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US intelligence about soviet perspectives .pdf

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Director of Central Intelligence
Oeputy Director of Central Intelligence


Herbert f. Meyer
Vice Chairman. National Intelligence Council



Why Is the World So Dangerous?

1. The level of global violence has rise" as sharply and ~s suddenly as
a child's temperature. In just the last several mont~s we ~ave seen the ·
shoot-down of KAL flight 007. the assassination of Benigno Aquino. the
murderous decap1tatfon of South Korea's leadership fn Rangoon, the terrorist
bombings of US, French. and Israeli soldiers fn lebanon, the libyan invasion
of Chad, and the anti-Bishop coup in Grenada that ultimately triggered our own
successful action on that ;sland. What ma~es these acts of ~iolence so
especially disturting is their common denominator: each has hurt the
citizens. governments. or interests of the Free ~orld.

2. Clearly, the world has become a much more da~gerovs place. We need
to know why. Are these acts of violence so~ehow linked. or traceable to the
same malevolent source? Or should we dismiss the pre$ent tren~ as a series of
frfghtening, tragi~. but unconnected events whose one-after-another timfng is
mere coincidence?
3. I believe the current outbreak of violence fs more than cofnc1dence.
More precisely. I believe 1t s1gnals the beginning of a new stage in the
global struggle between the Free World and the Soviet Union. My contention
rests on a perception that present US policies have funda mentally changed the
course of history 1n a d1rectfon favorable to the interests and securfty of
ourselves and our allfes. What we are seeing now fs a Sovfet-led effort to
fight back, 1n t he sa me se ns e that the Maf ia fights ba~ k when law enforcement
agencies launch an effecti ve cri m e-bu~t1ng progr am. let me concede rfght now
that I ca nnot prove t his -- 1f your de ff nft ion of proof 1S restricted to
f nt~rcepts . photogr aphs. and purloi ned doc umen ts.
Of cour se t hes e thi ngs
matter. They matter hugely. ~t to truly understand an alien phenomenon lfke
t he Sov1et Unfon. one needs to go beyond a listing of fa ct s; one needs ahD to
u~k e a leap or fma9in ation:
4. If four years ago the Soviet leadership had asked my counterpart
call h1m V1ce Chairman of the Soviet National Intell i gence Counct1 -- for his
evaluatton of the global struggl e. I belfeve my counte rpart would have

< ••


replied: •comrade~, I'm delighted to report that the torre1atton of forces ts _
mov1ng stea~ily in our directton.• He would have c1ted the following trends
• to support hh upbeat analysts:
The US economy was' faltering.
US defense spending was too low to truly assure the
nation's security.
The Soviet Unfon had established a mechanism for the steady
flow of wealth from West to East.
The Soviet Union had established a companion mechanism to
assure the steady flow of technology from West to East.
The Soviet Union, through the effectfve use of surrogates
such as Cuba and Vietnam, had developed a technique for
spreading fts influence throughout the Third World by
targeting fragile countries, destabilizing them, and
sw1ftly taking over.
Through the massive deployment of SS·20s, the Soviets were
changing the balance of power in Europe.
In more and more countries, polfcymakers, elites, and the
masses were comfng to accept the Soviets• lorg-standing
claim that tfme was on their side; that one reeded only to
align with Moscow to be on the winning team.
5. Were the Vtce Chatrman of the Soviet Nattonal Intelligence Counctl
called fn by the Kremltn•s leaders. say in mid-1983. ard tsked for hfs
evaluation, I believe he would have sung a very different song: •comrades.•
d have satd.
has gone wrong. The us is refus1 to accept
trman were all
inue -- and thts h
d have cited t
trends to



the1r fatlure
icat tons of a

the annual 1nf1atton


aloud -- a



Eisenhower wrote to General lucius Clay tn 1952: •one of
the great and immediate uses of the military forces we are
developing ts to convey a feeling of confidence to exposed
populations. o confidence which will make therr· sturdier.
politically. in the1r oppos1t1on to Communist inroads.•)
The flow cf wealth from the West to the East ts less than
the Soviets had anticipated tt would be by now. (The vice
chairman took a deep breath and po1nted out that Moscow's
most audacious project, the Siberia to Western Europe
pipeline, had been literally cut in half by US oppositfon;
after all. the pipeline was originally to have comprtsed
two strands, and lately no one either in Western Europe or
the Sovfet Union had even mentioned that second strand.)
The flow of technology from West to East 1s less than the
Soviets had anticipated it would be by now. In part, by
reductng the flow of wealth the US also reduced the Soviet
Union's ability to buy equipment and know-how. And the
US-led crack~down on illegal technology transfers had put a
crimp in that key effort. (The Vice Chairman thought sadly
.... but did not take the liberty of ... that the
expulsions of roughly 100 KGB agents from Western
countries. mostly on technology transfer-related charges,
had wiped out the KGB'S welcome home-party fund.)
The Soviet mechanism for spreading power through the Third
World. while still a considerable threat to Western
security, nas run into unexpected resistance. Sov1et
textbooks insist that anti-Soviet Thtrd World insurgencies
cannot develop. Yet tn 1983 there are ftve of t
-· tn

ique. Angola,
and Afghanistan.
Moscow can no 1
a frd-World country and
no serious resistance w111
• Host
worrisome of all ts
vice chairman t


ng J[s and cruise
the balance of power tn
(The vice chairman had read in
time to Moscow ~as 12
f. is rQUghly how 1

