Judgement in Moscow (contents)


5.1   Disarray in the Kremlin

5.2   “A new type of Marxist…”

5.3   The breath of fate

5.4   A change of course

5.5   “Storm 333”

5.6   Temporary measures



The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 shocked the world. As I recall, I found this astonishing. Had the Soviet Union not been steadily expanding until then into literally every corner of the Earth? There was something despicable and affected about this outrage and incomprehension, as if a man married a prostitute and was then indignant to discover she’s not a virgin.

Western politicians and experts vied with each other, offering theories to “explain” Soviet behaviour. As might be expected, the Left saw this event as an “over-reaction to the unfriendly behaviour of the West”, especially NATO’s decision to deploy new short-range missiles in Western Europe. The Right muttered about “Russian imperialism” and “Russia’s traditional urge to reach warm southern waters”. The occupation of Afghanistan was, in fact, the last and not always obligatory stage in the Soviet scenario of “liberation”. In this case, it showed that the Kremlin strategists had been clumsy in their planning, and made good their errors by sending in the troops. By the time Afghanistan was occupied the country had been all but swallowed up by the Soviet Union, although this was something the West had no wish to notice.


The history of relations between the two countries illustrates the incapacity of the Soviet system to co-exist with the rest of the world. Of all the non-socialist countries in the world Afghanistan was, probably, the friendliest towards the USSR and almost the first country to establish diplomatic relations after the October 1917 Revolution. Afghanistan, in its own way, would be an Asian type of Finland for the next six decades. The Kremlin understood that Afghanistan was going nowhere and was in no rush to export revolution. Instead, it “facilitated progress” by training specialists, building roads, setting up industry. From a Marxist point of view, it could not be expected that this backward, feudal State would immediately make the transition to socialism. In any case, a thrifty farmer is in no haste to slaughter the sucking pig, letting it fatten until the day of celebration. That day was drawing near.

Having neutralised the “forces of imperialism”, the “peaceful advance” of the Soviet Union in the 1970s brought a great many Third-World countries into the bosom of the socialist commonwealth. The time had now come for Afghanistan. In the summer of 1973 an almost bloodless palace revolution, staged with Moscow’s approval by Muhammad Daoud, a relation of the king, brought about a historic “change of social formation”. Daoud proclaimed a republic and became the president. He was not a Communist but a moderate social democrat, and no more radical than Europe’s socialists. Moscow regarded him as a stop-gap figure. Like Kerensky in Russia after February 1917, Daoud’s historic role was to prepare the political conditions for further progress. Once again, the Kremlin strategists did not want to force events. For the time being, they were content with Daoud as a transitional figure, especially since the Communist groups were endlessly bickering among themselves and could not unite. The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan was set up in 1965 but soon split between the People (Khalq) and Banner (Parcham) factions. As the International Department reported to the Central Committee (21 June 1974, 25-S-1183) [1]:

“Soon after a republic was established… in July 1973, the leaders of Afghanistan’s progressive political organisations, Karmal Babrak (Parcham) and Nur Taraki (Khalq) – who both maintain unofficial contacts with the CPSU Central Committee through the KGB station chief in Kabul – used progressively-inclined elements in the republic’s Central Committee, the government and the army to conduct an unprincipled, internecine struggle to strengthen the position and influence of their own group, and for the right to ‘represent the Communist Party’ in the country.

In a message to these Afghan Friends the Central Committee wrote [2]:

“It would help to strengthen the country’s national independence if there was a rallying of the forces presently united in Parcham and Khalq, so as to defend the interests of workers, peasants and all the toiling masses in Afghan society on the basis of cooperation with the republican regime and government of the republic headed by Muhammad Daoud.”

Four years later, however, the “April Revolution” took place. The plans (“supposedly being hatched by left-wing forces”) which had concerned Daoud in 1974 were put into action with the full support of the Soviet Union. A simple solution to the unending feud between the Communist factions was to place a wager on Khalq, leaving Parcham to the mercy of its “class brothers”. The leader of Parcham, Babrak Karmal, was appointed ambassador to Czechoslovakia and thereby escaped the retribution which immediately befell his colleagues. He did not give up and, like Trotsky before him, continued his struggle in exile. These now seemed trivial matters, however. Another progressive “people’s democratic republic” had appeared on the map, again confirming that the balance of forces in the world had shifted in favour of peace, progress and socialism. There followed a “Treaty of Friendship”, massive economic aid, military advisers and “special supplies” (i.e. armaments). All were provided either free of charge or at a quarter of the real price. The progressive regime set about building a “new life”, slaughtering thousands of “reactionaries”, “religious fanatics” and “revisionists”.

There was just one small detail the Kremlin had overlooked: the views of the Afghans themselves. Suddenly, like a clap of thunder in a clear sky, came reports in March 1979 that Herat, the third largest city in Afghanistan, had fallen to “insurgents”.

5.1 Disarray in the Kremlin

The news caught Moscow unawares. No one knew what was going on. Brezhnev was ill and in his absence the Politburo urgently assembled on a Saturday, under the chairmanship of Kirilenko. Andrei Gromyko, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, reported what he had learned (17-18 March 1979*, Pb):

… when I talked at 11:00 this morning with Amin, Taraki’s deputy who is the minister of foreign affairs, he did not express the slightest alarm about the situation in Afghanistan. On the contrary, with Olympian tranquillity, he said that the situation was not that difficult: the army had everything under control, and so forth. … Not a single act of insubordination by a governor had been reported, he said; all the governors, in other words, are on the side of the lawful government.

… approximately two or three hours later, we received news from our comrades that disturbances had begun in Herat. One regiment, an artillery regiment, opened fire on its fellow Afghan soldiers, and part of a second regiment went over to the insurgents. Consequently, only part of the 17th division … remains loyal to the government.

About half an hour later, our comrades reported again that Comrade Taraki had summoned the chief [Soviet] military advisor Comrade Gorelov and chargé d’affaires Comrade Alexeyev. Taraki appealed to the Soviet Union above all for military equipment, ammunition, and rations. This is already covered in the documents we have presented for the Politburo’s consideration. As far as military aid is concerned, Taraki said, as if in passing, ground and air support might perhaps be required. This must be understood to mean that the deployment of our forces is required, both land and air forces.

And if we lose Afghanistan now and it turns its back on the Soviet Union, this will be a sharp setback to our [foreign] policy. Of course, it is one thing to resort to extreme measures if the Afghan army is on the side of the people, and quite another if the army does not support the lawful government. And finally, third, if the army is against the government and, consequently, against our forces, then things will be very complicated. As Comrades Gorelov and Alexeyev have reported, the mood among the leadership, including Comrade Taraki, is not very happy.

The minister of defence Ustinov outlined two plans for military intervention. Within 24 hours the 105th airborne division and a motorised infantry regiment could be in Afghanistan, to be followed by other forces. The other plan envisaged the despatch of two divisions. However, a political decision must first be taken [3]:

KOSYGIN. I don’t think that we should prompt the Afghan government into requesting us to deploy our forces. Let them set up their own special units, to be sent to the more critical areas to suppress the insurgents.

USTINOV. In my view we must not, under any circumstances, mix our units with the Afghan units if we send them there.

KOSYGIN. We must prepare our own military units, draw up a document defining their status, and place them under a special command.

