Soviet Active Measures in The
'Post-Cold War' Era 1988-1991



The Conciliatory Slogans
Of New Political Thinking


Military-Related Themes:
A Non-Nuclear World, Disarmament,
Reasonable Sufficiency, & Non-Offensive Defense

Many of the conciliatory themes of "new thinking" related to military topics because it was essential to the Soviet Union to severely curtail the military competition with the West if they could not win it, in order to deny the West an advantage in this area.

The first was the call for a non-nuclear world. This was made on January 15, 1986, when Gorbachev unveiled a plan for the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide by the year 2000. The Soviets emphasized at the time that they meant this goal seriously and not as a mere propaganda ploy. Subsequent events have given added weight to these statements. As Zagladin explained in his 1989 book To Restructure and Humanize International Relations:

A sober consideration of the new international situation has prompted us not merely to draw isolated conclusions or to make a partial correction in our positions, but to make a major revision of many of our views, in effect, to work out new approaches to the solution of the problems facing mankind.

First, we have revised our attitude towards the prospects and consequences of a nuclear war. Even comparatively recently, we believed it was possible to survive and even win a nuclear war. ...But after thoroughly analyzing the findings of science regarding the nature and specific qualities of nuclear weapons and the possible consequences of their use, we concluded that a nuclear war was unwinnable, that its victim would be all of humanity.

...Thus the first change in our foreign-policy doctrine is the total rejection of the idea of a nuclear war and affirmation of the absolute necessity to prevent it.

Second, ...we have also revised our attitude towards the problem of safeguarding security. Formerly we believed, (as many continue to do in the West) that the optimal way to safeguard security was above all to build powerful weapons ensuring a military potential absolutely comparable to that of a possible enemy.

...[But] to count on war in the nuclear age as a means of guaranteeing the national security of any country is a gross and terribly dangerous error. No political objective can be attained with the help of modern arms.

So the essential inadmissability of nuclear war leads to the inevitable conclusion that security can be safeguarded not by increasing the quantity and deadliness of weapons, but through disarmament until all weapons of mass destruction are eliminated.

... We believe that ensuring a stable and lasting peace requires more than eliminating the nuclear, military threat, that it also necessitates the creation of reliable guarantees against its revival.

...This presupposes reducing armaments to a level at which each country will be able to defend itself against external aggression but will be unable to perpetrate acts of aggression against any other country. (pp. 67-72)

In addition to playing to the universal human desire for a world safe from the threat of nuclear weapons, the Soviets also embraced the appealing concepts of "reasonable sufficiency" and "non-offensive defense" as principles that could be used to achieve their purpose of eliminating military power as a key determinant in the systemic contest between the USSR and the West. These concepts provided a seemingly rational, objective yardstick which appeared to take the interests of all nations into account in establishing criteria for worldwide military levels. A 1989 Novosti booklet, Politics and Power put forth the following criteria for setting military force levels, demonstrating the Soviet penchant for establishing principles that apply not only to their country but also to others:

Every state has its own criteria of how much military strength it needs. It depends on the country's population, economic condition, technological development, territory, the length of its land and sea borders, as well as some historical factors, traditions, etc. All this provides a basis for a reasonable policy designed to meet adequate defense and security requirements.

In addition, there are always a number of variables, depending on change in policy, the state of international relations, the nature and intentions of military and political alliances, the correlation of strength, and so on.

All these factors determine how much strength is needed.... It is obvious, for instance, that given all this the Soviet Union should have more strength than any West European country or Japan. But such superiority in itself is no call for any fears on anyone's part. (pp. 24-25)

The Soviets sought to use the appealing slogans of "non-offensive defense" and the call for a new military doctrine as ways to try to influence decision-making on military affairs in the West. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev admitted this during his press conference with President Bush at the conclusion of the U.S.-Soviet summit in Malta in December 1989. At that time, Gorbachev stated, "...when we move toward defensive doctrines - that is, we, the Soviet Union - we are interested in having new elements in the military doctrines of the NATO countries." (Washington Post, 12/4/89)

The Soviets made the push for CSCE (Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe) seminars on military doctrine an important factor in their foreign policy, hoping to use these forums to influence decision making in Western countries. Interestingly, at the second Vienna conference on military doctrines in October 1991, Colonel General Omelichev suggested "a consolidation of military might under U.N. auspices," in line with another key precept of "new thinking." As noted at more length in the appendix, an alleged KGB agent in Denmark, Jorgen Dragsdahl, paid special attention to thinking by Western intellectuals on the issue of "non-offensive defense," and, according to the April 17, 1989 issue of The Nation, the former Soviet ambassador in Denmark "took a keen interest in the theories and channeled them back to Moscow."


Eliminating the "Enemy Image"

One of the main themes of "new political thinking" was that the United States should "eliminate the image of the Soviet Union as the enemy" and, as Gorbachev stated in June 1989, "mov[e] from the notion of enemy to the notion of partner." (Washington Post, June 22, 1989) This theme encouraged the thought that the rivalry between the U.S. and the USSR was not an inevitable clash between competing and irreconcilable visions of freedom and totalitarianism, but rather the result of mistaken images which had arisen from hostile propaganda, and could therefore easily be "eliminated."