Soviets lack even a rudimentary defense: the truth. (The
vfce chainman made a mental note to ask a friend at the USA
and Canada Institute how It happened that the Republican
Reagan had made go9d against the Soviets a threat made
against the Republicans by the Democrat Adla1 Stevenson 1n
1952: "lf you don't stop te111ng 11es about us, we'll
star~ telling the truth about you.•)


6. Whether or not such briefings actually took place. tt•s apparent that
by mid-1983 Soviet leaders had sufficient evfdence to con~lude that US policy
had fundamentally changed course. and was now moving tn a direction highly
unfavorable to Soviet national interests.

7. From Moscow's perspective, the immediate danger would be the taking
hold of a perception among leaders and voters throughout the West, but
particularly in the us. that this new course was not only right but also
successful. Surely Western politfcfans -- espectally those up for re·elect1on
... would chortle: "You see. we W"ere exactly right to stand up to the
Russians. We are defending our own interests more effectively now. and tt•s
workfng.• The inevitable result of thfs approach would be prec~sely W"hat
Soviet leaders dreaded most: widespread public support for the new US course
and. therefore. a continuation or even an acceleration of it.
8. If Moscow's chief objective were to knock the US off its course.
Moscow's most likely strategy would ba to discredit this course through the
following tactics:
Raise the level of violence, thus making the world a more
dangerous place. (Keep in mind that US tolerance of
vtotence has declined markedly during the last 10 years.)
the increased violence and danger to the
e result of reckless
policfes. (It
of the
elites would swiftly
tfy th1s
course, e1
and every act
others to


• the Sovfets ~ould not need to
t each
t some, arrange for
lves. They would c
or allies, and general create an
• ThiS Jast el
d be


to mu



at least two dozen Soviet specialists and generally well informed fndivtduals
1 know. whose political views and afftliatfons range across the spectrum: If
the Soviet On1on does not achfeve its ambition to displ1ce the US as the
- world•s pre-eminent p~wer within -- very roughly •• the next 20 years. the
soviet Unfon will never succeed. Among the analytic points supporting this
The Soviet Union has failed utterly to become a country.
After sixty-six years of communist rule, the Soviet Union
remains a nineteenth-century-style empire. comprised of
more than 100 nationality groups and dominated by the
Russians. There 1s not one major nationality group that is
content with the present. Russian-controlled arrangement;
not one that does not yearn for its political and economic
freedom. It's hard to imagine how the world's last empfre
can surv1ve fnto the twenty-first century except under
highly favorable conditions of economics and demographics
•• conditions that do not 1 and will not. exist.
The Soviet economy 1s heading toward calamity. With an
average annual growth rate of less that 2 percent, and with
defense spending going up &t an average annual rate of
4 percent, something fairly drastic has got to give, and
fairly soon. Jt•s a matter of simple arithmetic.
Moreover, sharply rising energy costs w111 make even
current growth rates difficult to sustain. It is
inevitable that 1f present economic trends ccnt1nue. living
standards w111 dec11ne. perhaps to post-WorlG War 11
levels. ~e have a11 been warned by the experts never to
under-estimate the Russians• capacity for belt-tightening;
1 myself have publ1shed articles on th1s very subje,t. But
there 1s a 11mit 1 and that limit is
ng closer every



and h.trder

The East European satellites are becomtng ~ore and more
to control. Already economtc growth rates fn the
tey satellite\ are marginal, non-exfstant. or negattve.
These rates will decline further as the Sovfet Unton moves
to insulate itself from the rising costs of empfre by
squeezing its satellites harder. tor example by raising the
prices of 1ts raw mater1als and paying 1ts sate111tes less
for the finished goods the Soviet Union then buys.
Economic trouble leads Inevitably to political unrest, so
the question is not whether Moscow•s difffcutttes will
mount but rather how bad things will get. We are all
familiar with the situation fn Poland. But other
satellites may be closer to their own political boiling
points than we realize. Romanfa has just announced massive
cutbacks in electric power. including the $hutting down of
all schools for the month of January along with pressures
on consumerl to stop using vacuum cleaners, washing
machines. aoc refrigerators. And tn East Germany •• wtdely
regarded as among the most stable and secure satellites -the Communist Party daily Neues Oeutschlan'• in an
astounding ideological departure, publishe' in its
October 22 edition two letters from clergymen who expressed
the1r fears about new Soviet missiles. In all. it seems
likely that the Soviets will need to use raw military power
somewhere in Eastern Europe before too 1on~; they may need
to use such power in several satellites at once.

