'Post-Cold War' Era 1988-1991
Perhaps the most difficult task when analyzing active measures operations is to gauge their effectiveness. Soviet active measures were such an integral part of that nation's foreign policy operations and so broad in scope and intended effect, that it is impossible to rigorously isolate their effects with any degree of precision. But broadly speaking, they seem to have been effective in influencing foreign opinion. one recent article in Moscow News (issue number 14, 1992) provides some anecdotal evidence of this. It was written by Jim Doran, an American now living in Moscow. He stated:
It is perhaps more than coincidental that the beliefs in the West that Doran found to be the most mistaken about the USSR coincide, in large part, with the most important Soviet active measures campaigns of the "post-cold War" era, as described by former KGB major Mikhail Butkov, who defected to the West in May 1991. The December 15, 1991 issue of the British newspaper The Independent described Butkov and the active measures campaigns he helped run during 1989 to 1991:
The era of Soviet active measures is gone forever, now relegated to history. But active measures operations continue, on the part of other totalitarian regimes and groups, extremist, anti-Western states, some Soviet successor regimes, and states in extremis.
The propensity of Soviet successor states to use the manipulative and deceptive techniques of active measures will depend to a large degree on the extent to which they act as what might be called "post-totalitarians," i.e., those whose ethics, habits, and methods of operation have been shaped in a totalitarian tradition and who continue to operate according to these rules of behavior. Hopefully, this will be a diminishing phenomenon and those who consciously repudiate and reject totalitarian methods will gain greater power and influence in the former USSR. The more influence that genuine democrats have in a Soviet successor regime, the less likely it is that it will engage in active measures.
Russia is a special case, because it has inherited the vast bulk of the assets of the Soviet active measures apparatus, by virtue of its central position within the former USSR. This alone will lead to the temptation to use these assets. But probably more important is the extent to which the Russian government, at all levels, is governed by genuine democrats or those who continue the totalitarian tradition in form, if not in its previous communist content.
As in the past, active measures will focus on the tasks of primary importance to the states that run them. For the USSR, this task was weakening the "main enemy," the United States, and increasing support for Soviet policies in the international arena.
Russia and the other CIS states have much different priorities. Their main tasks are, broadly speaking, to consolidate power at home, evolve advantageous relations with their CIS neighbors, and to win as much economic aid and assistance as possible on the most favorable terms. Active measures by CIS states are therefore most likely to be concentrated on achieving these goals. Thus, just as the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service now appears to be concentrating on economic and technological espionage, Russian active measures operations aimed at the West and the world community would likely focus heavily on improving Russian access to foreign funds and technology. But Russian concerns are not merely economic. For example, according to an ITAR-TASS report on May 8, 1992, then-acting Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev had told Russian military leaders that one of his primary tasks was to coordinate efforts with Russian military industry in developing advanced high accuracy weapons based on "new principles." Both espionage and active measures operations would logically be designed to help achieve this important Russian national goal.
Given the nature of the main tasks that the CIS states face in the immediate future - survival, consolidation, and revival - there is little reason for the active measures of Russia or other CIS states to be predominately anti-American in tone, as was the case during the Cold War era. They are more likely to be conciliatory, alarmist, or simply diversionary - whatever will work in order to achieve their economic, political, military, and other goals.
As long as foreign governments and groups continue to use active measures and disinformation campaigns to try to manipulate and deceive foreign governments and publics, there will be a need on the part of the U.S. government to monitor and analyze these activities, in order to try to separate fact from fiction, distinguish between genuine and disingenuous proposals, and to expose and counter cynically launched campaigns that are either openly anti-American or otherwise inimical to U.S. interests.