Skip to comments.Ronald Reagan's Secret Anti-Soviet War
Posted on 06/10/2004 2:26:53 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
As president of the United States, Ronald Reagan initiated a sweeping and unprecedented program of covert actions and economic-warfare initiatives that acted to greatly weaken the Soviet economy, its support for "wars of liberation," and its hold on its power in Eastern Europe, former top Reagan administration officials said.
The elements of these programs were contained in top-secret national-security directives signed by Reagan in 1982 and 1983, these sources told United Press International.
"Any kind of covert-action program had to be expressed in a presidential finding," after consultations with attorneys, a former Reagan White House official explained. He said one of the most important NSC findings was NSDD 32, which authorized covert U.S. support of the Polish free union, Solidarity, and other anti-Soviet institutions in Poland to weaken and neutralize Soviet influence in that country.
Another finding, NSDD-66, authorized the United States to wage economic and resource war on a "strategic triad" of resources deemed critical to the survival of the Soviet economy, including technology, trade and credits, according to former senior Reagan administration officials. This especially targeted Soviet imports of advanced Western technology and also Russia's oil industry, upon whose earnings Moscow depended for the bulk of its hard currency, these sources said.
Other measures included covert support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan who were resisting Soviet forces that had occupied the country in 1979. Covert measures included strikes by jihadis on Soviet soil, these former senior sources said.
Another aspect of the Reagan program was the dramatic U.S. defense buildup, which unnerved the Soviets by its pace and degree, according to Yvgenny Novikov, who, in 1982, was the second political officer of the Soviet Embassy in Washington and who defected to the United States in 1990.
Some of these secret programs were first revealed in a little-known 1994 book, Victory, by Peter Schweizer, a media fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Schweizer confirmed to UPI that the more secret, hard-line aspects of Reagan's anti-Soviet policies were never discussed with NSC staff members such as John Poindexter, Robert McFarlane or Richard Pipes, but only with CIA Director William Casey and Bill Clark, a longtime Reagan friend.
"It was a small, tight-lipped group," a former White House staffer explained.
In the case of Poland, a current administration official who was a White House official in 1982 said that Casey held key meetings with Israeli intelligence officials. These officials included Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Hoffi, who, in return for increased U.S. financial assistance, allowed U.S. intelligence operatives to use a Mossad "ratline" that ran from Albania to Poland, then east straight into the heart of the Soviet Union.
The "ratline" was used to smuggle information or dissident Jews out of the Soviet Union, several former officials said. The secret 1956 speech by then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev denouncing Josef Stalin was said to have been smuggled out to the West via the "ratline," sources said.
According to a State Department official who, in the early 1980s, was assigned to the Vatican, Casey didn't hesitate to use meetings with Vatican officials to obtain detailed intelligence about anti-Soviet groups in Poland.
But according to some strategically placed sources, Reagan's use of covert action was not confined to the Soviets and its Eastern satellites, but also was used against Western allies who were seen as being "soft" on Moscow.
One example was the tension between the hard-line White House group and then-chancellor of West Germany, Helmut Schmidt. According to these sources and reported here for the first time, in 1981 the White House mounted an operation to remove Schmidt, head of the Social Democratic Party, and replace him with Helmut Kohl, leader of the Christian Democratic Union, who was seen to be more anti-Soviet and conservative.
The dispute centered on Schmidt's support for a proposed Soviet-German natural-gas deal, called by the Russians Urengoi 6, that would run from Siberia to the Soviet-Czech border. According to former White House officials close to the deal, senior Reagan officials such as Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger thought such an agreement would result "in a Russian stranglehold over German energy as well as keeping the Soviets swimming in cash" to the tune of $30 billion a year.
In 1981, Schmidt, although pro-American, was seen as drifting toward a neutralist stance. One former White House official close to the deal said that hard-line Reagan Cabinet members "sought to destabilize Schmidt" to "regain control over German popular forces." The issue split the Cabinet, he said, but the operation to remove Schmidt was successful, and Kohl became West German chancellor. With the removal of Schmidt, the gas deal was killed, he said.
