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

Recent Revelations About
Soviet Active Measures

"Black" or Covert Active Measures

"Black" or covert active measures operations, coordinated by Service A of the KGB's First Chief Directorate, included the use of agents of influence, forgeries, covert media placements, and controlled media to influence foreign publics and governments. Some interesting revelations about Soviet practices in this area have come to light.

'Service A' Organization

Information about the likely organization and operations of Service A has come from revelations about Department X of the Stasi's Foreign Intelligence Collection Main Administration, headed by Markus Wolf, which was patterned after Service A and which worked closely with it. The operations of the Stasi active measures unit were described in some detail by two of its former sector chiefs in the July 22, 1991 issue of the German magazine Der Spiegel:

Wolf's department X headed by Colonel Rolf Wagenbreth, tried to systematically destabilize the class enemy in the West and to provide incorrect information since 1966....

Within Department X, Bohnsack headed Section 7 (economy, trade) and Brehmer worked in Section 5 (secret services). The two and another five dozen Stasi specialists were trained to deceive mainly politicians and secret services in the Federal Republic of Germany with all kinds of tricks and purposeful cheating.

With its dirty tricks, described as "active measures" in secret service jargon, Wolf's favorite department pursued several goals:

  • Exposure and defamation of other countries, governments, political groups, and individual persons;

  • Instigation of the population against state institutions as well as disturbing and influencing the process of the formation of the political will in individual states;

  • Disturbing the relations among noncommunist states, particularly between countries of the so-called First and Third World;

  • Making Western intelligence services feel insecure and discrediting them.

...Agents of the X department forged letters, information, and official West German documents. They sent them across the border through secret paths, and then mailed them to selected persons. Studies and books were compiled, and even jokes and rumors were spread, because "occasionally a good joke has more impact than 10 editorials."

Stasi material was also handed over to curious politicians and journalists directly in the German Democratic Republic. Thus, as "MfS officer Buchner," Brehmer provided reporters of the Stern magazine several times with all kinds of information during their visits. This has been confirmed by journalists affected.

Another way of directing Stasi documents to certain officials or offices took place via so-called legal covers in the GDR whose MfS background was not revealed. These roofs included the press office of the chairman of the Council of Ministers, the press section of the Foreign Ministry, the GDR Journalists' Association, and various archives. There, "unofficial agents" and "officers for special operations" provided services to Western clients.

Thus, according to the Stasi and according to their own indications, Nazi hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld collected "files from Potsdam (in East Germany] several times to furnish evidence of the Nazi past of the former Chancellor Georg Kiesinger. Nazi documents also incriminated the former president of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hubert Schruebbers.

Occasionally, cooperation between the East and West was even closer. Thus, according to Bohnsack and Brehmer, the left-leaning papers Berliner Extradienst and Konkret sometimes received both documents and money from the Stasi.

Konkret founder Klaus Rainer Roehl, who published the paper between 1955 and 1973, has admitted that he naturally accepted "donations" from friendly comrades, "without which it would not have been possible to finance the printing of the paper."

'Service A' Operations

In their 1991 book Instructions From the Centre, former KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky and British academic Christopher Andrew described active measures taken by the KGB during 1982 to 1985, when Gordievsky was in London. These included economic active measures, which attempted to manipulate prices in Western markets, as well as disinformation and alarmist arguments spread on the issue of cruise missiles, a key component of NATO rearmament. Gordievsky and Andrew stated:

In the course of these three years ... Gordievsky noted over forty subjects on which the London Residency was asked to promote active measures. Some were long-term operations such as that to discredit President Reagan. Other operations were short-term and tactical; in November 1982, for example, the Residency was ordered to try to depress western grain prices by spreading rumors, especially to the International Wheat Council, that Soviet grain purchases were to be only 35 million tons instead of the anticipated 44 million tons.

Among the Residency's most important active measures campaigns was that to oppose the deployment of Cruise Missiles. At the end of September 1982 the Centre sent a telegram to London (noted but not copied by Gordievsky), listing four main active measures 'theses':

  1. Cruise missiles were offensive, not defensive, weapons.

  2. The Americans insisted on their deployment and refused serious negotiations about them.

  3. The Soviet Union would detect their dispersal from British bases during an East-West crisis, interpret this as a signal of impending nuclear attack, and be likely to respond with a nuclear strike of its own.

  4. U.S. deployment of Cruise missiles in Britain thus risked involving Britain in a nuclear war begun, against its wishes, by the United States.