Therefore, the option of sending Soviet troops to Afghanistan was considered by the Politburo in March 1979. This was nine months before NATO decided to deploy new missiles in Europe and there were no reveries about reaching “warm waters”. If the Soviet leadership did have any geopolitical conception it was fully expressed by the simple-minded formula: “not to surrender Afghanistan to the enemy” (i.e. the Afghan people).

Conditions changed quickly and new reports about the situation in Afghanistan followed. The measure proposed “in the last resort” was postponed. A telephone conversation the next day, Sunday (18 March 1979*, No. 242) was especially influential. The Politburo decided that Kosygin should talk to Taraki (with the help of an interpreter). The text of their conversation was immediately read out in full by Kosygin when the Politburo resumed its discussion later that day.

KOSYGIN. Tell Comrade Taraki that I wish to send him warm greetings from Leonid Ilych [Brezhnev] and all members of the Politburo.

TARAKI. Thank you very much.

KOSYGIN. How is Comrade Taraki’s health? He is not getting very tired?

TARAKI. I’m not tired. Today we had a meeting of the Revolutionary Council.

KOSYGIN. That’s good, I’m very pleased. Please ask Comrade Taraki to outline the situation in Afghanistan.

TARAKI. The situation is bad and getting worse. …

KOSYGIN. Do you have support among the workers, the petty bourgeoisie and the white-collar employees in Herat? Is there anyone still on your side?

TARAKI. There is no active support from the population. It is almost wholly under the influence of Shiite slogans. “Do not follow the godless, follow us” – that is the basis of their propaganda.

KOSYGIN. What’s the population in Herat?

TARAKI. 200-250,000 inhabitants. They act according to the situation. They follow where they are led. Now they are on the side of the enemy.

KOSYGIN. Are there many workers there?

TARAKI. Very few — 2,000 in all.

KOSYGIN. What are the prospects, in your view, in Herat?

TARAKI. We believe that this evening or tomorrow morning Herat will fall and be wholly controlled by the enemy. …

Propaganda must be combined with practical assistance. I propose that you put Afghan markings on your tanks and aircraft, no one will be any the wiser. Your troops could advance from the direction of Kushka and from Kabul.

KOSYGIN. We still have to get to Kabul.

TARAKI. Kushka is a very short distance away from Herat. Troops could be moved to Kabul by plane. If you send troops to Kabul and they move on Herat from Kabul, no one will be any the wiser. They will think they are government troops.

KOSYGIN. I do not want to disappoint you, but it will not be possible to conceal this. Within two hours the whole world will know. Everyone will start shouting that the Soviet Union has begun to intervene in Afghanistan. Tell me, Comrade Taraki, if we quickly airlift weapons to Kabul, including tanks, will you find tank-drivers or not?

TARAKI. Very few.

KOSYGIN. How many?

TARAKI. I do not have exact details.

KOSYGIN. If we quickly airlifted tanks to you, the necessary ammunition, and gave you mortars, can you find the specialists who know how to use these weapons?

TARAKI. I can’t answer this question. The Soviet advisers could give an answer.

KOSYGIN. One might think that Afghanistan does not have well-trained military personnel, or very few. Hundreds of Afghan officers were trained in the Soviet Union. Where did they all go to? …

We have decided to deliver military equipment to you urgently and to take your helicopters and aircraft for repairs. All that will be free of charge. We have also decided to deliver 100,000 tons of grain to you and to raise the price we pay for your gas from $21 per cubic meter to $37.82.

TARAKI. That’s good, but let’s talk of Herat.

KOSYGIN. Let’s. Could you not now form several divisions in Kabul from among progressive people whom you can trust, and not just in Kabul but also in other places? We would provide the necessary weapons.

TARAKI. We don’t have the officers. Iran is sending soldiers to Afghanistan in civilian clothing. Pakistan is also sending its people and officers in Afghan clothes. Why can’t the Soviet Union send Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Turkmens in civilian clothing? No one will recognize them.

KOSYGIN. What else have you to say about Herat?

TARAKI. We want you to send us Tajiks, Uzbeks and Turkmens so they can drive tanks, since we have all these nationalities in Afghanistan. Let them put on Afghan costume and wear Afghan badges and no one will recognize them. It’s very easy work, in our view. …

5.2   “A new type of Marxist…”

This conversation with Taraki and one that followed soon after – not believing his ears, Kosygin rang a second time – had a depressing effect on the Politburo. For the first time, it seemed, they began to realise they had become entangled in a very unpleasant business in Afghanistan, especially when Taraki was yet more frank during his second conversation with Kosygin. As the latter reported, when the Politburo resumed its discussions the following day (17-18 March 1979*, Pb): [4]

As concerns Kabul, it is clear from the cables received today that the situation is roughly the same as in Iran. There are demonstrations and crowds of people are massing. Large numbers of individuals, bearing Iranian and Chinese arms, are flowing into Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran. …

USTINOV. As far as the Tajiks are concerned, they don’t have separate tank units. Now it would be hard to say how many of them are serving in our army’s tank units. … When I talked to Amin he also requested the deployment of forces to Herat to defeat the enemy. …

The Afghan revolution has encountered major difficulties along the way, Amin said in his conversation with me, and its survival depends totally on the Soviet Union.

What’s the problem? Why has this happened? The leadership of Afghanistan did not sufficiently appreciate the role of the Islamic religion. It is under the banner of Islam that the soldiers are joining the other side, and the absolute majority, perhaps, with only rare exceptions, are believers. That is why they are asking us to help drive back the insurgents in Herat. Amin said, somewhat uncertainly, that they can rely on the army. And again, like Comrade Taraki, he appealed for our assistance.

KIRILENKO. It follows that they cannot be certain of their own army. They are depending on one thing only, namely, our tanks and armoured vehicles.

KOSYGIN. In taking a decision to supply such aid, of course, we must seriously think through all the consequences. This is a very serious matter.

ANDROPOV. I have considered this whole issue very attentively, comrades, and concluded that we must consider very, very seriously why we should deploy our forces in Afghanistan. It’s quite clear to us that Afghanistan is not ready now to tackle all the issues it faces in a socialist manner. Therefore, I believe that we can only preserve the revolution in Afghanistan with the aid of our bayonets, and for us that is entirely unacceptable. We cannot take such a risk.

KOSYGIN. Perhaps we should instruct our ambassador, Comrade Vinogradov, to go to the Prime Minister of Iran [Mehdi] Bazargan and inform him that interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan cannot be tolerated.

GROMYKO. I completely support Comrade Andropov’s proposal to rule out a deployment of our troops in Afghanistan. The army there is unreliable. Thus, our army, when it enters Afghanistan, will be the aggressor. Against whom will it fight? Against the Afghan people first of all, and it will have to shoot at them.

There will no longer be any question of a meeting between Leonid Ilych [Brezhnev] and [US President Jimmy] Carter, and the visit of [French President] Giscard d’Estaing at the end of March will be in doubt. What would we gain, we must ask: Afghanistan with its present government, backward economy and insignificant weight in international affairs. On the other hand, we must also remember that we could not justify sending in troops from a legal point of view. According to the UN Charter a country can appeal for assistance, and we could send troops, if it was subject to external aggression. Afghanistan has not been subject to any aggression. This is its internal affair, a revolutionary internal conflict, a battle between one part of the population and another. It should be added that the Afghans haven’t officially requested us to send troops. […]

KOSYGIN. Perhaps we should invite him [Taraki] here and tell him: we are increasing our assistance to you, but we cannot deploy troops, since they would be fighting not against the army, which has gone over to the adversary or is just sitting on the by-lines, but against the people. There would be huge minuses for us. A whole range of countries would quickly come out against us. And there are no pluses for us at all.

