By General Oleg Kalugin (Retired)

The Venona documents (the US code breaking project that deciphered Soviet intelligence messages in the 1940s) revealed that the period of Soviet-American amity turned out to be the best time for Soviet espionage against the USA. The Soviet intelligence handled in the 1940s over 200 Americans as spies. Curiously, the number of Soviet KGB intelligence officers stationed in the USA in 1941 was only 18.8 (For comparison: at the peak of the Cold War in the early 1980s the KGB had over 200 officers in the USA under various covers, while the number of assets was close to 20.)

The Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe posed new challenges to the Soviet Security and Intelligence apparatus. To keep control of the internal situation in the “liberated” countries, to weed out anti-socialist and anti-party elements, Zionists, “enemies of the people” was no easy task. The organized forms of the KGB cooperation with their counterparts in Eastern Europe began gradually to take shape in 1948. By then, the Soviets had helped the local Communist Party officials to pick up the right people for their Security Services. Some of them had a long record of collaboration with Soviet intelligence in pre-war times. By 1950, official Soviet advisors’ mission opened in every socialist country. The missions were compact, an average of 12 to 15 KGB officers, each responsible for a line of work. (East Germany was an the exception.) Instead of direct involvement into running the national interior and Security ministries, as practiced before the Soviet advisors began to coordinate their activities, exchange information and work experience, plan joint projects, and specific operations. But the new, more civilized approach to mutual cooperation would be abrupted instantly if a Soviet partner from Eastern Europe had views different from those of the Soviets. When the Yugoslav and Albanian leaders rejected Soviet rude interference in their domestic affairs, they were branded as traitors. The alleged accomplices of the “traitors” in Hungary, Bulgaria, and Czecheslovakia were executed. In East Germany, the head of the Stasi Ernest Wollweber and a former NKVD agent in the 1930s who resented Moscow dictate was surveilled by the Soviet KGB and then sacked.

In Hungary, in 1956, during the popular uprising against the Communist rule and Soviet domination, Prime Minister Imre Nagy, another NKVD agent since the 1930s was arrested and subsequently executed by the Soviets for his refusal to obey Soviet orders.

The Hungarian lesson and the public unrest in East Germany and Poland were not to be lost upon the new Soviet leadership. Nikita Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin and the KGB’s brutality led to significant changes in the Soviet treatment of its allies. It became more civilized, subtle, orderly, and relatively benign. The equality in partnership under the auspices of the Warsaw Pact Treaty was proclaimed to be the crux of the new Soviet policies in Eastern Europe.

The events in Czechoslovakia in 1986 jolted Leonid Brezhnev out of complacency and unleashed the KGB wrath against a new breed of revisionists in the Socialist camp. It’s now known that it was Yuri Andropov, the KGB Chairman, who insisted on military intervention in Czechoslovakia. He secured the support of other hardliners in the politbureau who overwhelmed Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin and wavering Brezhnev and dispatched Soviet tanks to suppress the “Prague Spring.” The KGB’s trusted people arrested the Czech Party leader Alexander Dulcek and installed the new pro-Moscow government. But prior to the invasion, the KGB sent its illegals to Czechoslovakia, who fabricated evidence of counter-revolutionary conspiracies by Czech liberals. Secret caches of arms allegedly stashed by NATO spies and “discovered” by the Czech Security Service, anti-communist leaflets, other hostile acts were part of the KGB’s psychological warfare to prepare the public opinion for the Soviet military “assistance” to the “healthy” socialist forces in the country.

The Czech events had far reaching consequences for KGB operations in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

Frustrated by the lack of objective and reliable reports from the KGB liaison offices, KGB Chairman Andropov ordered the use of covert ways to obtain desired information (“Operations Progress”).

From 1968, onwards the moods and views of Eastern Europe nations were monitored by experienced Soviet illegals, who operated under disguise of western businessmen, journalists, and tourists and pretended to sympathize with critics of the Communist regimes. The number of illegals differed from country to country. In Romania, for instance, 13 officers, Czechoslavakia –20, Yugoslavia –9, GDR –7, Hungary –4, Bulgaria –3.9

In 1969, the KGB started opening “legal” residences in Eastern European and other friendly capitals in addition to its liaison missions. Operating under diplomatic, journalistic, and other official covers, the KGB officers were now allowed to recruit agents among local citizens, with an emphasis on government officials, party functionaries, and security service personnel. The ratio of KGB liaison and undercover employees was roughly 1 to 3. In Cuba for instance, 14 KGB officers at the official mission were supplemented by 35 undercover officers, but in East Germany undercover officers constituted only 10 percent of the total KGB 450 employees.

