4. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

PAM 81–10314

Radio Jamming Policy in the East Bloc [portion marking not declassified]

The Soviet Union, its East European allies, Vietnam, and Cuba consider strict control over internal information and propaganda vital to their security. All these governments therefore believe that the international radiobroadcasting activities of other countries pose a threat to their political security. Nonetheless, how each government deals with the influx of information from abroad depends on its assessment of the vulnerability of its regime and society to outside influences, on foreign policy considerations, and on the practicality of various countermeasures. [portion marking not declassified]

This paper examines the policies of the Soviet Union and its allies on information control including:

The impact of international and internal situations as well as foreign broadcasting practices and policies on the respective Communist governments that leads them to inhibit the international flow of information, including an examination of jamming policies and practices.
The possible reactions of these regimes to future Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and Radio Liberty programming, including possible expansion of these services, changes in their frequencies or enhancement of their signals, and changes in targeting. [portion marking not declassified]

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Soviet Concepts

The Soviet Union is aware of the influence propaganda and information has on public opinion and fears that an influx of unregulated foreign propaganda and information would be inimical to the security of the Soviet regime. The USSR believes that it must retain full control over the media if it is to retain control over society. All information from abroad must, therefore, be censored to exclude what Moscow considers slander about the USSR. The Soviet Union insists on the right to be the final judge of what information is “illegal” or interferes with its internal affairs. Moscow has sought international recognition of a government’s right to restrict the international flow of information. The Soviets cite several UN documents as giving the USSR a legal right to jam broadcasts that “incite to war, advocate national, racial, religious hatred or violence or that violate Soviet national sovereignty” (that is, violates the physical, economic, or social environment, or information practices, within the Soviet borders). [portion marking not declassified]

Soviet Policy Toward the US Radios

Moscow’s public posture toward the American radios has been vocally hostile over the years, with the intensity of vituperation varying in accordance with fluctuations in East-West relations, changes in US broadcasting policy, and the conditions in the target countries. While Moscow has generally lumped Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe (RFE), and Radio Liberty (RL) together as subversive transmitters, it has directed most of its specific complaints at the Munich-based RFE and RL because their programming deals mainly with the internal affairs of the East European countries and the Soviet Union while VOA programming is intended to convey and explain US events and policy. [portion marking not declassified]

The Soviet practice of jamming the broadcasts of VOA, RFE, and RL began following World War II when the West dominated international organizations. Soviet attempts to gain international controls over the increased international broadcasts reaching the Soviet Union and the allocation of frequencies failed. Soviet jamming practices, like its propaganda attacks on the radios, have been influenced by the international situation, the status of US-USSR relations and internal conditions of the Soviet Union and its allies. [portion marking not declassified]

For jamming purposes, Soviet policy has differentiated between VOA, “a national station,” and RFE and RL. Jamming of RFE and RL broadcasts has continued unabated since the practice began in 1949. The Soviets consider the two radios illegal, accuse them of being [Page 10] managed in one form or another by the CIA, and cite them for interference in the internal affairs of the USSR and of conducting “psychological warfare.” The employment of Soviet emigres and dissidents by the two radios is particularly irksome to Moscow. [portion marking not declassified]

Soviet Jamming Practices

To date there have been four times when Moscow has chosen to change its practices in jamming VOA broadcasts. The initial period of Soviet jamming of VOA began in 1949 and lasted with a few sporadic interruptions until 1963 when Soviet jamming of VOA broadcasts ceased at the time of the signing of the US-Soviet “hotline” agreement2 and the Limited Test Ban Treaty.3 [portion marking not declassified]

The Soviet Union resumed jamming of VOA broadcasts in August 1968. Moscow was apparently concerned about Western views of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia reaching Soviet and East European audiences. [portion marking not declassified]

In the atmosphere of detente following the 1972 signing of the SALT I agreements, and in an effort to appear cooperative with the West on communication issues during the negotiations leading to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), Moscow again ceased jamming VOA broadcasts in 1973. This decision was probably taken by Moscow in the hope of gaining concessions from the West on the security issues of CSCE that were of particular interest to Moscow. [portion marking not declassified]