ANDROPOV. We should tell Comrade Taraki frankly that we will support you by all possible means apart from the deployment of troops. …

KIRILENKO. We gave him everything. And what has come of it? Nothing did any good. They were the ones who executed innocent people for no reason and told us in their own justification, that we also, supposedly, executed people during Lenin’s time. That’s the kind of Marxists they are.

The situation has changed since yesterday. Yesterday, as I already said, we were unanimous about providing military aid, but we carefully discussed the matter, considered various options, and searched for other approaches than the deployment of troops. I believe that we should present our point of view to Leonid Ilych, invite Comrade Taraki to Moscow and tell him everything we have agreed on.

        The apparatus swung into action. That Monday there was an enlarged session of the Politburo [5], attended by all the Central Committee Secretaries (including a very junior Secretary for Agriculture, Mikhail Gorbachev). Miraculously, the ailing Brezhnev had been brought back to life. Evidently following a printed text, he voiced approval “for all the measures envisaged in the draft resolution of the CPSU Central Committee, put forward on Saturday and Sunday” and read them out, one after another. “The question was raised of the direct participation of our forces in the conflict that has arisen in Afghanistan. The members of the Politburo were right, it seems to me, in deciding that we should not at present get involved in this war.”

5.3 The breath of fate

Thus ended the first phase of the Afghan crisis. The situation had somewhat stabilised: two days later the rebellious regiments in Herat were brutally suppressed using tanks and aviation hastily transferred from other towns and cities. By the summer of 1979 things again began to worsen. All the efforts of the Soviet leadership, from that moment to the very day of the invasion, were focussed on preventing an armed intervention.

Reading these documents today you can feel the very breath of fate. Instinctively, the old men in the Kremlin sensed that the Afghan venture would be the beginning of the end for the Soviet regime, and they resisted to the last. This collective wisdom was spelled out in their extended “political document”, analysing the causes of the March crisis (12 April 1979, Pb 149/XIV):

“Our decision not to satisfy the request of the leadership of the Afghan Democratic Republic to deploy Soviet military units to Herat was entirely correct. This approach should be maintained in the event of new anti-government disturbances in Afghanistan, something that cannot be discounted.”

The situation began slipping out of their elderly hands, however. The more they dug in their heels, the closer they were dragged to the brink of the abyss. As they became ever more deeply sucked into the crisis, they repeated to one another, as if invoking an oath, all the arguments against invasion.

Brezhnev suggested a whole range of measures to Taraki, during his Moscow visit, for strengthening the regime in Afghanistan: from the creation of a “united national front” under the leadership of the Popular Democratic Party of Afghanistan to the widening of “political work among the masses”. He proposed working with clerics and religious leaders in order to sow distrust among them and, if they did not openly support the government then, at least, they would not speak out against it in public. Like the old army political officer he once was, Brezhnev passed on a few tips to Taraki (20 March 1979, Pb 486):

“It’s important that the commanding officers feel confident and secure about their position. You can’t expect much from an army if its leading officers are frequently replaced. That is even more true if those changes are accompanied by arrests. When they see how their fellow officers are being arrested and disappear many officers will themselves begin to feel unsure about their future.

On the question of Soviet troops Brezhnev was unshakeable:

“Now, as concerns the matter that you raised in your telephone conversation with Comrade Kosygin and then here in Moscow – the possibility that Soviet armed units might be sent to Afghanistan. We examined this question in all its aspects, we thoroughly considered the matter, and I must tell you that it should not be done. It would only play into the hands of the enemy, our enemies and yours. … I would like to think you will treat our observations with understanding.

“Naturally, it would not be sensible, either for you or for us, to publicly announce that we do not intend to do this.”

These were wasted words. Taraki listened, offered thanks for the aid and advice and again began begging for Soviet troops. If troops could not be sent then at least tank-drivers or helicopter pilots. If the Soviet Union could not supply them, then perhaps other socialist countries could? Kosygin could not stand it and, evidently, simply yelled at Taraki (20 March 1979, Pb 499):

“I cannot understand why you are talking about pilots and drivers. This is a quite unexpected issue for us, and I think the socialist countries will hardly agree to this. The idea of sending people who would drive your tanks and fire on your people is a very sensitive political issue.”

        A month later, however, when Soviet military helicopters were being supplied to Afghanistan the question came up again. Once more the Politburo had to adopt a special decree “On the inexpediency of the participation of Soviet crews in the suppression of counter-revolutionary disturbances in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan” (21 April 1979*, Pb 150/93). This instructed the chief military adviser to

“persuade Amin that the military helicopters with their Afghan crews will be able, working together with ground forces and warplanes, to deal with the suppression of counter-revolutionary disturbances. You are to draw up, with the Afghan command, the necessary recommendations on this matter.”

In May that year, “in view of increased counter-revolutionary activities by reactionary forces” the Afghan government again asked for aid. Again, they were offered “special” equipment to the value of 53 million roubles (for 1979-1981). The Soviet ambassador in Kabul passed on the Politburo’s offer (24 May 1979*, Pb 152/159):

“… this includes 140 guns and mortar launchers, 90 armoured personnel carriers (50 to be rapidly despatched), 48,000 rifles, about 1,000 grenade launchers, 680 aviation bombs, and medicines and medical equipment to the value of 50,000 roubles to be urgently sent in June-July 1979 …

“As immediate aid in May 100 incendiary cylinders and 150 single-use bomb cassettes. The delivery of gas bombs with a non-toxic poison gas is not considered possible.”

Nevertheless, by June certain Soviet detachments were already in Afghanistan although not taking part in the fighting. The situation had deteriorated so badly that Boris Ponomarev made an emergency trip there. On 28 June Gromyko, Andropov, Ustinov and Ponomarev reported to the Politburo (29 June 1979*, Pb 156/XI):

“The situation in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan continues to worsen. The actions of the insurgent tribesmen are taking on a wider and more organised character. The reactionary clergy is reinforcing anti-government and anti-Soviet agitation, and widely proposing the setting up of a ‘free Islamic republic’ in Afghanistan like that in Iran …

And it was resolved

– To send an experienced general and a group of officers to Afghanistan to work directly among the troops (in the divisions and regiments) to aid the main military advisor. The main task of this group should be to help the commanding officers of detachments and units to organise military actions against the insurgents, and to improve the running of these units and detachments. In addition, Soviet military advisers, down to and including battalion level, should be sent to the Afghan Democratic Republic to the brigade guarding the government and to tank brigades (40-50 individuals, including 20 political workers); military counter-intelligence advisers should be sent to all regiments in the republic.

–  To ensure that the Soviet air squadrons at Bagram airfield are protected and defended, send a parachute battalion to the DRA disguised in the uniform (overalls) of an aviation-technical maintenance team, with the agreement of the Afghan side. For the defence of the Soviet Embassy, send to Kabul a special KGB detachment (125-150 men), disguised as Embassy service personnel. In early August, after preparations have been completed, send a special GRU detachment to the DRA (to the Bagram airfield) to be used if the situation deteriorates sharply for the security and defence of particularly important government installations.