Another deft tactical coup in covert activity, also reported here for the first time, occurred when Weinberger visited the Swedish Defense Ministry from Oct. 15-19, 1981, the first visit ever by a U.S. Defense secretary to that country.
Top Swedish defense officials showed Weinberger ministry charts and action reports that gave details of earlier penetration by Soviet and Warsaw Pact submarines into restricted Swedish military areas in violation of international law, according to U.S. intelligence sources close to the case at the time.
Then, on Oct. 27, a Soviet Whiskey-class sub suddenly and very publicly ran aground on the rocks inside a Swedish military base, using a route that had been used previously by another Soviet intruder, these sources said.
Swedish military planners had been increasingly nervous about a Soviet military buildup in the region on the nearby Kola Peninsula. And politically the Swedes were deeply embroiled in the pros and cons of deploying new Pershing II and ground-based cruise missiles in Western Europe, which had been approved by NATO in a 1979 decision, these sources said. Some Swedes thought this a needless provocation and a threat to East-West détente.
According to former U.S. Air Force intelligence sources, it was decided at the Swedish-Weinberger meetings to trap and detain a Soviet submarine, and the office of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush was kept closely apprised of the plan.
These sources also said U.S. technology was able to manipulate the sub's instruments, causing them to exhibit "false readings" until it was misled and went aground. "We had that sort of technology," one of the former intelligence officials said.
The result was a huge shock to Sweden, a toughening of its political attitudes, and a huge propaganda victory for the Reagan administration.
Although the activities of the Reagan administration in Afghanistan have been well-covered by such recent books as Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile and Stephen Coll's Ghost Wars, perhaps the greatest strategic coup of the Reagan covert program of economic warfare involved Saudi Arabia.
Former senior Reagan advisers who spoke with UPI solely on condition of anonymity told how the Reagan group ingeniously had targeted Soviet hard-currency earnings. If Moscow were broke it couldn't develop or buy weapons and couldn't even pay the troops of its overextended military machine, much less finance wars of liberation around the world. It could talk tough, but "it would no longer be tough," as one former Reagan official put it.
The first blow was struck in May 1983, when American pressure forced the International Energy Agency to put a limit on European exports of Soviet natural gas, blocking huge sums of money from reaching Moscow. But natural-gas earnings were only a Kremlin sideshow: Russia's top engine of economic wealth was its oil industry, which generated half of its hard-currency earnings, these sources said.
By early 1983, the Treasury Department, under the direction of Casey and Weinberger, had completed a voluminous study of U.S. and Soviet energy costs. The study had discovered that the best price required by the United States for a barrel of crude oil was only $20. This was far below the $34 per barrel being charged in 1983. If oil prices came down, it would save the United States almost $72 million a year, or almost one percent of the gross national product. What would a fall in the oil price do to the Russians?
Very ugly things, it seemed. The study concluded that while a cut in oil prices would boost U.S. economic welfare, the same cut would have a "devastating effect on the Soviet economy," in the words of one former Reagan adviser. In fact, Reagan National Security Adviser Bill Clark told Schweizer that "Ronald Reagan was fully aware that energy exports represented the centerpiece of Moscow's hard-currency earnings." The energy-export industry was working at full capacity. A drop in price, and the Russians were badly lamed.
Soon U.S. officials were huddling in Geneva with the Saudi oil adviser, Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani. Following the meeting, the United States announced it was cutting its oil imports from 220,000 barrels per day to 145,000 barrels. In late February, the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar, met with senior U.S. officials, including Casey and Weinberger, according to former Reagan officials who were involved.
Abruptly, the Saudis boosted production of oil, resulting in lower world prices. By August 1985, Saudi production jumped from 2 billion barrels a day to 9 billion. Since Saudi Arabia was the swing producer in OPEC, which used its production levels to control the market price of crude, the effect was instantaneous. In Russia, the effect was calamitous, former Reagan officials said.
