Biden’s “secret diplomacy”

In an article published in the Frontpage magazine on 14 October 2008, Vladimir BUKOVSKY wrote of a top-secret report by Vadim Zagladin of the Central Committee’s International Department.

Here before us is a Soviet archival document dated 9-20 April 1979, a top-secret report by a communist apparatchik who had received a delegation of US Senators led by Joseph Biden in 1979. After describing routine arms control discussions, it quotes Biden as telling the Soviets off-record that he did not really care about the persecution of Russian dissidents. He and other Senators might raise human rights issues with their Soviet counterparts, but only to be seen by the [US] public as defenders of human rights, not to have those problems really solved. They would happily take no for an answer.

The full text of Bukovsky’s 2008 article may easily be found online in the Blog section of the Soviet History Lessons website.

The source of the top-secret document, wrote Bukovsky, was the Presidential Archive, established by Mikhail Gorbachev after the dissolution of the USSR. Among the hundreds of classified reports and memoranda that Bukovsky himself copied in 1992 at the Central Committee archives there is only one reference to Senator Biden leading a group from the US Congress to the Soviet Union. And it is, to be frank, a dull workaday document reporting the arrangements for a 6-day visit to the USSR by a group of US Senators, led by Joseph Biden (25 August 1979*, St 173/49), scheduled to take place three months after Zagladin’s report.

There are other reports by Zagladin to the Central Committee at around this time. One important communication in early October 1979 concerns the visit of leading Italian Communist Giovanni Cervetti and discussion of forms of financial support for the PCI. For while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (or Foreign Trade) might deal with capitalist delegations it was the specific task of the Central Committee’s International Department to deal with foreign Communists and “workers” parties.

Without sight of the original document or a copy of the same, and assurance that its odd date is accompanied by the standard cyphers and numbers of the Central Committee secretariat (see both documents cited above) it is hard to accept that the document is genuine. External verification — two visits by Senator Biden to the USSR in the same year, one in April, a second in August? — might throw further light on this somewhat puzzling publication.

JC, January 2021