256. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Clark) to President Reagan1


  • Andropov: His Power and Program”

Bill Casey forwarded you an insightful CIA report (Tab A) entitled, “Andropov: His Power and Program.” The primary findings include:

1. The precedent of an extended period for a new Soviet leader to consolidate power does not apply. Andropov is a “leader who has come to power with firm support in the Politburo at the outset, and who has a mandate to act in both domestic and foreign affairs.” He is supported by the military, the security apparatus and powerful conservative elements of the Party.

2. Given Andropov’s promotion and apparently unchallenged accession to power, he will move promptly to address and tackle domestic and foreign issues/problems, displaying initiative and resolve where necessary. His domestic agenda might include: continuing a “vigilence” campaign to restore discipline, waging a major anti-corruption campaign, seeking additional resources for both the military and the KGB, generating limited experimentation and economic reform, [Page 842] and promoting greater realism in planning and recognition of problems. Andropov’s foreign policy agenda might entail:

—Curbing U.S. strategic modernization, preventing the INF deployment and deepening the rift between the U.S. and Western Europe.

—Permitting some flexibility toward East European efforts to cope with economic problems, but only within the context of close ties to the USSR and firm party control.

—Securing a pseudo-neutral government in Kabul which would allow Moscow to achieve some sort of regional settlement and withdraw some forces.

—Vigorously pursuing policies intended to improve Sino-Soviet relations.

The report concludes that the Soviet Union is likely to pose an even greater threat to U.S. security as we are faced with a more active, intelligent, adroit adversary—Andropov.

Tab A

Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Casey to President Reagan2


  • Andropov: His Power and Program

1. Here is a memorandum on how we now see the thrust and scope of Andropov’s program. It was prepared by Bob Gates, our Deputy Director for Intelligence, who has maintained a realistic view of Soviet purposes. He did two stints at the NSC, one with Kissinger and one with Brzezinski, and two stints at CIA as National Intelligence Officer for Soviet Affairs. You may recall that this experience was put to good use last year in analyzing Brezhnev’s correspondence with you and recommending responses.

2. One added feature which has struck me is the emerging picture of Ustinov as giving Andropov crucial support. When you put together Ustinov’s 30-odd years in command of defense industries and then defense and Andropov’s 15 years at the KGB, you get an awesome [Page 843] concentration of institutional power. To brag a little, I attach a note in which we called this six months before the event.

William J. Casey3


Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Intelligence (Gates) to Director of Central Intelligence Casey and the Deputy Director of Intelligence (McMahon)4

No. DDI # 9593–82


  • Andropov: His Power and Program

1. The emerging conventional wisdom seems to be that the USSR will now enter a period of collegial rule in which continuity will be stressed and the new leaders will hold back from significant policy changes for the near to medium term. In this view, Andropov will be preoccupied with internal matters such as improving the economy and any new initiatives that do appear will likely focus on domestic affairs rather than foreign policy. The immediate post-Khrushchev period is cited as precedent for what will happen.

2. I believe that analysis is based on a misreading of the events of recent days, Andropov’s character, and history. In 1953, a number of new initiatives followed the death of Stalin (and preceded Khrushchev’s consolidation of power)—a purge of the KGB, an end to the intra-party terror, the Virgin Lands program, a decision to end the Korean War, and a mending of relations with the Yugoslavs. In 1964, the new leaders swept aside a number of major changes Khrushchev had made in the party organization, sharply raised investment in agriculture, began the heavy military buildup on the Sino-Soviet border, and actively began to support North Vietnam’s effort to take over the South.

3. Andropov comes to power at a time when there is a widely perceived need for renewal in the USSR—to get the economy moving again, to get rid of corruption, to restore discipline, to reassert the idealism of the Revolution and relatedly to reaffirm Russia’s mission[Page 844]ary/evangelical role at home and abroad. Perversely, this often takes the shape of nostalgia for Stalin. It is his forcefulness, toughness, decisiveness and ability to move the country that the Party seeks in Andropov—believing they can have all that without the old dictator’s less welcome attributes (such as a tendency to shoot his colleagues).