The Soviet purpose in propagating this theme was made clear in late 1987 by Georgi Arbatov, the head of the Soviet Academy of Science's Institute on the United States and Canada, who wrote in a letter to the editor published in the December 8, 1987 issue of the New York Times that:

...We have a "secret weapon" that will work almost regardless of the American response - we would deprive America of The Enemy. And how would you justify without it the military expenditures that bleed the American economy white, a policy that draws America into dangerous adventures overseas and drives wedges between the United States and its allies, not to mention the loss of American influence on neutral countries? Wouldn't such a policy in the absence of The Enemy put America in the position of an outcast in the international community?

While the Soviets were urging the West to discard its image of the Soviets as an "enemy," they were duplicitously providing support to anti-Western terrorist organizations. on June 5, 1992, Russian Information Minister Mikhail Poltoranin told a news conference, according to the Washington Post (June 6, 1992), that:

documents would soon be released showing that the authors of "new political thinking" - a sarcastic reference to Gorbachev - practiced a "double standard" in foreign policy. He said the documents showed that the Kremlin continued to have contacts with terrorist and other subversive groups well into the Gorbachev era.

"The latest date on these documents is 1991. Assistance mainly took the form of money, weapons, special supplies," said Poltoranin. ..."Weapons were delivered by warships to be handed over somewhere in the Atlantic. Sometimes sacks or whatever were loaded on rafts. Some time later, another ship would come by and pick the load up."

The Post article noted:

Recent assertions by Russian officials that the Soviet Union channeled funds and arms to "terrorist groups" have dismayed the Kremlin's traditional allies in the Third World. At today's press conference, an Arab journalist asked Poltoranin if he was not confusing "terrorist organizations" with "national liberation movements" that Moscow openly supported.

"When we speak about assistance to terrorist activities, we mean supplies to terrorist groups that filed requests with the Central Committee, declaring their readiness, for example, to blow up oil pipelines or kill American businessmen," said Poltoranin. "They were supplied with rifles, guns, hard grenades, submachine guns, and so on. This is terrorism and this had the support of the party leadership."


The "De-ideologization of State-to-State Relations"

The "de-ideologization of state-to-state relations" was one of the main conciliatory slogans of "new political thinking." To Western minds, it conjured up the image of relations between the Soviet Union and other countries becoming more pragmatic, less driven by doctrinaire, ideological concerns. For the "new thinkers," there were additional subtleties.

Two Soviet placements in the Nigerian press in 1989 illustrate how this concept was understood by the Soviets. One, entitled "Respecting rules of international behavior," appeared in the March 29, 1989 issue of the Tide, authored anonymously by "A correspondent." It made it clear that, in the Soviet mind, the "de-ideologization of state-to-state relations" affected only one sphere of international affairs and did not mean the end of Soviet support for "national liberation movements." It stated:

De-ideologization is one of the basic principles of new thinking, advanced by the Soviet leadership.

Does this mean that Moscow is abandoning the policy of support for national liberation movements, as some people claim? Not all. When we speak about the de-ideologization of relations between states we should remember that they are only a part of the total package of international relations, which includes a broad range of contacts and ties between nongovernmental, mass, professional, party, humanitarian, and other organizations.

When we deal with parties, movements, and trends, we proceed from class interests.

...In general, the era of national liberations revolutions is over.

...The exceptions are in the Middle East and South West Africa.

In the April 26, 1989 issue of the Tide, the article "Ideology and World Peace" by Georgi Mirsky made explicit the critical difference in Soviet ideology between "inter-state" and "international" relations. The former are to be "de-ideologized;" the latter cannot be. The article stated:

...international relations is a broader term that inter-state relations, the latter being part of the former. It is clear that there can be no de-ideologization of international relations, which include, apart from inter-state relations, the relations between public and political movements, political parties, etc. It is impossible to de-ideologize all this. There will always be special ties based on ideological affinity between various elements of the international communist and working class movement, between them and the socialist countries, and between the latter and the socialist-oriented countries of the Third World. One cannot prevent people, classes, political parties or countries from sympathizing and helping the forces close or related to them.

Thus, the "de-ideologization of state-to-state relations" involved only a limited easing of tensions, in the Soviet mind. Relations between states were to be purged of ideological considerations, but not the other aspects of international relations: those involving parties, mass and professional organizations, public groups, etc.: precisely the arenas in which active measures operations were conducted.

The Soviet leaders were careful not to communicate their full understanding of the principle of the "de-ideologization of state-to-state relations" to Westerners. In dealing with Western audiences, the conciliatory slogan was put forward without explanation. Soviet leaders could be confident that virtually all in the West, not being skilled in the intricacies of Marxist dialectics, would misinterpret it. This suited Soviet purposes. But in the Third World, the Soviets needed to explain to longtime allies that this conciliatory slogan did not mean that they were being abandoned.