–  Via KGB and GRU channels, pass the Indian leadership disinformation about plans to include Indian Kashmir together with Afghanistan in a “world Islamic republic” to prompt the Indian government to take active steps towards countering the anti-Afghan activities of Pakistan.

–  The Soviet media are to intensify propaganda opposing attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan by Pakistan, Iran, China and the USA under the slogan “Hands off Afghanistan!” Support the publication of such materials in third countries.”

Whether the Soviet leaders liked it or not the Rubicon had been crossed. In taking this decision they shouldered full responsibility for life and death in Afghanistan. From now on the issue of Soviet intervention was a question of time.

5.4   A change of course

Ironically, the need to invade Afghanistan arose for quite other reasons than those anticipated. By autumn the “insurgency” had begun to subside as if it had run out of steam, and in no way did it threaten to overturn the regime. A certain stabilisation set in. Then fighting began within the ranks of the Afghan leadership.

In September Hafizullah Amin, Taraki’s deputy and minister of foreign affairs, overthrew the Afghan leader and, contrary to the will of Moscow, soon had him murdered. There followed purges among the leaders, acts of revenge and, the Kremlin began to feel, changes in the political loyalties of the new leadership. At the end of October Gromyko, Andropov, Ustinov and Ponomarev reported to the Politburo (29 October 1979, No 0937) [6].

“The situation in Afghanistan following the events of 13-16 September this year, as the result of which Taraki was deposed and then physically eliminated, remains extremely complicated.

“Alongside superficial gestures (beginning to draft a [new] constitution, freeing some people arrested earlier), Amin has in fact widened the scale of repression within the Party, the army, the State apparatus and non-governmental organizations in his efforts to secure his hold on power. Clearly, he intends to remove practically all the Party and State’s notable figures from the political arena, regarding them as his present or potential opponents.

“The signals sent by Amin that he has established contacts with representatives of the right-wing Muslim opposition and leaders of tribes hostile to the government are unsettling. He is ready to reach agreement with them to end their armed struggle against the present government by making ‘compromises’ that will be to the detriment of the country’s progressive development.

“Recently there have been signs that the new leadership of Afghanistan intends to conduct a more ‘balanced policy’ in relation to the Western powers. It is known, in particular, that representatives of the USA, on the basis of their contacts with the Afghans, are concluding that Afghanistan could change its policies in a direction favourable to Washington.

“Amin’s behaviour towards the USSR has revealed, ever more clearly, his insincerity and two-faced nature. In practice, Amin is not only failing to take measures to stem anti-Soviet feeling: he is in fact encouraging such feelings. He was responsible for distributing an account of the supposed involvement of Soviet representatives in an ‘assassination attempt’ on him during the 13-16 September events this year. Amin and his immediate entourage have sunk to slanderous fabrications about the involvement of Soviet personnel in the repressive campaigns carried out in Afghanistan.

“Healthy forces within the PDPA [People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan] and the Afghan army are expressing their serious concern about the situation unfolding within the country, which could lead to a loss of the gains of the April Revolution. These forces are scattered, however, and survive on an illegal basis.”

How well-founded were Moscow’s fears about “Amin’s re-orientation towards the West”? Was the Kremlin’s involvement in the “attempted assassination” a fabrication? Today it is hard to say. It is beyond doubt that Amin was not their candidate: he did not enjoy their confidence and clearly behaved too independently. Not only had he escaped their supervision but, it seems, he believed that he could dictate his rules of play to Moscow.

After the Soviet invasion and his murder in December 1979 Moscow propaganda would declare Amin “a CIA agent”, something which cannot be taken seriously. Perhaps he was simply trying to stabilise the situation – demonstrating his independence, keeping a certain distance from Moscow, while simultaneously conducting negotiations with the opposing side. Who knows? In the circumstances that would not have been such a stupid way to proceed. The prospect of “surrendering” Afghanistan, however, and not merely to some “insurgents” but to their deadly enemies, was too frightening for the Soviet leaders. It was one thing to lose a revolution and quite another to create a bridgehead from which the ideological enemy would be a source of fatal danger to their control over Central Asia. From this moment onwards, there can be no doubt, the fate of Amin was decided and the invasion became inevitable.

This can be seen from a decision recommended in the report quoted above and adopted by the Politburo a month before (31 October 1979*, Pb 172-108, p. 4):

Continue to work actively with Amin and with the current leadership of the PDPA and the DRA [Democratic Republic of Afghanistan] giving Amin no grounds to believe we do not trust him and don’t wish to deal with him. Use the contacts with Amin to exert a suitable influence and, simultaneously, further expose his true intentions.

Moscow had begun to create a new team of leaders from the “healthy core” of the Party, army and State apparatus and they went about it very skilfully. Babrak Karmal had continued his intrigues from his safe haven in Prague. Now he was taken out of the wardrobe and dusted down. The remnants of Parcham and Khalq were reconciled and a they had the makings of a “government of national unity”. By December, in record time, everything was ready, including the plan for the military aspect of the operation. I don’t know about Amin’s “treachery”: the level of deceit practiced by the Soviet leaders far outstripped that of their Oriental brothers.

Suddenly, in early December, Amin was sent a Soviet battalion that he had been requesting since the summer for his own protection. With poker faces Andropov and Ogarkov submitted their proposal to the Central Committee (6 December 1979*, Pb 176/82):

“[…] H. Amin has recently and insistently raised the necessity of sending a Soviet motorized rifle battalion to Kabul to defend his residence. In view of the present situation and H. Amin’s request, we consider it would be expedient to send a special GRU detachment trained for this purpose to Afghanistan, with a complement of about 500 men, in a uniform which does not reveal their origin as members of the Soviet Armed Forces.

Since the sending of the detachment to Kabul has been agreed with the Afghan side, we think it could be transferred by military aviation during the first ten days of December of this year.”

This was the spetsnaz unit that, on the night of 28 December, took Amin’s palace by storm. They had managed, after all, to find some Tajiks and Uzbeks in the Soviet army and there was no difficulty about dressing them up in Afghan uniform.

5.5   “Storm 333”

When it came to matters of a genuinely sensitive nature, the Soviet leaders demonstrated an unbelievable level of secrecy, trusting no one, not even their closest associates. Often you can find no trace of these subjects in their papers. We should not be surprised, therefore, that no document can be found in the most secret of the Politburo archives giving the order to invade Afghanistan, far less to dispose of Amin. These decisions were taken by the entire Politburo, however. No alternative was possible in the Soviet system, where each crime was signed in blood by them all, as in Dostoyevsky’s The Devils. No one could remain untainted.

The decision to send Soviet forces to Afghanistan and overthrow the government of that “democratic republic” was taken on 12 December 1979 by ten members of the Politburo – Brezhnev, Andropov, Ustinov, Gromyko, Chernenko, Pelshe, Suslov, Kirilenko, Grishin and Tikhonov; Ponomarev was present but, as a candidate member, he did not have the right to vote. Those who were away or unwell still had to counter-sign this decision: Kunayev added his signature on 25 December; Romanov and Shcherbitsky added theirs on 26 December. The document, if it can be so termed, is an ordinary page of paper on which someone (Chernenko, apparently) wrote by hand a vague text in which the word Afghanistan did not appear. It is titled “Concerning the situation in A”:

1. Approve the suggestions and measures put forward by Comrades Andropov, Ustinov and Gromyko.

Permit them during the implementation of these measures to make amendments that do not affect the principal.

