273. Memorandum From Paul Henze of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Dissidence in Eastern Europe and the USSR—Are We Doing Enough? (U)

Dissidence in this paper is used to mean not simply actions by regime critics who achieve prominence, but the entire range of activity, some obvious, some extremely unobtrusive, which generates pressures for freedom of thought and expression, human rights and the advantages of a pluralistic society. (U)

[Page 793]

On the demonstrative and declarative level the record of the Carter Administration is second to none in the past fifteen years. The President has personally identified himself with prominent Soviet dissidents such as Bukovsky, Shcharansky and Sakharov and during his visit to Poland2 insisted on contact with both dissident and church figures. Other Administration officials, most notably yourself, have repeatedly met, endorsed and communicated with dissidents in the USSR and Eastern Europe. The “spies for dissidents”3 exchange you arranged last year was one of the most politically astute moves the U.S. Government has ever made on behalf of Soviet dissidents. The Administration’s human rights policy has generated worldwide debate on human rights on which dissidents in Communist societies have capitalized. Our participation in the Belgrade CSCE meetings under the vigorous leadership of Arthur Goldberg underscored our commitment to principle and highlighted Soviet efforts to avoid honoring commitments they accepted in 1975. The Administration took early decisions which will soon expand the power of VOA and RFE/RL. (U)

Other programs for communicating with Eastern Europe and the USSR have been modestly expanded. (S)

Allocation of resources—both manpower and money—to programs encouraging dissidence and serving the needs of dissidence has not been proportionate to the high level of attention the Administration has given this field in statements and demonstrative actions.4 There have been other problems in respect to performance and procedure. No new operational instrumentalities have been created for implementing human rights policies, sustaining research effort and channeling and coordinating human rights initiatives on a self-propelled basis. (C)

Human rights have been overly politicized domestically as a result of priority assigned by the State Department to more energetic pursuit of human rights issues with non-Communist Latin American and African countries than with Communist-ruled states. As a result human rights is in danger of becoming a negative concept among conservatives both in the U.S. and abroad. The subject needs to be brought into better balance. (C)

Our most valuable instruments for communication with Eastern Europe and the USSR are the big radios. New investment in transmitters has not been matched by comparable investment in programming. Though budgetary allocations for broadcasting have risen each year, they have not been sufficient to offset inflationary increases in [Page 794]both the U.S. and Europe and the declining value of the dollar. As a result manpower rejuvenation and expansion of programming and research support have continued to be postponed. The effect is evident in decline in Radio Liberty listenership in the USSR. New investment for programming improvement is urgently needed. This has been strikingly demonstrated as we have taken up the question of broadcasting in Muslim languages, where Radio Liberty’s current level of performance is only a fraction of its potential. The same is true to a lesser extent for VOA. (C)

Book and publication programs for Eastern Europe and the USSR, like the radios, provide the basic seed and fertilizer on which dissidence is nourished. These programs were at a low ebb in 1977, at a far lower level of real-dollar input than they had been ten years earlier. They have received modest increases each of the past four years but are still, at a total expenditure of less than $5 million per year, funded at levels which do not enable them to exploit the new opportunities for penetrating the Communist world with ideas and information which are constantly developing.5 Samizdat and tamizdat available for republishing and distribution into Eastern Europe and the USSR are becoming available at a much faster rate than they are able to take advantage of because of limitations of funds and manpower. (S)

Realization of the importance of Islam, national self-assertion among the Muslim peoples of the USSR (as well as Christian peoples such as the Balts, Ukrainians and Georgians) and the ferment and feedback generated by events in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, (inter alia the resultant suppression of dissidents of which the Sakharov exile is only the most flagrant example) are developments which have highlighted new opportunities. Existing resources are inadequate to meet these opportunities. Existing manpower working on these subjects is insufficient to do all the research and operational planning that is required. (C)


Programs for exploiting dissidence in Eastern Europe and the USSR (and perhaps Cuba as well?) are, comparatively, in terms of the continuing effect they generate within Communist societies, the most cost-effective activity the U.S. Government undertakes. (U)

While maintaining and refining its verbal commitment and demonstrative public actions in behalf of dissidents and human rights in these countries, the Administration should urgently consider immediate increases [Page 795]in resources allocated to these activities. At a minimum they merit classification as essential national security operations subject to real annual increase of 3–5% on a par with defense outlays.6 (U)

• The creation of one or more semi-autonomous institutions for sustained implementation of human rights goals, with perhaps a combination of governmental and private funding, should be urgently studied. (C)

Expansion and refinement of radio programming by all instrumentalities available—VOA, RFE/RL—should be undertaken at a steady tempo. (U)

• Plans should be made for future expansion of radio transmitters to counter continued Soviet increases in transmitter power and efforts to jam our transmissions. The long lead-time required for building transmitters makes this essential. (C)

Expansion of publication and distribution operations should also be undertaken. Even modest increments of funds enable existing publication and distribution projects to perform at a much higher level of efficiency. E.g., publishing 6,000 rather than 3,000 copies of a Ukrai-nian dissident book costs much less than the initial cost of the original 3,000. (S)

A tape-cassette distribution program should be developed to augment existing book and magazine programs; there is increasing evidence that cassettes are popular and effective in the Communist world. (S)

• Substantively, areas and peoples who are poorly served by current or even planned publication and distribution programs include:

—The Baltic States, especially the Lithuanians.

—The Ukrainians.

—The Caucasus, including the Georgians, Armenians and Muslim peoples. (C)

Religion, not only Islam, should be given higher priority for planning new operations. E.g., the potential of persistent Orthodox tradition in the Ukraine and among Russians as a focal point for anti-Communist nationalism (or nationalism that regards Communism as irrelevant) needs to be examined. (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 56, Chron: 4/15–18/80. Secret. Copies were sent to Griffith (presumably, William E.), Brement, and Stephen Larrabee. Brzezinski wrote in the upper right-hand corner, “Good memo. Consult with MB/LB on possible implementation. What steps? What means? ZB.” MB/LB presumably refers to Marshall Brement and Lincoln Bloomfield, both members of the NSC staff. Two papers, “The U.S. and Dissidence in Eastern Europe,” and “U.S. Government Initiatives on behalf of Human Rights in the U.S.S.R.,” are attached but not printed.
  2. Carter visited Poland December 29–31, 1977.
  3. See Documents 157 and 159.
  4. Brzezinski highlighted a portion of this sentence and made a check mark in the margin.
  5. Brzezinski highlighted this sentence and the one previous, and made a check mark in the margin. For more information on the Eastern Europe/U.S.S.R. book programs, see Document 162.
  6. Brzezinski wrote in the margin, “reprogramming of budget (CIA).”