The Residency was instructed to use these theses in meetings with all its contacts, both 'confidential' and otherwise. (p. 137)


In an interesting tidbit, Oleg Kalugin, a major general in the KGB until 1987, has revealed that the famous British defector Kim Philby assisted in KGB forgery operations. The March 12, 1992 issue of the British newspaper The Independent reported:

Philby's speciality, Mr. Kalugin said, was to insert a couple of sentences into genuine CIA or Pentagon documents to make them seem enthusiastic about the Third World War, and then to see that these gained the widest possible circulation in Europe.

In Oleg Gordievsky's book KGB: The Inside Story, he described a forgery planted by the KGB in the United States in 1982:

In late October the Washington main residency implemented Operation Golf, designed to plant fabricated material discrediting the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, on the unsuspecting American correspondent of the London New Statesman. On November 5 the New Statesman duly carried an article entitled "A Girl's Best Friend," exploring "the often secret relationship" between Jeane Kirkpatrick and South Africa. The article included a photograph of a forged letter to Ms. Kirkpatrick from a counselor at the South African embassy conveying "best regards and gratitude" from the head of South African military intelligence and allegedly enclosing a birthday present "as a token of appreciation from my government." The use of the word "priviously" [sic] indicated that, as sometimes happens with its forgeries, Service A had forgotten to check its English spelling. (p. 587)

The person whom Gordievsky and his co-author Christopher Andrew described as the "unsuspecting American correspondent of the London New Statesman" is Claudia Wright, a journalist originally from Australia. Interestingly, during 1982, Ms. Wright also wrote frequently for Ethnos, a popular tabloid newspaper launched in Greece in September 1981 and later revealed by Greek journalist Paul Anastasi to have been set up by KGB's Service A as an outlet for Soviet propaganda and disinformation. An article on Ethnos in the December 1985 issue of The Atlantic magazine, described some of the other correspondents for the newspaper:

One of them, Carl Marzani, had served three years in an American jail for concealing, while working for the U.S. State Department as an intelligence officer in the 1940s, the fact that he had once been a member of the Communist Party. The paper's expert on British affairs, Stanley Harrison, is a former editor of the British Communist Party's official newspaper. Ethnos' Cyprus correspondent, Akis Fantis, is the son of the Cyprus Communist Party's alternate secretary-general and an editor of the Party organ there.

Ms. Wright's articles appeared in later years in the Greek press in Ta Nea and Pontiki, other far-left publications that have carried Soviet propaganda and disinformation. On September 3, 1989, Ms. Wright wrote an article in the Dublin, Ireland Sunday Tribune that repeated another standard Soviet disinformation theme, that "the Korean Airlines jumbo jet, shot down by the Soviet Air Force six years ago today, was on a spy mission for the U.S."

KGB Active Measures in India

The April 1992 issue of the Russian newspaper Argumenty i Fakty printed excerpts from a KGB document on funding of active measures operations in India, one of the areas in which the KGB was most active, particularly in the active measures realm. The document stated:

In accordance with a decision of the CPSU Central Committee, the USSR KGB allocates funds annually for extension of financial aid to controlled organs of the press, public organizations, and individual public figures of India, whose possibilities are utilized for operations and influence in accordance with state interests of the Soviet Union. The 320,000 foreign currency rubles allocated for the indicated purpose in 1985 have been spent. In order to support special operations and measures on consolidation of the results of the official visit by Prime Minister R. Gandhi to the Soviet Union, the KGB requests allocation of 320,000 foreign currency rubles for 1986. Drafts of the decree of the CPSU Central Committee and the order to the USSR Council of Ministers are attached. Please study.

[signed] V. Chebrikov, committee chairman

Argumenty i Fakty noted that, "in accordance with this letter funds were appropriated," according to a December 20, 1985 CPSU Central Committee decree and an order of the USSR Council of Ministers on the same day.

Agents of Influence

One of the most effective, most difficult to detect, and least understood areas of Soviet active measures is the use of agents of influence. Agents of influence are foreigners who have been recruited by the KGB in order to be used to influence the opinions of foreign publics and governments. Agents of influence are extremely useful because they are perceived as loyal patriots of their respective countries who are simply expressing their own personal opinions, not scripts written by the KGB and designed to dovetail with the current actions and priorities of Soviet foreign policy apparatus. The covert influence campaigns that they wage in public and private are not only the most difficult type of active measures operation to identify, but also potentially the most potent if the agent of influence is a senior government official or a respected public figure.

In the June 6, 1992 issue of Human Events, Herbert Romerstein reported that "a retired high-ranking KGB officer with extensive knowledge about operations against the United States" had identified U.S. journalist I.F. Stone as a longtime Soviet agent of influence. Stone bitterly criticized the policies of the U.S. government for years in his influential private newsletter and other writings. The article by Romerstein stated:

During my recent visit to Moscow, a retired high-ranking KGB officer with extensive knowledge about operations against the United States identified the late American journalist I.F. Stone as a paid KGB agent. My source, who insisted on remaining anonymous, was commenting on a speech that former KGB Gen. Oleg Kalugin made in London March 11 [1992].