Moscow stepped up its hostile comment on the American radios in 1978 when the Carter Administration took a more open position on US Government support for all three radios through the establishment of the International Communication Agency (ICA) to replace USIA and the formation of the Board for International Broadcasting (BIB) to sponsor RFE and RL.4 According to an Izvestiya article of 27 March 1979, these changes destroyed “the myth about the ‘private nature’ of the subversive Munich radio stations,” which were now “transferred to the same building and placed on the same footing as the Government’s VOA.” The post-1978 period has been marked by a proliferation of Soviet propaganda charges that the US Government has stepped up its financial support for the “subversive” broadcasts of the three American radios. [portion marking not declassified]

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Jamming of VOA broadcasts did not recur, however, until August 1980 during the Polish labor crisis.5 US-Soviet relations had already deteriorated following the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union apparently was more concerned at the time about its own domestic labor and economic situation than about giving the West additional ammunition that could be used against the USSR at the CSCE review conference in Madrid.6 [portion marking not declassified]

Soviet comment has shown a marked increase in sensitivity to broadcasts by the three radios since the start of the Polish crisis last year. They have been portrayed by Moscow as virtually stage managing “antisocialist” activities in Poland. In particular, Pravda commentator Yuriy Zhukov has charged that RFE openly acknowledges its direct involvement in the post-August Polish events. Soviet comment includes the allegations that RFE “guides” the independent Solidarity union and that it has assembled files on Polish citizens for use by CIA agents in Poland. Soviet media have charged on several occasions that RFE transmissions carry “coded” or “secret” messages to conspiratorial elements in Poland. [portion marking not declassified]

Prospects for Future Behavior

Soviet reactions toward Western radiobroadcasts undoubtedly will continue to be shaped in the future by the same political considerations that have dominated them in the last 30 years. Jamming of incoming foreign radiobroadcasts will be used by Moscow to limit the exposure of the Soviet population to uncensored versions of events and information that Moscow believes could possibly cause internal dissension. Moscow undoubtedly will continue to want only Soviet versions of events to reach Soviet audiences. The USSR can be expected to modify its jamming practices again, but only when US-Soviet relations have improved and when it feels a political advantage can be gained. At present, Moscow is probably concerned about the attitude of the present US administration toward it and toward the utility of broadcasting into the USSR, and does not see any political advantage to be gained by modifying its jamming practices. [portion marking not declassified]

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Based on past evidence, an enhancement of US radio propaganda aimed at Communist target countries probably would have a negative impact on Soviet perceptions of US policy, although other aspects of US policy would be more important determinants of those perceptions. Soviets are already persuaded that the present administration has an “anti-Soviet” attitude and would view such an increase as a further sign a Washington’s ill-intent. In addition to more vehement media attacks on the American radios and continued or increased jamming, Moscow could tighten political controls to shield the Soviet audiences from US broadcasts and other sources of Western information, and it could help its allies jam foreign radiobroadcasts. [portion marking not declassified]

Central Asia. The Soviet Union has always been concerned about its ability to maintain control over its minority nationalities. It is particularly concerned today about its Central Asian populations as a result of events in the Middle East, including the resurgence of Islam. Today one in every six Soviet citizens comes from a Muslim background. If the present high birthrate among Soviet Muslims continues, demographics dictate that by the year 2000 this ratio will narrow to between one in four and one in three. The traditionally Muslim nationalities live mainly in the Central Asian republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kirgiziya, Kazakhstan, and Tadzhikistan, and in Azerbaydzhan in the Transcaucasus. Soviet Muslims maintain a strong sense of their separate identity, bolstered by their adherence to Islam. Although official government policy aims at overcoming “religious survivals,” some Western surveys indicate that as much as 80 percent of the Central Asian population continues to hold on to its religious affiliation. [portion marking not declassified]

Recent events in Iran and Afghanistan have undoubtedly unsettled Soviet authorities and made them anxious about the possible impact of foreign radiobroadcasts, particularly those of the West and Iran, on the Central Asian republics. In 1979, for example, the head of the Turkmen party Department of Propaganda and Agitation asserted that most of the Turkmen population had been listening to religious broadcasts from Radio Gorgan in Iran and that tape recordings of these broadcasts had been made by mullahs and replayed before groups of Muslims throughout the republic. He said that the impact of the broadcasts had been appreciable and that surveys conducted among the population of four local districts showed the Iranian religious programs helped sustain Islamic religious and social customs in these areas. [portion marking not declassified]

