79. Memorandum From Stephen Larrabee of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Aaron)1


  • Jamming of VOA (U)

As of 9:00 a.m. this morning the Soviets began jamming VOA (in Russian, Ukrainian and Armenian) as well as BBC and Deutsche Welle. This is the first time that the Soviets have jammed VOA since they ceased jamming it in August 1973. (Radio Liberty of course has continued to be jammed.) As far as can be ascertained at the moment, RFE broadcasts to Eastern Europe not previously jammed—i.e., Poland, Rumania and Hungary—have experienced no increased interference or jamming. (C)

The last time that the Soviets resumed jamming of VOA was in August 1968 just after the invasion of Czechoslovakia. (Prior to that, VOA had not been jammed since 1963.) The Soviet action most likely reflects the Soviets’ fear of the impact on their own population of news about the unrest in Poland. The fact that Deutsche Welle is also being jammed reinforces the view that the Soviet action is primarily related to Poland (rather than Afghanistan or some other event). Moreover, given the Ukraine’s close historical ties and geographic proximity to Poland—as well as its strong indigenous nationalism—it is no accident that the Soviets have begun jamming VOA’s Ukrainian service as well. (C)

The Soviet action is an important development. It is a clear violation of the Helsinki Accords and attests to their intense concern about the impact of news about the Polish unrest on their own population. The Soviets would not undertake such a move lightly, since it will affect their relations not only with us but with other West Europeans, particularly the West Germans. Moreover, it is likely that the jamming will endure well beyond the duration of the unrest in Poland. (C)

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Attached at Tab A is a statement condemning the Soviet action, which I asked State to draft.2 It has been cleared by Christopher. BBC has already issued a statement and I think we should release ours immediately. State agrees. I also think it should be released by State. Al Friendly concurs.


That you approve release by State of the attached statement.3 (U)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 9, Board for International Broadcasting (RFE, RL, VOA): 2–9/80. Confidential. Sent for action. In a brief memorandum to Carter the same day, Aaron reported that VOA was being jammed by the Soviets and noted that the last time this happened was prior to the invasion of Czechoslovakia. (Ibid.) Carter initialed Aaron’s memorandum, indicating that he saw it.
  2. Not attached. The Department released the statement on August 20 and sent it to Moscow as guidance in telegram 221806 to Moscow, August 20. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800398–0167)
  3. Aaron approved the recommendation. On September 19, ICA Director Reinhardt sent a memorandum to Brzezinski on the status of Soviet VOA jamming as well as VOA attempts to counter Soviet actions. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 9, Board for International Broadcasting (RFE, RL, VOA): 2–9/80)