11. The Soviet leadership simply cannot make the changes necessary to
either reverse these trends or cope with them. Kremlin leaders could boost
their country•s economic growth rate only by slashing the defense budget or by
enacting massive
• £1ther remedy would th~eaten the Co~unist
Pa 's i on
ther remedy has the slightest chance or being
ic ni
is equally difficult to end. Moscow
ity from the Russfan to the nonDoing so
d give these
ts wt11i
to rfsk. And Moscow


13. In sum, time is not on the Soviet Union's side. This assertion is
now widely accepted among Western observers. as l*ve noted. But tts
staggering implications have scarcely been absorbed. To do so we need to .ake

• yet another leap of imagination. this one to consider
thwarted ambit1on:
· ··

t~e phen~nenon


14. We have all known individuals who have come to recognize that time is
no longer their ally: the 45-year.old corporation vfce president who realizes
that he may never make chairman; the 35·year old childless woman who lfes
awake at night. listening to the relentless tfcktng of her biological clock;
the campaigning politician who has confidently brushed astde polls that show
him trailing his opponent by 20 points, and who now realizes that w1th just
two weeks left before election day. that le~d may be t~o big to close. The
per~eption that ti~e is no longer on one's side may take weeks or even years
to develop, and often it ts obvious to others first. But by definition the
perception comes s~ddenly.

15. There are. 1n fact, just two ways to cope with tha perceptfon that
time has become an enemy. The first ts to accept the unpleasant reality, and
to resign one's self to reduced expectations: life as a mid-level corporate
manager isn't so bad, there are advantages to not having children. it'll be
nice to leave publ\c life for a while. This is quite often an honorable and
perfectly sensible approach.
16. The second response ts to go for it. That is, to refuse to meek11
one's likely fate. and 1nstead to work or even fight for whatever it ts
one wants. This, too, ts quite often an honorable and perfectly sensible
approach. But it fs a phenomenon of human nature that from the moment one
concludes that time ts an enemy and that the proper response ts to go for tt
·- all is changed. Ideas and actions that were unth\nkable the day before are
te thinkable and even appeal1ng. Why? Because the alternative ts
s is
to be unacceptable.
seemingly defeated
ives who have taken desperate
dari measures
ate our isons, too. The
nd has



Now let

tcat1on of our assertion that tf the
the next 20
it never
conttnue, we•re
to win the Cold
to be the


possibly at the very top. more likely at the thfrd or fourth level echelons ••
now view their empire's future as bleak. And of those offictals it seems
equally inevitable that while some will opt to accept the 1nevttable, so to
S?eak, others will be less fatalistic. Their argument would run like this:
Ours ts an unstable political· syst~m. held together solely by terror and
military force. Peaceful political change is utterly a11en to Russia. The
alternative to moving forward ts not standing still, but falltng backward.
Thus when we lose our forward momentum and begin to suffer reversals, our
empire will crumble swiftly and violently. We who are the elite·· 11ke every
totalitarian elite th~t has come before -- will be swept away. And unlike the
elite that we swept away in 1917 -- so many of whose members wound up driving
taxis 1n Paris -- we will wind up swinging from lamp-posts 1n every city from
leningrad to Vladfvostok.

19. They could dec;de to go for 't: to launch one or a serfes of act1ons
designed to 'hange tt.~ correlation of forces before it is too late to do so.
In this category I would include a grab for the Persian Gulf. and possibly
even a conventional or nuclear bolt-from·the-blue first strike on Western
Europe or perhaps on the US. I do not predict these actions. I merely
predict -- and this ts worrisome enough -· that to some Soviet officials such
actions may no longer be too risky to contemplate.
20. It has long been fashionable to vtew the Cold War as a permanent
feature of global politics. one that will endure through the next several
generations at least. But it seems to me more l;kely that President Reagan
was absolutely correct when he observed in his Notre Dame speech that the
Soviet Union -- •one of history's saddest and most bizarre chapters• -· 1s
entering its final pages. (We really should take up the President's
suggestion to begin planning for a post-Soviet world; the Soviet Union and its
people won't disappear
the planet and we have not yet thought seriously
about the sort of political and
structure 11ke1y to emerge.) In
short, the free World has out·dtstanted the
1et Union
cally, crushed
1t t
cal1y, and held it off poli cally. The
serious arena of
ition left is military.
now on the
d War will
more and
re·knutkles street

continue we w111
is all too likely
incumbent or
et leaders will not choose to awatt
fr fates
fetly wh11e
shattering descent into history.
ude to the most
years we have ever




Director of Central Intelligence
Deputy Director of Central lntellfgence


Herbert £. Meyer
Vice Chairman. National Intelligence Council




Is the World So Dangerous?

{30 Nov 83)


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