Present to the Politburo in good time issues that require a decision by the Central Committee.

Entrust Comrades Andropov, Ustinov and Gromyko to implement these measures.

2. Instruct Comrades Andropov, Ustinov and Gromyko to keep the Politburo informed as to how the implementation of the named measures is proceeding.

Central Committee Secretary, L. Brezhnev.

This is the historic Politburo decision (12 December 1979*, Pb 176/125) that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Afghans, the ill-fated president Hafizullah Amin being among the first, and tens of thousands of young men from all corners of the multi-ethnic Soviet Union.

A smaller group met once more on 26 December at Brezhnev’s out-of-town dacha (as always, he was ill) evidently to discuss Amin. Another seemingly insignificant piece of paper, a typed text this time, records:

“26 December 1979 (at the dacha – present Comrades Brezhnev, Ustinov, Gromyko, Chernenko). Comrades Ustinov, Gromyko and Andropov reported on progress in the implementation of Central Committee Resolution No 176/126 of 12 December 1979.

“Comrade Brezhnev voiced several proposals, after approving the action the comrades had outlined for the immediate future.

“It was recognised as expedient that the Politburo commission of the same membership should proceed with the plan presented, thoroughly considering each step in its actions. Issues that require a decision by the Central Committee to be presented to the Politburo in good time.

“Correct Record, signed [K Chernenko] 27 December 1979.”

Who knows what details of the operation they were clarifying just before the coup in Kabul? Only in 1992 when the Soviet regime had collapsed and people’s tongues were loosened did detailed accounts by participants in these events (unemployed KGB and spetsnaz officers, former “advisers”) appear in the Russian press.

Today we know that the operation’s codename was “Storm 333” and, apart from the spetsnaz unit, two special KGB groups were also involved. Taraki’s requests had not gone unheeded, it is ironic to note. In May 1979, soon after the March events in Afghanistan, the Soviet authorities had begun to create a spetsnaz (special tasks) unit made up almost entirely of Central Asians (hence its nickname, the Muslim battalion). The soldiers were drawn, for the most part, from intelligence and tank detachments. The main requirement was a knowledge of Oriental languages and a good physique. Only their commander, Colonel Kolesnik, was not Asian.

On 10-12 December the entire battalion, about 500 men wearing Afghan uniforms, was transferred to the airbase at Bagram and on 21 December set out to “guard” Amin’s residence, the palace Tadj Bek. The Afghan president had retreated there after yet another unsuccessful attempt on his life. The Muslim battalion was joined by the KGB special units and they deployed between the sentries and the Afghan battalions. Their commanding officers were summoned to the Soviet embassy to meet General Magometov, the main military adviser in the country, and to a certain General Bogdanov, who headed the KGB apparatus in Afghanistan. It was only then that the officers learned of the true aims of their sudden relocation [7].

“Bogdanov wanted to know how the palace was defended and then, as though in passing, unexpectedly suggested that we consider a possible plan of action if, suddenly, we had to seize the palace instead of protecting it. All night we worked on a plan of military operations. We made lengthy and scrupulous calculations.”

They understood this was the real task they had been sent to Kabul to carry out.

“On the morning of 24 December Colonel Kolesnik gave a detailed presentation of the plan for seizing the palace. After long discussion, the commanding officers of the battalion were told, Wait. They had to wait some time. Only during the afternoon were they told that the decision had been confirmed. No one signed the plan, however. They were told, Get moving!

Meanwhile, at 3 pm on 25 December 1979 Soviet troops began moving into Afghanistan. The first to cross the Amu River were the intelligence corps. Next across the bridge were the remaining units of the 108th motorised infantry division. The troops advanced to the town of Puli-Khumri and then through the Salang Pass towards Kabul. At the same time, military transport planes began to transfer the main forces of the paratroops division and a separate paratroops regiment to the airfields at Kabul and Bagram. Over a period of 47 hours the soldiers, officers and equipment were moved to Afghanistan in 343 flights. This resulted in the transfer to Kabul and Bagram of 7,700 servicemen, 894 units of military equipment and 1,062 tons of various cargo. This was the invasion that the alarmed Americans watched through their satellites. However, the main part of the operation could not be discerned from space.

“The preparation for storming Amin’s palace began on the morning of 27 December. The KGB men had a detailed plan of Tadj Bek. By the time operation Storm-333 began, the spetsnaz of the Muslim battalion and the KGB groups knew their main target in detail: the most convenient approaches, how the shifts of guards on duty were organised, the total numbers of guards and of Amin’s bodyguards, the location of the machine-gun nests, armoured personnel carriers and tanks, the internal layout of the palace rooms and corridors, the location of radio-telecommunications apparatus. … The soldiers of the Muslim battalion and the KGB special detachments were told that Amin was guilty of mass repression: he had ordered the deaths of thousands of innocent people, he had betrayed the cause of the April Revolution, he had entered a conspiracy with the CIA, and so on. Few accepted this account, it is true, because it would then have made more sense for Amin to invite the Americans, not Soviet forces.”

What of the treacherous Amin? In September, he had himself deceived Brezhnev and Andropov, promising to save Taraki’s life when the latter had already been strangled. As a result, the Soviet leadership had bargained with Amin for 2-3 days for the life of the leader of the April Revolution when he was already dead. Yet, strange as it may seem, Amin put his faith in the Soviet leaders. Probably he believed that victors are not punished and that they would be friendly towards him. Perhaps he felt sure that the Russians also “respect only force”. Whatever the case he surrounded himself with Soviet military advisers, and would only trust doctors from the USSR. Amin relied, in the final analysis, on Soviet troops and constantly appealed for them to be sent to Afghanistan; he placed his hopes on them and, to a far less extent, on his own Afghan soldiers.

“Amin suspected nothing and was at that moment in a state of euphoria that he had achieved his goal – Soviet troops had entered Afghanistan. On 27 December, he organised a dinner in his luxurious palace for the members of the Politburo, government ministers and their families.

“Suddenly during the meal the secretary general of the PDPA [Amin] and many of his guests began to feel unwell. Some of them lost consciousness. Amin was completely ‘knocked out’. His wife immediately summoned the commander of the presidential guard … who began ringing for help from the Central Military Hospital … and the polyclinic at the Soviet embassy. The food and the pomegranate juice were immediately sent for expert analysis. The Uzbek cooks were detained. A group of Soviet doctors, working as advisers in Kabul arrived at the palace. They decided to aid the sick but an Afghan medic ran up to them. … He led them to Amin who, in his words, was in a very bad way. They mounted the staircase. Amin was lying in one of the rooms, wearing only his underpants, with a sagging jaw and his eyes rolled up in his head. Was he dead? They felt for his pulse, it was barely beating. Was he dying?

“Without thinking that they were disrupting someone else’s plans, the doctors got to work to save the head of a ‘country friendly to the USSR’. They injected him, pumped his stomach, again injected him, inserted drips in his veins… A considerable time passed before Amin’s eyelids flickered and he came round. ‘Why has this happened in my house?’ he then asked with surprise. ‘Who did this? Was it an accident or was it deliberate?’

“The KGB special units stormed into the building, followed by the spetsnaz soldiers. The battle in front of the palace and, especially, inside the building became very fierce. Orders had been given to allow no one to leave the palace alive. The soldiers and officers of Amin’s bodyguard, 100-150 men, put up a desperate resistance and did not surrender. A fire started on the second floor of the palace.”