In December 1980 the chairman of the KGB in Azerbaydzhan warned that the Soviet Union’s enemies were carrying out ideological sabotage in the republic. In an article appearing in the party daily newspaper, he stressed the need for increased vigilance and denounced RFE and RL, accusing them of “using the Islamic religion to influence [Page 13] the political situation in our country, especially where the Muslim population resides.” Concern over the ability of Western propaganda to exploit religion was also evident in the remarks made by Central Asian leaders at the 26th Party Congress earlier this year. [portion marking not declassified]

Moscow thus has been particularly careful to maintain control over the flow of information into Soviet Central Asia. [less than 3 lines not declassified] US Embassy officers who traveled to Central Asia in April 1980 reported that the population was effectively isolated from non-Soviet sources of information about events in Afghanistan and Iran. Against this background, it must be assumed that the regime would counter any expansion or technical enhancement of Western radiobroadcasting to the area. [portion marking not declassified]

Afghanistan. Afghanistan is of particular concern to the Soviet Union because the USSR has not succeeded in gaining full military or political control and its presence there continues to attract unwanted international attention and criticism. Moscow clearly wants to maintain control over the information reaching the Afghan population. Soviet military forces in Afghanistan have already demonstrated their ability to locate and either jam or destroy clandestine rebel radios, which were operating inside Afghanistan prior to the invasion. Some evidence suggests that they selectively jam anti-Soviet and anti-Afghan broadcasts coming from Pakistan, Iran, China, and Egypt. If the United States increases broadcasts targeted at the Afghans, the Soviets probably will seek to block them. Since the main Soviet concern is the Afghan population, however, an increase in Russian-language broadcasts to Afghanistan might not necessarily result in an increased jamming effort. [portion marking not declassified]


Basic Policies and Practices

Like the Soviet Union, the regimes of Eastern Europe use their official media to seek support for party policy and to promote anything the leadership defines as in the interest of “socialism.” Despite their pervasive domestic controls, however, the regimes do not have a monopoly on information. Efforts to counter the challenge presented by Western broadcasts are a high priority for the regimes in Eastern Europe. [portion marking not declassified]

Eastern European regimes are most sensitive to broadcasts that discuss the many subjects on which the leaderships are vulnerable. Such topics include:

The poor performance of the leadership.
Activities of political dissidents and discussions of regime violation of human rights.
Any information that contradicts or discredits self-legitimizing party propaganda efforts and the “leading role” of the Communist Party.
Comparisons of Communist socio-economic development with achievements in other countries.
Adverse international attitudes toward Soviet global assertiveness, such as the invasion of Afghanistan or a possible military move into Poland.
Critical examination of East European ties with other “fraternal allies,” especially the Soviet Union. [portion marking not declassified]

Some Eastern European countries are more sensitive than others to Western radio broadcasts and use jamming to minimize their effectiveness. Periodic press polemics are another major form of retaliation used to counter broadcasts that penetrate the bloc countries. RFE, because it reports directly on internal developments, is the subject of far greater concern than the generally tolerated VOA. Efforts to jam Western broadcasts vary among the countries, depending upon perceived threats to internal stability, confidence on the part of leaders in their hold on power, and foreign policy considerations. By late 1951, most East European countries had begun their own jamming operations against Western broadcasts. [portion marking not declassified]

Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, the East European countries with the tightest control on outside information, heavily and consistently jam broadcasts of RFE. Sofia stopped jamming VOA in 1974 after an agreement was reached with the United States that VOA would not engage in propaganda “offensive” to Bulgaria. Prague stopped jamming VOA in 1964, resumed jamming after the Soviet occupation in 1968, and again following the Soviet lead ended it in 1973. Currently VOA broadcasts are not jammed. [portion marking not declassified]

The 1978 “umbrella murder” of Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian emigre who worked for BBC and RFE in London, may be a dramatic example of the extremes to which some East European regimes are willing to go to silence their radio critics. An unidentified assailant jabbed Markov with an umbrella tip, injecting a toxic pellet that killed him. Although there is no conclusive evidence to prove the attacks were carried out by the Bulgarian security service, the nature of the operation and sophistication of the weapon point to the Bulgarian authorities, who presumably acted with the knowledge and possibly the assistance of the Soviet KGB. [portion marking not declassified]

