30. Telegram From the Department of State to All African Diplomatic Posts1

221087. Subject: Countering Soviet Disinformation on AIDS.

1. Confidential Entire Text.

2. As posts are aware, we have had a continuing problem with Soviet disinformation about AIDS—in particular, the insinuation through articles disseminated/reprinted in the media, alleging that AIDS originated with U.S. military biological experiments.

3. Although posts have been provided with factual data and information to enable you to counter this disinformation,2 it might be helpful for you to know that the matter came up in the recent US-Soviet bilaterals, held in London in early July between Asst. Sec. Crocker and his Soviet counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Adamishin.

4. In raising the matter, Crocker noted that at recent international conferences on AIDS, attended by Soviet scientists, a consensus had been reached that AIDS was a pressing international health challenge which we all must meet. But, Crocker added, we also see continuing Soviet disinformation efforts that seek to link AIDS with alleged U.S. research on biological weapons. Crocker asked directly how Adamishin, as the senior Soviet official directly charged with Africa policy, explained the continuing obvious Soviet disinformation propaganda campaign on AIDS.

5. Adamishin replied that the Soviets had only relatively recently begun to understand the magnitude of the AIDS problem, and supported international efforts to deal with it. He said that the U.S. and the USSR should work together on the problem, and that the Soviets might develop some ideas for bilateral cooperation. Adamishin said he had “no difficulty” in admitting that Soviet propaganda on AIDS had been “foolish”. He claimed that the Soviet press was now publishing fewer items of this kind. Adamishin asserted, however, that the U.S. media had also sometimes engaged in the same sort of “disinformation”, citing U.S. media reporting of the 1979 Sverdlovsk anthrax outbreak caused by an accident at a Soviet biological weapons research facility.

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6. While Dept does not believe USG officials should publicize Adamishin’s comment by itself, U.S. officials should not hesitate—in the context of your everyday working discussions with host government officials, media representatives, and others—to use Adamishin’s remarks about the “foolishness” of the Soviet campaign, and the clear implication that it was false disinformation, in rebutting any assertions about alleged U.S. responsibility for AIDS that may come to your attention.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D870570–0045. Confidential. Drafted by Passage; cleared in AF/S, INR/AMR, AF, and OES/ENH; approved by Crocker.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 21.