One of the KGB officers would later recall those minutes.

“… At first only the KGB men took part in storming the palace. For fear we yelled as loudly as we could, mostly obscenities, and that helped us not only psychologically but practically. The soldiers of Amin’s bodyguard first took us for Afghan insurgents. Hearing Russian, however, they surrendered as to a just and higher force. We found out later that many of them had trained at the paratroops school in Ryazan and had remembered Russian obscenities all their lives.”

The Soviet doctors hid where they could. Those who had been trying to revive Amin hid behind the bar. Probably, they were the last to see him alive:

“Ever more powerful explosions shook Tadj Bek. Along the corridor, caught in the reflection of the fire walked … Amin. He was wearing white underpants, and carried bottles of the IV solution, like grenades, raised high in his hands from arms wrapped in tubes. One could only imagine how much effort this cost him and how many injections he had been given.

“’Amin?!’ The doctors who spotted him could not believe their eyes. One of the doctors ran out from their cover, pulled the needles out of Amin’s arms and led him to the bar. Amin leant against the wall but immediately stiffened and listened. The doctors also heard a child crying and from a side-room somewhere appeared Amin’s five-year-old son, wiping his tears with his fists. When he saw his father, he ran to him and hugged him round the legs. Amin pressed the boy’s head against him and they both sat down against the wall. It was such a painful, heart-rending sight that the doctor turned away from father and son, and took a step towards the bar: ‘I can’t watch this, let’s get out of here’.”

After the palace had been stormed the Kabul radio station broadcast an appeal recorded earlier by Babrak Karmal to the people of Afghanistan: “Today the torture machine of Amin and his hirelings has been broken, those savage executioners, usurpers and murderers of tens of thousands of our compatriots — fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters, children and old men…” These were just words. The new regime differed little from its predecessor. Karmal meanwhile remained at Bagram under the protection of the paratroops regiment. At half past midnight on 28 December he received a phone call from Andropov. He sent his own congratulations and Brezhnev’s personal greetings on the victory in the second stage of the revolution to the new chairman of the Revolutionary Council of the People’s Republic of Afghanistan.

So many events lay concealed behind the unprepossessing hand-written note signed by the members of the Politburo on 12 December at Brezhnev’s dacha.

5.6   Temporary measures

This only became known later. When the Politburo Commission, i.e. Comrades Andropov, Gromyko, Ustinov and Ponomarev, brought the other members up to date on 31 December 1979 they did not say what had happened, but presented the official version of events (31 December 1979, 2519-A).

“On a wave of patriotic sentiment that swept the wide masses of the Afghan population when Soviet forces were deployed, and in strict accordance with the terms of the 1978 Soviet-Afghan treaty, forces opposed to Amin organized an armed uprising on the night of 27-28 December and Amin’s regime was overthrown. This uprising gained broad support among the working masses, the intelligentsia, significant sections of the Afghan army, and the State apparatus, all of which welcomed the formation of a new leadership for Afghanistan and the PDPA.

Official Soviet announcements in the same spirit, sometimes using exactly the same expressions, had already been prepared and approved by the Politburo (27 December 1979, Pb 177/151) when Amin, we must suppose, was still alive or, perhaps, just when he and his guests were drinking the contaminated pomegranate juice. This applied both to statements by TASS and to despatches sent to all Soviet ambassadors and, separately, to the Soviet representative at the United Nations. It applied, likewise, to the Central Committee letters sent to several restricted readerships: CPSU organisations, the leadership of the socialist bloc countries and of the communist and workers parties of the non-socialist countries. Without exception, all were given the explanation that (1) the measures were “temporary”, and that (2) the Soviet forces introduced into Afghanistan were a “limited contingent”. The only difference was that the Central Committee letter to “outsiders” made no reference to Amin: it was as if he had never existed. “Our people”, i.e. Central Committee members, the Central Committee of the USSR’s constituent republics, and the Regional Party committees, were offered the additional explanation that [8]

“in carrying out the said measures the Politburo was taking the strategic position of Afghanistan into account. Bordering directly on the USSR, it is located next to the Soviet republics in Central Asia, it has an extended border, and China is not far away. Therefore, it was necessary to demonstrate concern for the security of our socialist Motherland and remember our international duty.”

The Soviet propaganda machine was instructed “to give a firm and well-argued rebuttal to any possible insinuations about supposed Soviet interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs”.

US President Jimmy Carter received an especially brazen and insulting reply when he contacted Brezhnev over the hotline. Evidently, the Kremlin psychologists were calculating that deliberate rudeness would astound and, perhaps, scare the enemy (29 December 1979, Pb 177/220).

“The assertion in your message that the Soviet Union supposedly did something to overthrow the government of Afghanistan is wholly unacceptable and does not reflect reality. I can emphatically state that the change in the Afghan leadership was carried out by the Afghans themselves and by them alone. Ask the Afghan government about this. …

“Let this be our advice to you. The American side could make its own contribution by ending the armed intervention in Afghanistan from outside.”

With good reason Carter later commented that he had learned more about the Soviet Union during those December days than in his whole life. There followed an embargo on grain exports to the USSR, cultural exchanges were reduced, the summer 1980 Olympic Games in the USSR were boycotted, and there was a growth in the military budget of NATO countries. The Western reaction was quite strong and this was thanks, in no small measure, to the arrest and banishment to Gorky of Andrei Sakharov, an event that shocked people no less than the invasion itself.

The détente of the 1970s with its putrid daydreams of “convergence” and “socialism with human face” became a thing of the past. The new decade opened with a far healthier climate of resistance and “conservative revolution”. The world moved decisively to the right. In Europe one socialist government after another disappeared and the forces of peace, progress and socialism found themselves, unexpectedly, on the defensive. Only in Moscow did the Soviet leadership long fail to understand the scale of this disaster and act as though nothing had occurred. There would be cries of outrage, they thought, as more than once in the past. Then people would calm down, everything would start again and détente would continue. In June 1980, a plenum of the Central Committee was held. Bold speeches about the invincible might of the Soviet Union were again heard in the Kremlin and the hall echoed to the prolonged applause of the audience. Gromyko was in oratorical mode [9]

“… It is impossible to see one tendency or another in the right perspective if we do not take into account the decisive factor in world development: the steady strengthening of the positions of socialism, in the international arena as well.”

And what about the USA, the imperialists? [10]

“The US presidential elections are not helping the normal course of Soviet-American relations. Once every four years, as a rule, they lead to anti-Soviet hysteria. Candidates who are unable to offer effective programmes to correct the serious flaws in US domestic and foreign policy, and its outright failures, compete to attack and slander the Soviet Union.

“The choice of presidential candidates, incidentally, is not great. There is not much to choose between Carter and Reagan who are leading the field. A gloomy joke is circulating among Americans: ‘The only good thing is that Carter and Reagan cannot be in the White House at the same time’,” (laughter in the hall).

Brezhnev summed up [11]

“… We shall not spare our efforts in the future – to preserve détente and all the advantages the 1970s brought us; to achieve a shift towards disarmament; to support the right of nations to free and independent development; and to protect and strengthen peace.” (Prolonged applause).

At the end a resolution was adopted [12]:

“The Plenum of the Central Committee fully approves the measures taken to provide Afghanistan with every kind of aid to repel armed assaults and interference from outside, the aim of which is to stifle the Afghan Revolution and create an imperialist bridgehead for military aggression on the southern borders of the USSR.

