaty which in turn has prompted Valdes to retaliate via the French Ambassador’s unthinking indiscretions on personal security and to have me disinvited to a Presidential lunch this week in honor of Paul Rosenstein-Rodan. There is much more that could be added to verify the less than happy relationship we have with the PDC but I must also report that Valdes has told the PDC leadership that “in his heart of hearts, Korry is for Tomic”.

10. We have calculated and accepted the political costs on Phase One including its effects on the PDC. We had not included in our reckoning the untimely Kunakov Archives. [5½ lines not declassified]

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11. After due consideration (since Sunday morning) I am persuaded that Phase Two can proceed with certain extra-precautions and with some restrictions that will be dictated by local circumstances. I recognize that my capacity to influence the PDC and Frei has been damaged but as I have stressed in other messages, Chilean structures and Chilean personages predominate so much that our Phase Two role is very much now a modest reenforcing one. [2 lines not declassified] Hence we cannot lose sight of our principal goal, particularly when it will not involve additional vulnerability or damage.3

12. Finally I have issued explicit instructions in writing [less than 1 line not declassified] that are designed to assure my total knowledge and control over all operations. My immediate purpose is to assure maximum concentration of effort while minimizing risks in the weeks remaining prior to the inauguration of a new President.

13. I have no objection to your showing this message to [name not declassified].

  1. Source: Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, INR/IL Historical Files, Chile, January–August 1970. Secret; Priority; Roger Channel.
  2. Telegram 3325 from Santiago, August 25, reported: “Influential conservative daily El Mercurio today (Aug 25) ran third installment of so-called ‘Kunakov File’, purported exposé of Soviet espionage activity in Chile. Mercurio’s Soviet expert Jural Domic, under whose by-line series appears, writes that Oleg Kunakov Gottmann, Chilean-born official of Chilean-Soviet Cultural Inst, entrusted notes, memoranda, journal entries and contact lists to him shortly before death, ostensibly of heart attack, in March 1970. Documents record Kunakov’s activities, and Soviet and Chilean contacts and reflections. These documents focus more specifically on the Soviet Embassy—PCCh (Chilean Communist Party) relationship, dating from time of Kunakov’s recruitment in late 1967. Domic insinuates that Kunakov’s premature demise was caused by poisoning.” (Ibid.) See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–16, Documents on Chile, 1969–1973, Document 15.
  3. An unidentified handwritten notation at the end of this paragraph reads: “But Cf. ¶5. If episode provides link between U.S. and Alessandri campaign it equally establishes the triangle: [less than 1 line not declassified].”