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

Looking To The Future

The influence of the intelligence services is apparently relatively undiminished in some formerly Soviet organizations that have extensive international operations. According to TASS employee Alexander Zhebin, the influence of former KGB members remains strong in that organization. writing in Moscow News' issue number 7 (Feb. 16-23) of 1992, Zhebin stated:

To this day, from one-third to half of all correspondents of the leading department of TASS (the official Soviet news agency abroad) are on the payroll of special services.

...Even after the proclamation of TASS as an "independent" agency, the special services and their representatives in this organization have continued to wield decisive influence in the formation of the network of correspondents abroad. ... in whole divisions, personnel selection remains the task of old, experienced hands.

The former Main Editorial Office of Foreign Information, now renamed International Information Agency, has been headed by V. Chukseyev since the early 1980s. Now, as in the past, he signs the documents which sanction the dispatch of dozens of sham correspondents abroad, and presents them to the TASS Collegium for approval. ... recently, having retained supervision over the foreign press, he received the post of Deputy Director-General. He simultaneously heads the commission charged with reorganizing the agency.

In the autumn of 1991, V. Talanov was once again appointed deputy - in charge of personnel. In the early 1980s, as an official of the Department in Charge of Personnel Working Abroad at the CPSU Central Committee, he "took care" of TASS. Through him, an endless stream of special service officers was forwarded by a directive order to TASS.

...In TASS' history there were periods when the personnel service was headed by journalists. But, for the past 20 years at least, the special services have not ceded to anyone the post of deputy head of the personnel department - which selects all TASS personnel to be sent abroad. The KGB may seem to no longer exist, but its staff member still occupies this post.

...Meanwhile, the agency is being left by specialists. Never before in its history did TASS see such an outflow of personnel as it did last year. Young and promising journalists and eminent masters of the pen alike to whom TASS has owed its existence for years, have been quitting. They are leaving in droves, with heads of editorial offices first to the doors.

After giving up 17 years of my life to TASS, I, too, am leaving.

In May 1991, the Soviet Peace Committee apparently set up a special fund to help ensure the future functioning of the World Peace Council (WPC), which is headquartered in Helsinki, Finland and for decades was the premier Soviet international front organization. According to an article in the November 1, 1991 issue of the Finnish newspaper Kansan Uutiset, the interest from this $2.2 million fund has provided $170,000 in interest income donated to the WPC, accounting for more than 30 percent of its 1992 budget. For 1993, the donation from the fund is expected to be about $225,000.

Funding endowments like this could supply the financial means for former Soviet front groups to operate indefinitely. The Soviet Peace Committee has dissolved itself, but its work is being carried on by the "International League for Peace and Reconciliation," which was formed in January 1992. The League first Vice-Chairman and de facto leader Oleg Kharkhardin had formerly been a high-ranking Soviet representative to the WPC. According to Kansan Uutiset:

At that time, he represented the Soviet Peace Committee, but the man's actions suggested that he was really associated with the KGB. ...Kharkhardin himself steered the Council's international money flows and disciplined the WPC office's secretaries coming from socialist countries.

There have been numerous reports in the Soviet press about billions of rubles of CPSU money that is missing and which may have been funneled abroad. During the decades in which the CPSU and Soviet government funded extensive foreign operations, there was ample opportunity for the Soviets to establish hard currency reserves in foreign countries, the capital and earnings of which could be used to fund future active measures operations, as is apparently being done for the World Peace Council. This is an additional reason why active measures operations are unlikely to disappear.

In summary, both the hard-line former communist forces and the Russian government are engaged in active measures and disinformation operations, in the quest to achieve their political goals. Both groups should be expected to continue to pursue such operations vigorously. There are many reasons for this. Those who have lived their entire lives in a totalitarian system are well-schooled in such techniques and keenly aware of their effectiveness; the totalitarian experience has bred widespread cynicism, the moral atmosphere in which such operations flourish; front groups constructed for these purposes already exist or can easily be created; and active measures and disinformation techniques continue to be ill-understood and largely overlooked in societies that have not experienced totalitarianism, making them an effective tool for influencing such audiences. In short, active measures and disinformation are one of the few areas in which those who have lived in a totalitarian regime have a competitive advantage over those who have not. Until and unless a truly democratic regime that fully embraces Western ideals of truth, honesty, openness, and mutual advantage emerges in Russia, those in power or contending for power there will, most likely, find it to their advantage to continue active measures and disinformation operations. In addition, other CIS countries, for many of the same reasons listed above, are likely to develop active measures and disinformation apparatuses of their own for use in their foreign relations.

The themes that will most likely be propagated in future dealings with the West by the Russian government, hard-line communists and other sponsors of active measures in the former USSR would logically be for the most part alarmist and conciliatory themes, as was characteristic of Soviet active measures during the "post Cold-War" years of 1988 to 1991. These types of themes will be the most difficult for the West to discern because they derive their credibility in Western eyes from the fact that they represent either what the West wants most or fears most, but in either case, finds most plausible from its own perspective. Some archetypal themes that might be aimed at the West in the future could include: "We are embarking on reforms that will remake us in a Western image," or "If you do not supply us with enormous amounts of aid with few restrictions, a dangerous, chaotic situation will emerge." Such broad themes are inherently impossible to prove or disprove and they may seem self-evident to many. The use of such themes could therefore be very effective in influencing opinions.

Outside the Commonwealth of Independent States, state or non-state actors reared in a communist tradition or one resembling it in spirit can be expected to continue to wage active measures and disinformation campaigns as long as they exist. Last, but not least, the legacy of the vigorous and spiteful anti-Western and, particularly, anti-American campaigns the Soviet Union orchestrated for decades will be felt for many years to come in the form of the lasting perceptions and attitudes that they shaped throughout the world.

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