How did the price cuts affect Saudi incomes? Did they lose money on the deal? Hardly. According to former senior CIA officials, CIA currency-exchange specialists bounced billions of dollars of Saudi currency reserves from one currency to another: from the Belgian franc to the British pound and back. This earned the Saudis "billion of dollars" in the words of one former official.
"Reagan's doctrine was simple -- no quarter for the Soviet Union, no concessions. Instead, stop and counter it any way you could -- whether it was support for free unions or groups resisting its encroachments," said a former White House staffer.
I also read an article a few months ago that Reagan authorized the CIA to turn over vital weapons and technology material to the USSR...with viruses in it. Some things would work for a week and collapse, some would blow up. The Soviets got so jumpy that they nearly stopped all espionage activities because they were afraid what they were getting was garbage.
Other measures included covert support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan who were resisting Soviet forces that had occupied the country in 1979. Covert measures included strikes by jihadis on Soviet soil, these former senior sources said.
Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History
From an award-winning 60 Minutes reporter comes the extraordinary story of the largest and most successful CIA operation in historythe arming of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
"In little over a decade, two events have transformed the world we live in: the collapse of our Cold War nuclear foe, the Soviet Union; and the discovery, after 9/11, that we face a new global enemy in the form of militant Islam," writes author and 60 Minutes producer George Crile in the enclosed Author's Note to Charlie Wilson's War. Here, we see the "missing chapter"-that connects the two events-in the politics of our time.
Charlie Wilson's War is the untold story of how the Central Intelligence Agency armed the Afghan Mujahideen in what became the CIA's largest and most successful campaign in history. It profiles the men who conceived it and the journey they took to see it through. At its core, it tells of an unorthodox alliance-of a scandal-prone Texas Congressman named Charlie Wilson and an out-of-favor CIA operative named Gust Avrakotos-that armed and sustained the Afghan jihad and turned Afghanistan into the Soviet Unions Vietnam.
As incredible as anything in the pages of Tom Clancy or John le Carré, Charlie Wilson's War is a gripping story of international intrigue, booze, drugs, sex, high society and arms deals. It is indeed one of the most detailed and compulsively readable accounts of the inside workings of the CIA ever written.
Along the way, we meet:
· The charismatic Congressman Charlie Wilson. While Ronald Reagan and William Casey were unable to persuade Congress to give them a mere $19 million to fund the Nicaraguan Contras, Wilson was procuring hundreds of millions of dollars to support his Afghan "freedom fighters" through back-room machinations that would have made even LBJ blush. A colorful man of many contradictions, he worked hard and played hard, earning the reputation as the "wildest man in Congress" while representing an archconservative Bible-belt district in Texas.
· The out-of-favor CIA operative, Gust Avrakotos, whose working-class Greek-American background made him an anomaly in the patrician world of American spies. Nicknamed "Dr. Dirty", this blue collar James Bond was an aggressive agent who served on the front lines of the Cold War where he learned how to stretch the Agency's rules to the breaking point.
· The eccentric staff of CIA outcasts hand-picked by Avrakotos to run the operation. Among them were "Hilly Billy", the logistics wizard who could open an un-numbered Swiss bank account for the U.S. government in 12 hours when others took months; Art Alper, the "devilish" tinkerer from the Technical Services division who roamed the world creating such novelties as exploding typewriters and developed portable amplifiers that spread propaganda among the Soviet troops; and especially Mike Vickers, the former Green Beret so junior in status that he couldn't send his own cables. His military genius allowed him to single-handedly redesign the CIA's war plan. Through his highly specific blueprint, he created a systematic plan that turned a rabble of shepherds and tribesmen into an army of techno Holy warriors who gave the legendary Red Army their greatest defeat. Today, Mike Vickers is consulting for the Pentagon on the War on Terrorism and war planning for Iraq.