With Czech discontent ruthlessly suppressed and other satellite nationals scared, the KGB tightened its screws on the allies. Only Romania did not comply with new Soviet toughness and bolted out of the alliance. In 1971, the Romanian State Security at the behest of its leader Nicolai Ceusescu terminated their ties with the Soviet KGB.

Other Eastern Europe secret services would now become even more subservient to the Soviet KGB.

From assistance in preparing assassinations of political dissidents by Bulgaria to approving East German Stasi flirtations with foreign terrorist groups, from joint operations in double agentry to stealing Western technologies, the pattern was always the same: the Soviet KGB stood behind and directed its allies.

Former chief of the KGB official mission in Prague, General Elisei Sinitsin in his annual report to Moscow in 1977, summarized the spirit and gist of the KGB relationship with its East European colleagues: “our friends hand over to us all their cipher traffic with their residences both information and operational. They also hand over telegrams from ambassadors. Our friends keep practically no secrets from us.”10

But the KGB could not stop the growing discontent and disillusionment of the peoples of Eastern Europe nor, for that matter, of its own people.

The Polish crisis of the 1980s proved to be insoluble for the Soviet leaders. The old, tested ways would not work. The KGB reports from Warsaw left no doubt that the Czech version would be vigorously opposed not only by the Polish people, but the Polish Communists as well. The elevation of the Polish Cardinal to the Vatican throne made it practically impossible to resort to force. The world reaction would be dangerously unpredictable.

The Soviet retreat in the face of potentially unacceptable consequences compounded by the new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s reluctance to be drawn into adventures led eventually to the demise of the Warsaw Pact Organization.

The KGB accepted the collapse of the Soviet empire with great chagrin and aversion. Prior to the finale, it devised a special program of active measures in a desperate attempt to stave off the downfall of the communist regime, but it was denied permission to implement them. Said Leonid Shebarshin, the last head of the KGB intelligence service, “the leaders of Eastern Europe were told to fend for themselves. But they were educated only to be friends of the Soviet Union; they were never prepared to stand on their own feet. They were just thrown to the wolves.”11

With the Soviet domination in Eastern Europe coming to an end, the Soviet KGB was facing yet another defeat ¾this time in the third world, where the KGB had also been running liaison missions and prepared grounds for transforming a number of nations into Soviet satellites. General Nikolai Leonov, former KGB chief analyst, summoned up the views of his colleagues on this issue in the following words, “In the Cold War confrontation, we accepted as a matter of principle that geo-political victory will be won by those with whom the third world will go…Some countries linked to us by political and military ties received our ideological encouragement and arms, but their real economic ties were with the West. For instance, Syria was very close, very friendly to our country, was our ally. Our Navy operated from their bases, but 98 percent of their economy was tied to the West.”12

The inability of the Soviet Union to effectively help the developing nations in building up their economies could not be compensated by the KGB manipulations. From Angola to Mozambique to Ethiopia and Somalia, to Syria and South Yemen, the Soviet KGB missions were failing. The last Soviet stronghold, Afghanistan where the KGB installed its stooges ever since the local communists had taken over power in 1978, fell down under pressure from the Afghan resistance movement in 1989.

Before this happened, between 1980 and 1989, the KGB trained in its special schools on the territory of the USSR nearly 30,000 Afghan officers, a half of the Afghan Security Service.13 It did not help.

8 Essays Vol. 3 p.17

9 The Sword and The Shield Chapters 15-16

10 The Sword and The Shield p.268

11 The Sword and The Shield p. 543

12 March 20, 2002

13 V. Kryuchkov: Personal File Moscow Olympic 1996 Vol.1 p. 213

Oleg D. Kalugin
Major General
Former People’s Deputy of the USSR

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