- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 14, 2006


By Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin

Basic Books, $29.95, 677 pages, illus.


Regular readers of this newspaper should feel the special warmth of reassurance as they leaf through this vitally important book: Just as The Times’ conservative columnists and clear-eyed reporters wrote during the Cold War, the Soviets were deadly serious in their attempts to the Third World. Forget the fallacious blather elsewhere about “home grown reformers.” And, as the subtitle states, Moscow indeed believed that it was succeeding and that the “world was going our way.”

Further, the documentation on which this assertion is based comes from KGB documents that were painfully pilfered for 10 years by a Soviet archivist, Vasili Mitrokhin, who grew disgustedwiththe communist system. He defected to the West in 1982, bringing with him a paper trove that the CIA hailed as the “greatest CI [counterintelligence] bonanza of the post-war period.”

He teamed with Andrew, a Cambridge University professor and intelligence expert, seven years ago to write “The Sword and the Shield,” concerning KGB operations against the United States and various European nations.

The material in this new volume, devoted to the Third World, is truly staggering in its scope and detail. Be forewarned: This is not a volume you are going to zip through in a long winter weekend. But it definitely is must-reading for anyone interested in how the Cold War might have had a different outcome.

The thesis might be summarized thusly. By the time of the Kennedy administration, the Kremlin realized that it was not going to prevail through nuclear war or a military stalemate. Instead, it decided to use the KGB to turn the Third World against America and the West — which it succeeded in doing by building a majority in the general assembly of the United Nations.

Remember, too, that the United States fell into disarray during the 1960s and 1970s, suffering a humiliating stand down in Vietnam, which raised concerns about its continuing strength in foreign affairs. Public opinion, both domestic and foreign, turned against the CIA during the Church Committee hearings. Thus KGB operatives could go to Third World leaders and pose the question, “Even the Americans realize the CIA killed their president. Do you suppose they’d hesitate to kill you?” Despite the lie at the core of the statement, it resonated.

The KGB employed many tools in its arsenal of subversion. Consider India, where the KGB perhaps enjoyed its greatest successes. Both the KGB and the CIA planted newspaper articles as part of their “active measures” campaigns. (My source here on CIA activities is a former officer who served in New Delhi as station chief.) Here the KGB won a clear statistical victory. In 1972 alone, it claimed to have planned 3,789 articles in the 10 newspapers it controlled. Many carried the theme that “the CIA is trying to subvert your government.”

The campaign surely influenced Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who opened her borders to an influx of KGB and GRI (Red Army intelligence) officers under guise as “trade officials” and the like, even admitting officers who had been expelled from less hospitable regimes.

And the KGB proved skilled at exploiting the corruption endemic in the Gandhi government. Suitcases stuffed with bank notes were regularly taken to the prime minister’s home to be used in political campaigns. She professed indifference to the source of the funds; unbeknownst to her, her chief fundraiser was a KGB officer.

Obsessed with a KGB-inspired canard that the CIA intended to assassinate her, Mrs. Gandhi declared a state of national emergency in 1975 and arrested more than 110,000 political opponents, many of whom were detained without trial. The KGB mischief means that Indian politics remain in turmoil to this day.

Latin America also proved fertile ground. Just as the Reagan administration insisted — and a gullible media refused to believe — Soviet gold sagged in the pockets of the Sandinista guerrillas from 1961, the date the FSLN was organized. KGB officers trained the 24-man Sandinista contingent that staged one of the more successful stunts in guerilla history in 1978 when it seized the National Palace and took as hostages the entire national congress.

Unfortunately for the American public, much of the KGB propaganda affected our media. For instance, the KGB waged a worldwide campaign charging human rights abuses by the Pinochet regime in Chile. Here again, statistics are interesting. In just three years, the Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge killed an estimated 1.5 million persons, versus a handful of slain persons in Chile. Yet in 1976 the New York Times published 66 articles on human rights abuses in Chile, versus only four on Cambodia. Even the respected columnist Jack Anderson (who died in late 2005) was snookered into publishing a forged letter on CIA connections with Pinochet’s secret police.

The Andrew-Mitrokhin expose — and remember, this information comes from the very belly of the beast itself — is causing belated reappraisals of a number of former leaders. High on the list is Jose Figueres Ferrer (codenamed KASIK) of Costa Rica, generally hailed as one of the outstanding Central American politicians of his generation. He attracted liberal plaudits for abolishing the military and transforming his nation into an unarmed democracy.

All the while, Figueres was playing footsie with the KGB, receiving $300,000 through the local communist party to finance his 1970 presidential campaign in return for his pledge to support the Sandinistas. The KGB also supported Figueres’ newspaper, which published KGB-ghosted articles against the United States. And the KGB channeled arms through “neutral” Costa Rica to the Sandinistas.

On and on rolls the list of KGB active measures. Asia. The Middle East. Africa. And why is this material relevant now that the Cold War is over? As Christopher Andrew reminds us, the Federation of Russian States (the old USSR) is now led by Vladimir Putin, a veteran of the very same KGB that struggled long, even if eventually futilely, to dominate the world. This is a book to which you find yourself referring over and over — in my view, the most valuable intelligence book of the year.

Joseph C. Goulden’s 18th book, “The Money Lawyers,” was published this month.

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