Kalugin had said, "We had an agent - a well-known American journalist - with a good reputation, who severed his ties with us after 1956. 1 myself convinced him to resume them. But in 1968, after the invasion of Czechoslovakia ... he said he would never again take any money from us." Kalugin declined to identity the American journalist. KGB officers, even retired ones, don't like to identify their agents.

My KGB source in Moscow was much more frank. He said that Stone would not even allow Kalugin to buy him lunch during their last meeting. He insisted he wanted nothing from the Russians. However, according to the source, Stone had taken a considerable amount of KGB money for more than two decades.

In the preface to his book Polemics and Prophecies, 1967 to 1970, Stone described himself as a fiercely independent journalist whose views on the issue of communist infiltration in the United States were so critical of U.S. government policies in the late 1940s and early 1950s that he stated, "There was nothing to the left of me but the Daily Worker [the newspaper of the Communist Party of the U.S.A.]." Stone described himself in the following terms in the preface to this book:

I am, I suppose, an anachronism. In an age of corporation men, I have been an independent capitalist, the owner of my own enterprise, subject to neither mortgager nor broker, factor nor patron. ...I have been a wholly independent newspaperman, standing alone, without organizational or party backing, beholden to no one but my good readers. I am even one up on Benjamin Franklin - I have never accepted advertising.

My newspaper reached a relative handful, but the 5,000 readers with whom I started grew to more than 70,000 in nineteen years. I was in the black every one of those years and paid off the loans which helped me begin, without having to appeal to my readers or to wealthy friends to keep going. I paid my bills promptly, like a solid bourgeois, though in the eyes of many in the cold-war Washington where I operated I was regarded, I am sure, as a dangerous and subversive fellow.

...I had become a radical in the twenties while in my teens, mostly through reading Jack London, Herbert Spencer, Kropotkin and Marx. I became a member of the Socialist Party and was elected to the New Jersey State Committee of the Socialist Party before I was old enough to vote, ...but soon drifted away from left-wing politics because of the sectarianism of the left. Moreover, I felt that party affiliation was incompatible with independent journalism, and I wanted to be free to help the unjustly treated, to defend everyone's civil liberty and to work for social reform without concern for leftist infighting.

...From 1932 to 1939 1 was an editorial writer on the Philadelphia Record and the New York Post, then strongly pro-New Deal papers. In 1940 I came to Washington as Washington Editor of The Nation and have been here ever since, working as reporter and columnist for PM, the New York Star, the New York Post (for a short interval) and the New York Compass. When the Compass closed in November 1952 and no congenial job seemed likely to open up, I decided to launch a four-page weekly newsletter of my own.

I succeeded because it was what might be called a piggy-back launching. I had available the mailing lists of PM, the Star and the Compass and of people who had bought my books. For a remarkably small investment, in two advance mailings, I was able to get 5,000 subscribers at $5 each. I was my own biggest investor, but several friends helped me with loans and gifts. The existence of these highly selective mailing lists made it possible to reach what would otherwise appear to be needles in a haystack scattered tiny minority of liberals and radicals unafraid in McCarthy's heyday to support, and go on the mailing lists of, a new radical publication from Washington.

...I had supported Henry Wallace in 1948. 1 had fought for the civil liberties of Communists, and was for peace and coexistence with the Soviet Union. I had fought the loyalty purge, the FBI, the House Un-American Activities Committee, and McCarran as well as McCarthy. I had written the first magazine article against the Smith Act, when it was first used against the Trotskyites in 1940. There was nothing to the left of me but the Daily Worker.

...For me, being a newspaperman has always seemed a cross between Galahad and William Randolph Hearst, a perpetual crusade. When the workers of Csespel and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution put a free press among their demands, I was thrilled. What Jefferson symbolized for me was being rediscovered in a socialist society as a necessity for good government.

I believe that no society is good and can be healthy without freedom for dissent and for creative independence. I have found among the Soviets kindred spirits in this regard and I watch their struggle for freedom against bureaucracy with deepest sympathy. I am sorry, when discussing our free press with them, to admit that our press is often almost as conformist as theirs. But I am happy that in my own small way I have been able to demonstrate that independence is possible, that a wholly free radical journalist can survive in our society. In the darkest days of McCarthy, when I often was made to feel a pariah, I was heartened by the thought that I was preserving and carrying forward the best in America's traditions, that in my humble way I stood in a line that reached back to Jefferson. (pp. xi-xvii)

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