4. The Soviet leadership appears to have decided last spring that Andropov was the man to lead the USSR out of its political and economic doldrums after Brezhnev’s death. He was moved from the KGB back to the Central Committee Secretariat, a more appropriate and acceptable launching point. I believe that since then he has steadily consolidated his power and begun, with his colleagues, to develop new initiatives and implement certain of them—even before assuming power. As the Soviets say, “it is not by accident” that in the last several months we have seen both a new internal crackdown in the Soviet Union and also a major new initiative in foreign policy—the effort to improve relations between the Soviet Union and China. There also are indications that the military has been asking for additional resources. In my judgment, Andropov has been behind the first two of these initiatives and supported the third.

5. In brief, I believe the precedent of an extended period for the new leader to consolidate power—as with Brezhnev after the overthrow of Khrushchev—does not apply this time around. This view is supported by Andropov’s prompt appointment; his clear authoritativeness during events surrounding Brezhnev’s funeral; his role and “presence” in meetings with the principal foreign visitors; the quick promotion of an old KGB colleague to the Politburo; and his speeches at the Central Committee Plenum and Supreme Soviet. This time we have a leader who has come to power with firm support in the Politburo at the outset, has a mandate to act in both domestic and foreign affairs, and will do so.

6. The nature of this succession and the character of Andropov himself argue strongly that he will move promptly and broadly to tackle many of Russia’s problems. For the first time in Soviet history, there has been a smooth succession where the new leader has assumed power in an orderly way and probably with greater leeway to make decisions than enjoyed by his predecessor. Indeed, Andropov has been chosen because he is a man who can make decisions and hopefully can end the long period of drift, especially in internal affairs. He is on close terms with the powerful conservative elements in the Soviet hierarchy and is a man who can act with both intelligence and imagination on a long list of pressing foreign and domestic issues. What we are likely to see with Andropov is preservation of the forms of “collegiality” but the absence of its paralyzing effect on decisionmaking. All of the senior policymakers who might block Andropov are dead or out of power; those who remain, such as Ustinov and Gromyko, are [Page 845] closely allied with him; his presumed rival, Chernenko, appears (for now, at least) to have been co-opted.

7. Given Andropov’s prompt and apparently unchallenged accession to power, his personality and past history, and the problems that face him, what might Andropov’s agenda resemble for the coming period? On the basis of both 1953 and 1964, historical experience would suggest that a number of changes or initiatives can be expected:

Internal Affairs

—A continuation of the “vigilance” campaign and internal crackdown to restore discipline, to give the impression of a strong hand at the top again, to forestall any impression of internal relaxation as a result of the succession, to keep the country well under control so that other initiatives or reforms do not lead to unrealistic expectations or spontaneous popular action, and to secure the home front for perhaps severe measures to revive the economy.

—A major anti-corruption campaign by a man who is said to have a reputation for being relatively “clean” among Soviet leaders. The promotion of Aliyev to the Politburo further suggests action in this area. It is plain that many of the present political problems in Poland and Romania grow out of popular awareness and resentment of the corruption of senior party officials. While Andropov would have to proceed carefully with this, the KGB’s role in exposing the corruption of Brezhnev’s family early in the year is indicative of his willingness to use this issue both politically and for larger ends. With his KGB background, he would know against whom to strike. There might even be a return of an occasional show trial specifically for corruption, although Andropov would choose the targets with care to insulate his strongest supporters.

—It seems logical and likely that Andropov would press for additional resources for both the military and the KGB. These are important constituencies for him and for his principal supporters in the leadership. While there might be some reallocation of priorities within the military, overall greater resources to respond to the perceived increased threat from the US are in the cards, in my view.

—On the economy, while specific policies are difficult to forecast at this point, we should expect “reform” and perhaps some limited experimentation. The focus on internal discipline, anti-corruption and vigilance—in essence, the maintenance of strict internal controls—must go hand in hand with any effort to undertake economic reform or experiments, witness the Polish experience. While a more detailed analysis of economic options available to the new leadership will take more time, the essential message is that we should anticipate change in this area and it seems likely to involve (1) greater trade with the [Page 846] West, (2) more problems for us in the area of technology transfer, and (3) more difficulty with our Western and Japanese allies over the issue of trade with the East. The idea of Andropov’s willingness to consider reform in the Soviet economy is suggested by stories that he has been the protector of Hungarian economic reform and is willing to consider such new approaches—although Hungary is obviously a much smaller country and the costs of failure are not as high (always a disincentive to agricultural reform in Russia).