“In the present situation, when the opportunistic actions of the USA and its accomplices have led to an increase in military danger, the Plenum instructs the Politburo of the Central Committee to steadfastly continue the course of the 24th and 25th CPSU Congresses: to strengthen in every way the fraternal union of socialist states; to support the just struggle of nations for freedom and independence, peaceful co-existence and a curb on the arms race; to preserve and develop international détente, and mutually beneficial cooperation in economic, scientific and cultural fields.

“At the same time the Plenum believes that the scheming of imperialism and other enemies of peace demands constant vigilance and the all-round strengthening of our State’s defence capability, in order to frustrate the plans of imperialism to attain military supremacy and impose its will on the world.”

The latest swing from cold war to détente and back again, ended to wild applause in the Kremlin. The programme for the last stage in the “cold war” was adopted, with its arms race and its “struggle for peace”.


5.7 The 1980 Olympic Games

5.8 Salvaging detente

5.9 “The Struggle for Peace”

5.10 Maintaining the initiative

5.11 Birds of peace

5.12 Behind the scenes

5.13 Payment in kind

The Kremlin leaders’ most urgent and pressing concern was to prevent a boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow that summer. It was not a new problem. The decision to hold the 1980 summer games in Moscow, taken by the International Olympic Committee in 1974 at the height of détente, had aroused furious debate in the West for years.

Those still possessed of a conscience were troubled by constant Soviet expansion in the Third World and, especially, by intensified political repression within the USSR. An analogy was justly drawn with the 1936 Olympic Games, held in Berlin, which gave Hitler’s regime world recognition and a much-needed veneer of respectability. For that reason, perhaps, the issue acquired symbolic significance. Would humanity repeat the mistake it had made 44 years earlier, appeasing a totalitarian regime and betraying its victims? Or would it find the courage to choose the path of resistance?

5.7   The 1980 Olympic Games

The situation grew yet more tense in May 1978 after the trial and conviction of Yury Orlov and repressive measures against the other Helsinki Groups in Georgia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Armenia. Public indignation sought expression. It was then that calls were first made to boycott the Moscow Games (my letter to the London Times was published on 14 August 1978), a suggestion widely discussed by the press and non-governmental organisations. In all Western countries committees and support groups were set up. Not every group demanded an outright boycott. Some put forward preliminary conditions of respect for human rights before they would approve their country’s participation.

By 1979 this powerful chorus of voices could no longer be ignored. Andropov made a report to the Central Committee (25 April 1979*, No 819-A).

“The enemy’s intelligence agencies and foreign anti-Soviet centres are trying, as previously, to use various insinuations about ‘the violation of human rights in the USSR’ to discredit the 22nd Olympic Games in Moscow. In certain cases, they are able to incite provocative acts on the part of anti-social elements within the Soviet Union, prompting some of them to make irresponsible statements of a slanderous nature which help inflate anti-Soviet hysteria in the West. Sakharov, that well-known anti-Soviet, has recommended that each foreign sporting delegation should demand the release of one or two ‘Soviet prisoners of conscience’ as a condition for its participation in the 1980 Olympic Games. A group of anti-social elements has sent a statement to the West about the creation of a so-called Association of Olympic Guarantees in the USSR, which contains abundant libellous fabrications and provocative appeals.”

Throughout 1979 we campaigned in the West, organising numerous public debates, speeches and articles in the press [13]. It is amusing to read about it now in Andropov’s report. As usual, he saw the enemy’s special services behind our energetic activities and would never have believed that no one, unfortunately, apart from a handful of expelled dissidents (30 July 1979, No 1455-A), was involved. Neither, alas, was there unity in our ranks. Some thought that the Olympic Games provided an opportunity that could be “exploited”; others favoured a boycott. I was of the latter opinion, convinced that the Soviet State had ample means at its disposal to keep a close watch on the population and control entry into the country. It controlled the media, moreover, and could prevent any such exploitation of the situation.

This proved to be the case. From the outset, the KGB had prepared to obstruct such attempts [14]. The Central Committee adopted a decree “On the introduction of temporary restrictions on visiting Moscow during the 1980 Olympic Games” (24 July 1979, St 168/6) for Soviet citizens. This also included the sending of residents of Moscow and the Moscow Region “to building brigades, sporting and Pioneer camps, and other places of recreation, during the summer of 1980”. Moscow virtually became a closed city. Orders were given that no conferences, competitions or excursions were to be held there, and no one should be sent on a business trip to the Soviet capital during the Games.

Over four thousand people would be employed, manning barriers set up on rail transport and roads “to prevent anti-social elements from entering Moscow and to limit cars from other towns”. All the roads were closed. Special routes were devised to divert through traffic and passengers in transit. Children were despatched in good time to summer camps, and even the entrance exams to Moscow’s higher education institutions were held on a different date. The stadiums would be filled only with a vetted audience; most often these were soldiers from Moscow garrisons in civilian dress. An ordinary person could not get near the Olympic “installations”.

Minister of Internal Affairs Shchelokov and deputy KGB chairman Chebrikov reported that the Moscow police and the security services would be reinforced by a further 37,000 drafted in from other parts of the country (20 May 1980, No 1/3110). More than 4,000 soldiers from the forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs were allocated to guard the airports and the rail stations. A further 4,000 would be employed, guarding the Olympic Village: “900 to guard the perimeter; 1,086 to guard the hotel and services; 691 to man the checkpoints”. To ensure safety and maintain public order “21,758 people will be present at 22 sporting complexes; 1,474 at 60 sites where the sportsmen and women are training; 6,183 people in the 9 hotels where foreigners accredited to the Games will stay; 3,482 people in the 120 locations where tourists will stay”.

Even the Olympic stables were to be cleaned by the KGB [15]. Another far more ominous “cleansing” of the city, meanwhile, was being carried out. Among the hazards noted by Chebrikov and Shcholokov in their report were “more than 4,000 mentally ill people with aggressive tendencies” in Moscow. (There were “280,000 registered mental patients”, they noted, in the Soviet capital.) Andropov reported to the Politburo (12 May 1980, 902-A):

“Six thousand foreigners, who present a danger from the viewpoint of possible hostile demonstrations during the Games, are to be prevented from entering the Soviet Union. Work on the detection of foreigners in that category, and prevention of their entry to the USSR is ongoing. Meanwhile, detective work and prophylactic measures are continuing, to strengthen public order in Moscow and the Moscow Region and intensify the struggle with anti-social elements. […]

“To prevent possible desperate acts by mentally ill people who harbour aggressive tendencies, measures for the preventative isolation of such people are being taken, together with agencies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Health, during the 1980 Olympic Games.”

There was no secrecy about this at the time. The arrests began in October-November 1979 and continued up until summer the next year. It was quite widely reported in the West and I wrote at least a dozen articles, published in all Western countries (for example, “Cleansing for the Olympics”, The Observer, 18 November 1979). I also sent a letter to all sporting associations in Britain and to many of the most famous sportsmen, whose addresses I managed to track down. I spoke about the subject on television and in numerous discussions, many of which were broadcast on radio. No one could have failed to know what was going on. Yet these famous sportsmen and women either maintained a stubborn silence or claimed that nothing depended on them, it was all in the hands of the International Olympic Committee. Some even went on the offensive, “defending” sports from “politics”. No more than a handful responded to our appeals and refused to participate in that orgy of Soviet propaganda. The overwhelming majority acted as though they knew nothing. Only one told me frankly that the professional life of a sportsman was short and the Olympic Games too important for him to make political gestures. Dozens of our friends were sent to prison, the camps and psychiatric hospital s so that they could have the pleasure of running and jumping in Moscow.