Poland ceased jamming RFE broadcasts in October 1956 after the coming to power of party leader Gomulka. It resumed sporadic jamming of RFE after a series of food riots in 1970. We have no evidence that the Poles tried to jam any Western broadcasts during the past crisis-filled year. In recent weeks, however, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia have sought to prevent the reception of RFE [Page 15] broadcasts in Poland by broadcasting on frequencies close to those used by RFE. [portion marking not declassified]

Romania and Hungary stopped the jamming of all foreign broadcasts in 1963 and 1964 respectively. Budapest stopped jamming as part of party leader Kadar’s efforts to liberalize certain aspects of society and allow a freer flow of information. (Hungary currently allows more Western news material to circulate internally than any other Warsaw Pact member.) Budapest apparently views RFE as a minor irritant; the regime claims to have confidence in the effectiveness of its own media to counter Western criticism. Media attacks against RFE are infrequent and probably are launched only after pressure from the Kremlin to participate in a coordinated campaign against Western broadcasts. [portion marking not declassified]

Bucharest’s cessation of jamming coincided with its decision to pursue a foreign policy independent of Moscow; its continuation of the policy not to jam reflects professed Romanian commitment to the CSCE process. Nevertheless, Bucharest does view RFE as an adversary and periodically criticizes broadcasts that discuss internal Romanian problems. Broadcasts about President Ceausescu are a particularly sensitive subject. The regime is undoubtedly concerned over Western reports of worker achievements in Poland. Romania’s dismal working conditions and low living standards have already sparked some sporadic disruption in the work place and could provoke serious labor unrest. [portion marking not declassified]

Yugoslavia supports the principle of the free flow of information and thus has consistently refrained from jamming foreign broadcasts. The Yugoslav leadership contends that the popular support for Yugoslavia’s unique system of socialist self-management is strong enough to withstand any criticism from the outside. Yugoslavia’s relaxed travel regulations also facilitate a relatively free flow of information from the West. [portion marking not declassified]

East Germany is not targeted by RFE and VOA, but information flows to that country from numerous other Western sources, particularly from West Germany. It is technically not feasible for the East Germans to jam all incoming broadcasts, and East Berlin therefore concentrates on public counter-attacks against selected transmitting stations. The East Germans particularly attack the US-funded radio station that broadcasts from the American sector to West Berlin. [portion marking not declassified]

Prospects for Future Behavior

In view of the liberalizing trends within Poland, the Warsaw Pact countries will be increasingly sensitive to the level and substance of independent information that reaches their people. Those countries most susceptible to the “Polish disease”—Romania, Czechoslovakia, [Page 16] East Germany and, to a lesser extent, Bulgaria—will be particularly hostile to Western broadcasts that they believe might provoke internal challenge to party control. [portion marking not declassified]

Past US decisions to increase funding for RFE provoked a coordinated propaganda attack from the USSR, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. Unusually objectionable articles are often condemned as CIA propaganda and followed by slanderous statements against the individual broadcasters. A decidedly more vigilant atmosphere in the wake of new Polish unrest could trigger renewed media attacks against Western broadcasts. [portion marking not declassified]

Since the creation of Solidarity last summer, only the Soviets have noticeably intensified their jamming. If, however, any of the East European countries believed they faced a potentially unstable domestic political situation—which, at present, they do not—they would take many measures, including stepped up jamming, to prevent a challenge to party control. [portion marking not declassified]

[Omitted here are sections on Cuba and Vietnam.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Support Services (DI), Job 84T00664R: Production Case Files (1980–1981), Box 1, Folder 234: Radio Jamming Policy in the East Bloc. Secret. Prepared in the Office of Political Analysis, with assistance from the Foreign Broadcast Information Service and other political analysts, in response to a request by Carnes Lord of the NSC Staff.
  2. The agreement was signed on June 20, 1963. See Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. V, Soviet Union, Document 333.
  3. Signed on August 5, 1963, by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–15, Part I, Documents on Eastern Europe, 1973–1976, Document 17.
  5. In August 1980 in Gdansk, 16,000 Polish laborers in the Lenin shipyards went on strike. The strike quickly spread throughout the country and led to the collapse of the Polish economy. In response, the Communist government permitted the establishment of trade unions independent of the Polish Communist Party. These trade unions joined together to create the Solidarity movement. For more information, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VII, Poland, 1977–1981.
  6. The second CSCE Review Conference began in Madrid in October 1980.