—In the Party itself, I expect to see Andropov move to improve the competence of senior officials generally while ensuring that the new men are sympathetic to his objectives and politically supportive. He already is placing his own people in openings on the Politburo, Secretariat, and elsewhere in the hierarchy.

—More generally, Andropov’s advocacy at the Supreme Soviet of greater realism in planning and recognition of problems, and the call of an important Soviet newspaper editorial last week for a major revamping of the Soviet bureaucracy, both suggest that significant changes are in store internally.

Foreign Policy

US: Andropov seems likely to pursue a policy directed at achieving simultaneously some visible reduction in tensions with the United States, curbing new US arms programs, preventing the deployment of INF, and dividing the US from its European allies. A conciliatory approach to the United States and effective use of peace-oriented propaganda and “active measures” are to be expected. The Soviets will try to reinforce notions already current in the West of the need for forthcoming gestures to the new Soviet leader and the need to take advantage of this “new beginning.” While the European decision on INF remains uncertain it would seem most unlikely for the Soviets to abandon the Geneva talks. Rather, we should be prepared for imaginative Soviet initiatives both in negotiations and in public in the next few months to throw the US on the defensive and increase divisions between the Europeans and ourselves. Should INF deployment actually begin, the Soviets could then walk out in Geneva and blame failure on the US. They would subsequently strive to prevent full deployment by playing on European fears and purported US intransigence.

The Soviets have seen a steady deterioration in US-Soviet relations for seven years under three US administrations. I believe they have concluded that the moment for establishing a more benign relationship on their terms has passed. Arms control negotiations and other forms of cooperation with the US government are likely considered to hold out little prospect of success for years to come. Thus, Andropov probably will focus Soviet policy on isolating the US and trying, through [Page 847] all instruments available to him, to build opposition to US military modernization and to US policies toward the USSR generally, both in the US and abroad.

East-West Trade: Andropov likely will continue efforts to tie East and West Europe to the USSR through economic “cooperation” and trade. The Soviets already are aware of the leverage they hold because of the value of East-West trade to the West and the jobs said to depend upon it. Trade thus has both economic and political benefits for them. Andropov presumably will strive to maximize these benefits and seek a corollary benefit in the strains such increased dealings will bring between the US and its allies. After removal by the US of sanctions imposed after Afghanistan and after Poland, this instrument of US policy will have little credibility in the future in Soviet eyes. Indeed, Andropov will see the US as little more than an annoyance in the area of trade and technology transfer, unable to impose discipline inside the US, much less in Europe and Japan.

Eastern Europe: Andropov reportedly has evinced considerable hostility to the Yugoslavs, Romanians and Czechs in the past—implying little tolerance for deviation from loyalty to Moscow and political orthodoxy. Almost as proof, his meeting with the Yugoslavs after the Brezhnev funeral was “harsh” and he pointedly snubbed Ceausescu. On the other hand, he is said to be close to Kadar of Hungary and a protector of Hungarian economic reforms. This and other information suggests some flexibility toward East European efforts to cope with economic problems but only within the context of close ties to the USSR and firm party control. As in the USSR, Andropov could well urge his East European colleagues to impose stricter discipline at home—accompanied by a campaign to root out obvious and damaging corruption in high places, perhaps by making examples of some officials.

Afghanistan: Afghanistan seems to be a candidate for a new Soviet initiative to try to diminish in some measure both the insurgency there and their military role. It continues to be an embarrassment for them in Islamic countries as well as in the West, it does impose a certain military cost in both materiel and casualties, and it is an obstacle to any significant reconciliation with the Chinese. Some new initiative combining a new government with some greater legitimacy in Afghanistan (although still under Soviet control) coupled with strong pressure on Pakistan to abandon its supporting role for the insurgents could conceivably meet with some success if orchestrated well by the Soviets. It could involve a government in Kabul with a figleaf image of neutrality and a diminution of support for the insurgents that would allow the Soviets to withdraw at least some of their forces.