· The many women who shared the Congressman's jihad. It all began with a Houston socialite, Joanne Herring who enlisted Wilson to the Afghan cause via her deep-seated hatred of Communism and her influence in Pakistan. Carol Shannon, Wilson's personal belly dancer who he took with him to the jihad. Charlie's Angels, Wilson's female staffers so strikingly beautiful that they became a legend on Capitol Hill. And finally, Annelise Illschenko, aka "Sweetums", the former U.S. representative in the Miss World competition who traveled with Wilson deep into the Islamic world in outfits that were not the most appropriate attire in the eyes of Muslim men
· The Pakistani dictator Zia ul Haq, who early on realized that the way to millions of dollars in American aid was through Charlie Wilson and his covert war in Afghanistan. A dictator whom many held personally responsible for the execution of his democratically elected predecessor, Zia used his favorable status as an ally of the U.S. against the Soviets to divert attention from his own nuclear weapons program while providing the all-important safe haven and operations center for the CIA's Afghan operations .
Charlie Wilson's War is the CIA and Congress as you have never seen them before, engaged in the last great battle of the Cold War. Along with its page-turning pace, this is an important book that has direct implications for todays world situation.
Behind the easy smile and the ready laugh, he was a real street fighter!
Thanks for the ping!
How in hell do you find all these articles?
I would love to see the inside story on a few other Presidents.
Can't you just imagine the mess that a freaking Kerry could make of this nation?
Wow.........Great Read ! ..........Stay safe !
(Which is why Reagan's a bigger man than most. He saw people as individuals, not as stereotypical masses.)
Not that most of what they say could ever be verified, but these are the leakiest people I've seen since Senator Leahy.
Schweizer's book Victory is the source of all this...Great book, but I must have been one of the handful who bought it.
Where is the history of how the US government ROLLED BACK communism with covert support for dissidents inside Russia and the Baltics, Armenia, Moldova, etc.? You know what. You CAN'T FIND IT. Why not?
Oh you can find how the Catholic Church played a role (but only in Poland) and how other groups did this and that, but the USG was a practical non-entity in promoting and agitating and financing opposition INSIDE THE USSR and Eastern Europe. I should know, I was one of those NOT on the govvie payroll providing support for dissidents in places like Latvia and Armenia, and I knew many others like me (including quite a few young American [non-emigre] idealists whose deeds may ultimately go largely unknown). There were networks of anti-Communist and nationalist resistance fighters that were not supported by the left-wing and anti-nationalist dominated foreign policy and intelligence bureaucracies in the USG (Liberal State and World Federalist CIA). Quick -- tell me who led the protests in Latvia in 1986. Who led the insurgencies in Armenia and Azerbaijan? Who led the protests that led to force being used in Tbilisi? Who led the ethnic Romanian organization in Moldova? Who financed it all? Not Uncle Sam. It all happened due to a thousand different groups both internal and external (from around the world) that had the courage to act where the US government did not (and because the USG was not involved most folks tend not to read or hear about their contributions unfortunately).
Why not? President George H. W. Bush revealed part of the reason in his infamous "Chicken Kiev" speech in 1991 in which he castigated "suicidal nationalism" -- "world order builders" and anti-nationalists in the president's Cabinet urged a policy of backing GORBACHEV! He was already history by that point, but it did not stop James 'Screw the Carter Doctrine' Baker, and his ilk from pushing the president to take the WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY. Worse, during the Reagan era, the CIA was penetrated to the hilt with social democratic and Liberal left-wing degenerates (Cord Meyer was a World Federalist and left a number of his new world order buddies in the DO, while the head of economic analysis now "comments" on left-wing Pacific Radio, no wonder they missed the barn by a mile when it came to estimating the %GDP spent on defense -- Akhromeyev said "25% maybe more," while the CIA and other suckers in the West were debating half that), you had Ames and Hansen destroying what feeble attempts there were to build military and political intelligence networks, and you also had the former DO trainee in Leningrad who was a turncoat, and of course you had intel flowing to Russia via other countries with penetrations.