The Common European Home

The slogan of the "Common European Home" was actually put forward as early as November 23, 1981 by CPSU General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev in a speech in Bonn, West Germany. Mikhail Gorbachev made it a key principle of Soviet foreign policy in a major speech in Prague in April 1986. As with many of the slogans of "new thinking," the details of what the Soviets understood the "Common European Home" to mean were not explicitly stated. Nevertheless, it was an appealing, catchy slogan that quickly became an integral part of international discourse during the "post-Cold War" era.

In an article in the August 27, 1988 issue of Austria's Volksstimme newspaper, senior Gorbachev advisor Vadim Zagladin explained how the Soviets envisioned the "Common European Home" evolving. He stated:

Our concept of the "common European home" is an attempt to advance even further on the basis of [the CSCE] Helsinki [process]. This concept envisages the following final goals:

- In the military sphere: the establishment of firm, concrete guarantees for peace on the continent, including the elimination of the existing asymmetries in armaments, arms reduction, and the elimination of the nuclear threat.

- In politics: deepening equal and constructive cooperation and completely solving all upcoming problems at, the negotiating table for the mutual benefit of all European states and peoples.

- In the economy: the establishment of a common European mechanism that permits all European countries - without violating the interests of any country or any integrated group - to draw maximum benefit from equal cooperation, both among themselves and among the economic groups on the continent.

- In culture: the establishment of a mechanism of cooperation that permits us to more deeply recognize, appreciate, and enrich our common cultural heritage.

- In the humanitarian sphere: the establishment of structures that make it possible not only to solve the developing humanitarian problems on a mutually acceptable basis, but also to guarantee real trust among the people and the working out and confirmation of a way of thinking conducive to all-European demilitarization, substituting the partner image for the enemy image even though the partner may have views different from one's own.

The Soviets sought to make the multilateral CSCE forum the concrete foundation of the "Common European Home," in the process downgrading the importance of institutions such as NATO (which, after all, operated on the premise of the maligned "enemy image"), the European Community (which did not allow equal access for all "European countries," i.e., the then-Soviet bloc), and CoCom, the Coordinating Committee of industrial countries in charge of limiting the export of militarily significant Western technology to the Soviet bloc, which violated the principle of equal cooperation for all European countries. An article in issue number 9 of New Times in 1990 declared that CoCom "interferes with the laying of a good foundation for the Common European Home."

The "Common European Home" slogan, by its very nature, implicitly excluded the United States and Canada. On the "state-to-state" level, the Soviets denied this, and stressed that the U.S. and Canada would be welcome to join all-European organizations. But in the non-state-to-state sphere of mass communications and perceptions, Soviet propagandists were well aware that championing the concept of the "Common European Home" would naturally tend to encourage feeling of European separateness from the United States and Canada. In this way, the traditional Soviet goal of splitting the NATO alliance was pursued by conciliatory, political means, rather than the confrontational, military methods of the Cold War.


A New Security System in Europe

In the June 4, 1990 issue of Time magazine, Gorbachev sketched out a bold new vision of a world without military alliances, such as NATO. He stated:

My own vision comes down to this: not only should military confrontation between the alliances come to an end, but alliance-based coexistence should become a thing of the past. ...Politically, we are already entering a new phase that should be characterized by the establishment of permanent security structures instead of NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organization.

By this time, of course, the Warsaw Pact had ceased to exist as an instrument of Soviet policy, so Gorbachev had little to lose by proposing its dissolution. In contrast, he had much to gain by suggesting that NATO be scrapped.

As a substitute for NATO, one Soviet front group publication that the CSCE become the embryo of a new security system for Europe, rather than existing Western structures such as NATO or the West European Union. An article in the June 1990 issue of Peace Courier, the publication of the Soviet-controlled World Peace Council, stated, "The CSCE is the body which should develop the new security structure in Europe, while the existing military alliances should be allowed to wither away." In another variant, two Soviet generals suggested, in the October 1990 issue of Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn, "a re-forming of NATO and the Warsaw Pact (while it still legally exists) from military-political blocs into a single Common European Security Alliance."


Technology Sharing

Soviet leaders also sought to use the conciliatory techniques of "new political thinking" to gain access to Western technology, especially militarily-relevant technology. In October 1991, just before he was reappointed Soviet foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze suggested in the Soviet weekly New Times (issue number 40, 1991) that the United States share with the USSR the technology it had developed for the Strategic Defense Initiative, ostensibly for the purpose of improving "early warning of natural calamities" and other benign, "all-human" purposes. Shevardnadze wrote:

We are no longer adversaries. We have exchanged statements to this effect. ...Who is going to object that to the fact that the superpowers share the common interest of preventing terrorist attacks against them coming from a third party? That means that we can and must cooperate, share technologies and scientific achievements.

...SDI elements can be used for the solution of such global problems as ecological monitoring, early warning of natural calamities, and an effective navigation system.



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