Middle East: The short term options are not bright, but the Soviets are prepared to be patient. Egypt and Iran are the big prizes and [Page 848] Andropov will pursue overt and covert policies designed to take advantage of any instability in either country.

Kampuchea: Kampuchea is another area where the Soviets could make some concessions to the Chinese for larger ends. Never before have the Soviets shown any particular sensitivity to Hanoi’s concerns. While Vietnam might not abandon its campaign in Kampuchea under Soviet pressure, the Soviets still could claim to the Chinese that they were no longer supporting Vietnam’s effort and were amenable to new political arrangements that could be worked out. This might involve some sort of face saving settlements that would not represent a defeat for Vietnam but would get most of their troops out of the country.

Third World: In the Third World, I believe we can expect not only a continuation of the direct and indirect destabilization activities the Soviets have had underway in recent years but perhaps an increase in that activity. In many ways Soviet policy in the Third World is likely to be indicative of a more assertive Soviet role abroad generally, although as our papers on Andropov have made clear, he prefers to win by strategem and maneuver rather than resort to force—although he will use force if maneuvering fails and the risks are deemed acceptable.

China: As I have suggested in several places above, I believe Andropov is playing a key role in the new initiative to try and patch things up with China. At some point, this will involve tough decisions for the Soviets because any real reconciliation with China will require acceding to Chinese preconditions relating to Afghanistan, Kampuchea or Soviet deployments along the Chinese border. The latter is probably the easiest area for the Soviets to be responsive. Andropov’s pointed conversation with Foreign Minister Huang Hua after Brezhnev’s funeral, the meeting between Huang Hua and Gromyko the next day and Chinese willingness to send Huang Hua is indicative of both powers intent to pursue an improved relationship at minimum and to improve their mutual positions with respect to the US.

8. In sum, the US faces a new and, in many ways, far more intelligent and skillful adversary than we confronted in Khrushchev or Brezhnev—and a man who is a “doer”. He is familiar with the world and a realist. My money says we will face a much greater challenge from the USSR under his leadership. While the specifics of his program are difficult to construct, we should be prepared for significant new Soviet initiatives in both internal and foreign policy. A leadership has come to power during the last two weeks in the Soviet Union with greater power and more unity at the highest level than after either the succession in 1953 or 1964. It has come to power with considerable work to do and Andropov is not a man who will delay in setting in motion initiatives to address a number of issues and problems. The effort to [Page 849] repair relations with China—long thought out of the question by most analysts in the West—is indicative of the kind of flexibility, pragmatism and boldness we can expect from this new leader. His talks with the Yugoslavs and Finns are indicative of his willingness to play hard ball.

Robert M. Gates


Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Casey to President Reagan5


  • Soviet Political Succession: Institutions, People and Policies

1. With Suslov’s death, Kirilenko fading away, and the inception of the Chernenko boom, I tasked our Soviet analysts to evaluate the prospects for the Soviet succession.

2. In recent weeks Chernenko appears to have peaked too soon, with Andropov emerging as the present favorite. Ustinov has the military clout and seems to be lining up with Andropov, but may be positioning himself for partnership or even competition. Under pressure, forced to stick our necks out on a dark horse, we pick Grishin, the 67 year old Moscow party boss and fourth youngest member of the Politburo, and Gorbachev, at 51 the youngest Politburo member, who is Party Secretary for Agriculture, a post which Khrushchev held on his way to the top. Brezhnev also was deeply involved in agricultural matters on his way up.

3. If I had to bet money, I’d take Andropov on the nose and Gorbachev across the board.

4. This paper6 analyzes the influence of various Soviet institutions, the policy issues which might be influential in the outcome, and the policy implications of possible resolutions.

William J. Casey7
  1. Source: Reagan Library, Matlock Files, Andropov [6]. Secret. Sent for information. Prepared by Dobriansky. Printed from an uninitialed copy. A stamped notation on the memorandum reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. Secret. Also addressed to Bush, Shultz, Weinberger, and Clark
  3. Casey signed “W.J. Casey” above his typed signature.
  4. Secret.
  5. Secret. Also addressed to Bush, Haig, Weinberger, Meese, Baker, Deaver, and Clark.
  6. Not found attached.
  7. Casey signed “W.J. Casey” above his typed signature.