Where was the effort to promote a political opposition inside the USSR, apart from some radio broadcasts? We were doing it in every place from Afghanistan to Angola, but there is very little evidence substantial support came from official and intelligence channels for political opposition groups inside the USSR, Romania, Bulgaria, etc. The fact was that while Reagan spread the message and did a fantastic job of taking the aggressive war option off the table for Gromyko, Chebrikov, etc., so that they had no option but to take a chance on Gorbo for an opportunity to acquire technology from the West, the USG was filled with people who had not caught up to Reagan and realized that the era of bi-polarism and "convergence" theory was OVER -- it was us or them, as the Soviet empire headed towards a crisis. Even the Soviet Politburo, post-Poland 1979-1981, understood that (according to memoirs). The only issue on the table was whether they would go down in flames and take us with them, or simply GIVE UP (on a regime that Lenin and Stalin said was premised on and held together only by "revolutionary terror") and implode.
Regan is famous for declaring his "we win, they lose" war aim, but the bureaucratic cowards in Washington reporting to him never advanced a doctrine of "ROLLBACK" that carried beyond the Third World into Eastern Europe and the Soviet empire. Understandably people were focused on containing expansion and promoting "freedom fighters," and they too were "catching up" to the emerging strategic realities, but there was a clear policy of limited engagement inside Eastern Europe and the Soviet empire. It was a monumental failure in strategy that worked out in the end only because the unexpected happened -- the Old Guard in power just couldn't pull the trigger any more, or when they did, as in Romania and during the coup in Russia (8/91), few followed orders. Heck, even one of the coup leaders in August 1991 chose to get drunk instead of finishing the job. Who would've thought? A great tragedy and collapse of Reagans strategy by cowardice in the USG and the White House was averted by and you have to cringe at the irony cowardice. Pure luck. Well all take it, but history should record how close we came to having a series of rolling military crises in Europe if the coup plotters had succeeded.
By the way, Gorbachev did not promote this outcome he fought it every step of the way by promoting "reform" as an alternative to liberty, and was a fool by all accounts who kept talking until the last moment about preserving socialism and the Soviet empire. Gorbo is LAUGHING STOCK in Russia today on a par with Michael Dukakis here -- so why are there so many to praise this guy and give him a nice residence in the Presidio (San Fran)?
It was Gorbachev's stupidity and weakness, combined with a rising popular FAITH that the West finally "got it" -- that the Soviet Union was the world's largest prison of nations and a murderous " evil empire" that had to be EXTERMINATED for the betterment of mankind, which emboldened millions to TAKE A CHANCE and kick the edifice over. Where were the careerists in the CIA during these "world-historic" (to borrow the Soviet phrase) struggles in the Heartland of Eurasia? AWOL by and large! Just like they went AWOL in the war on Islamic terrorism in the 1990s.
To this extent, my critique is to illustrate how Reagan overcame bureaucratic and widespread TREASON (even in Congress, ranging from Senator Kennedy's attempt to make a "back channel" via a KGB officer to Congressman Lantos sucking up to Ceaucescu, according to someone who should know, our former ambassador there Mr. Funderburk who wrote about it in a book, which also went directly to the library shelves like Victory). Such readiness to accept that the Soviet Union was always going to be around, and worse, was so pervasive in Reagan's days that we can thank God that the Soviets went for reform instead of war. It also helps to dispel the myth that one man can't change the world -- Ronald Reagan did, against all obstacles, both foreign and domestic. Jesus Christ showed the world the light. Ronald Reagan literally saved the world.
Southack pinged me. Who pinged him, I don't know.
You know, that pinged...oh, nevermind.
I'll be expecting your apology for claiming I was 'tin foil' for saying we could easily have caused the Russian wargame test failure last year. ;^)
Yes, but the Reagans knew better than to ask the imam to pray to his demonic god. Having him there did no harm to the nation and gave the Muslim an opportunity to see what he was missing in his religion which disavows freedom in favor in becoming slaves of Allah with ones fate completely proscribed by a non caring, non personal god. I hope a desire to know the God of Love grows in the imam's heart from this experience.