41. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State-Designate for European Affairs (Eagleburger), the Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (Spiers), and the Director of Policy Planning (Wolfowitz) to Secretary of State Haig 1


  • Countering Soviet Covert Action and Propaganda

As part of the Administration’s effort to focus attention on Soviet international conduct and to bring about Soviet restraint, there is a particular need to collect and disseminate information on Soviet subversive activities around the world. And we need to urge other governments to counter Soviet operations. This memo sets forth a precis of our current planning to structure an action program to expose the extent of KGB and other Soviet Bloc subversion. We request your approval for the general thrust of our efforts.

A broad effort might include the following elements:

1. Information: We need a better fix on the dimensions of the problem in order to provide case-study evidence of the potential consequences for nations tolerating Soviet intelligence and subversive activities within their borders. Particular attention could be paid to Soviet penetration of intellectual movements, trade unions, peace and church groups in Europe and elsewhere.

The first step is to establish the facts. INR can take the lead in working with other members of the intelligence community to produce a basic estimate on Soviet activities designed to foment and support subversion and revolution abroad. Soundings at the staff level indicate that an NIE-type product could be done in six weeks time.

We then can develop classified and unclassified materials, and communicate our intelligence through a variety of channels. CIA is doing some of this already, but they could use encouragement from us to do more. Examples of our work which might find an overseas audience:

—Size, organization and scope of Soviet and Bloc intelligence operations.

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Case studies of how the Soviets have worked over the years to achieve influence sufficient to manipulate the internal affairs of certain nations on key issues. Afghanistan would be one example. Examples of the Soviet campaign of combined propaganda/covert action directed against the modernization of theater nuclear weapons in NATO and the previous campaign against the ERW might be appropriate. Examples of KGB activities in Mexico, Central America, Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia and India would also be timely.

—A detailed statistical study of official Soviet and Bloc personnel levels in particular countries along with our estimate of the number of intelligence operatives.

—Development of books and informational materials on KGB/GRU methods of operation.

—Special attention to the Soviet use of the UN for its propaganda efforts and certain covert action operations designed to reinforce overt propaganda lines.

2. Diplomatic: We should also launch a carefully targeted effort to encourage potentially receptive governments: (1) to monitor more closely Soviet intelligence activities, (2) to place greater constraints on their activities, and (3) to trim them back numerically where possible. In this effort, any informational materials we had developed could be used to demonstrate first to government leaders and to key decision makers and opinion groups the risks of an uncontrolled Soviet presence in their country. Intelligence channels, Ambassadorial approaches, as well as special ICA-type programs and activities could be employed as appropriate. The global nature of the Soviet threat would be important; e.g., Pakistan’s recent action limiting Soviet intelligence activities might be having an effect on Bangladesh President Zia, whom we have long been urging to take similar actions in his own country. Furthermore, a coordinated worldwide effort would tend to give credibility to assurances many governments would seek from us that they would not be alone if the Soviets reacted punitively.

3. Domestic: The U.S. will need to demonstrate seriousness about the Soviet threat inside the U.S. if we are to be credible in urging other nations to take action. We are vulnerable to criticism given the scale of Soviet intelligence activities permitted in the U.S. Passage of the Foreign Missions Act would give us one specific action to cite. Through the ICCUSA mechanism, a range of measures are being taken or are under study to ensure strict reciprocity in our bilateral relations with the Soviets. Many of these measures have direct relevance to Soviet intelligence activities in the U.S.—such as stricter limitation of travel by Soviet diplomats, UN Missions officers, and visitors; and monitoring of Soviet contacts and access in the U.S. In the event of Soviet intervention in Poland we and our allies would consider major reductions of Soviet diplomatic and commercial personnel in our countries.

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We are in the process of developing these and other ideas into a strategy which would combine State, CIA and ICA resources (diplomatic, intelligence and public) to place the spot-light on Soviet activities and launch mutually-reinforcing efforts by a number of nations to restrain them. We will be talking to CIA and ICA about them but seek your approval for the general thrust of the effort as outlined above.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S–I Records, Lot 96D262, 1981 ES Sensitive April 11–19, 1979–1983. Secret; Sensitive. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates Haig saw it.
  2. Haig initialed his approval and wrote: “Good.”