The campaign against the Olympic Games, in other words, began long before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That event merely whipped up the excitement. President Carter’s subsequent decision to support a boycott, and urge US allies to do the same, unexpectedly gave the sporting world a convenient “moral” position as “heroes”. They became non-conformists courageously resisting the dictates of politicians. The left-wing press, of course, did not fail to use this moment.

In Britain their main heroes were Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe, two famous runners. The rivalry between them attracted the entire world’s attention. We were endlessly shown their self-satisfied “heroic” features on television, as they courageously prepared for the competition despite pressure from reactionary forces. For Britain, at least, the Olympic Games in Moscow would automatically become an event if those two were to take part. Naturally, I appealed to both men not to take part, but they did not honour me with a reply. In public, they proudly declared that they were apolitical, as if this was some form of prowess. Many years later I read with astonishment that Sebastian Coe was standing for Parliament – and as a Conservative, no less! I should not have been surprised. The Conservatives were in power and he was guaranteed to win at the election. If the Communists had been in power, one supposes he would have balloted for their party. Sebastian Coe, the hero of the Olympic Games in Moscow, sat as an apolitical Conservative in the House of Commons from 1992-1997.

The attempt to “exploit” the Olympics, meanwhile, turned out as always. Those who had been most in favour did nothing. Only the Italians took an unexpected initiative. Members of their Radical Party demonstrated on Red Square for the rights of homosexuals. Another young group from Italy decided to thumb their noses at the authorities. They prepared a fake issue of “Pravda” and distributed it in Moscow at the height of the Olympics.[16] The newspaper was well produced and, at first sight, could not be distinguished from the official publication of the CPSU Central Committee. On the first page, immediately under the title, there was a convincing montage of Suslov’s head on the body of a convict with a depiction of Stalin tattooed on his chest. The Italian edition of “Pravda” offered a prophetic report about a military coup during the Olympic Games, which led to the overthrow of the CPSU, Russia’s secession from the USSR and immediate declaration “of independence by all the remaining Soviet republics, after which they began, at long last, to seek their own path of development”.

The boycott of the Moscow Games, officially announced by President Carter and supported by several countries, had its positive aspects. The problem became international and the USSR was forced to take serious defensive measures. Lack of support from their governments forced many national Olympic associations to join the boycott at the last moment. As the Central Committee noted in its response (29 January 1980*, St 195/3)

“US President Carter, using Soviet aid to Afghanistan as a pretext, has demanded a boycott of the summer Olympic Games in Moscow. The US Congress has adopted a resolution on this subject. The hostile act of the US administration has found the support of nine governments (Great Britain, Canada, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and the Netherlands). Direct pressure by Carter on the US National Olympic Committee has forced it to adopt a resolution requesting the International Olympic Committee to transfer the summer 1980 Olympic Games to another location, or to postpone or cancel them altogether.

“The Carter administration is also trying to induce other countries to support the idea of a boycott. The US President has sent personal messages of this nature to the heads of more than one hundred countries.

“The only organisation within the Olympic movement which can take a decision about cancelling the Games or moving them somewhere else is the International Olympic Committee. Up to the present not one of its 89 members has voiced support for Carter’s proposal. Most them, including the IOC President Killanin, see no grounds for cancelling the Games or moving them from Moscow.

“The IOC, the leaders of 21 international sporting federations, and the national Olympic committees of the overwhelming majority of countries, including those whose governments have publicly announced their support for Carter’s idea, have resolutely condemned the present hostile campaign by the US administration. The government and national Olympic committee of France were the first to resolutely speak out in favour of taking part in the Moscow Games. The governments of the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan and several other countries are waiting to see what happens. It has been suggested that the issue of a boycott should be discussed within NATO and the EEC.”

After a meeting of the IOC in February 1980 once again confirmed that it would not change its decision concerning the timing and location of the Games, the Politburo adopted a resolution “On measures to support the 1980 Olympic Games” (29 February 1980, Pb 186/2). All the means of propaganda, manipulation, pressure and persuasion at its disposal were set in motion.

“To neutralise the actions of the US administration, which are hostile to the Olympic movement, work in support of the 22nd Olympic Games must be carried out in government and business circles, among the public of other countries, in international organisations …” Soviet ambassadors around the world received detailed instructions about what they should say and to whom. To someone who has not lived under a Communist regime it is impossible to explain how the entire country, and almost half the world besides, served goals established by a dozen aged men whom no one had elected.”

A month later reports were delivered to the Central Committee. More than 140 exhibitions about the 1980 Games had been shown in 60 countries. Twenty documentary films had been released. An international photographic competition, devoted to the games in Moscow, was being organised. More than 1,300 meetings had taken place with foreign journalists, and 90 press conferences (1 April 1980, St 204/14) had been held in the USSR and abroad. An American company was urgently sought, that wanted to make a series of documentary films about the cultural programme of the Moscow Olympics for non-commercial television in the USA. They not only found such a company: the Foreign Transactions Corporation even paid them money for the provision of “creative and production services” (3 April 1980 (St‑205/31). The right to broadcast the games themselves was immediately sold to the US TV company NBC and, once again, in exchange for hard currency and equipment. (This, we may note, took place against the background of an official government boycott and strong public disapproval of such actions.)

At the very same time Soviet ambassadors were sent the following message (15 April 1980, St 206/16): “For your information the Soviet side is subsidising (at discounts of 50 and 100%) the travel costs of sportsmen from a considerable number of countries to the Games in Moscow and is paying for their keep at the Olympic village.” All you had to do was agree to come. Aeroflot planes would take you to Moscow free of charge and once there you would not have to pay a penny (27 May 1980, St 212/83). Even the UNESCO Director General, A-M, M’Bow and “those accompanying him” were given free transport to Moscow and, once there, all their costs paid [17]. “Any other decision, considering M’Bow’s heightened sensitivity to matters of protocol, could provoke a reaction that would be undesirable for us. M’Bow is sympathetic towards the Soviet Union and, despite the USA, supports UNESCO participation in the struggle for peace, détente and disarmament.”

Suddenly there was a new calamity. Upset by widespread condemnation, the IOC President Lord Killanin who had been a major support to the Soviet authorities throughout the campaign, decided to resign, barely a month before the games were due to begin. This could not be permitted. The Central Committee issued urgent instructions (4 June 1980, St 214/1):

“As concerns Killanin’s decision to resign from his post as IOC president we urgently recommend that he should be restrained from making any statements about this before the session of the IOC in Moscow. Otherwise Killanin’s intention to leave his post will be taken by the opponents of the Olympic movement as evidence of the disintegration and demoralisation of the IOC.”

To cheer up the downcast lord it was decided to award him the order of the Friendship of Peoples “for his energetic activities in the development of the international Olympic movement and his great contribution in the preparation and holding of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow,” (15 July 1980, Pb 219/31). Do you think Lord Killanin declined the honour? Not at all. At the end of the Games Brezhnev himself pinned this award to his chest. Not only the Senegalese, it seems, had a “heightened sensitivity about matters of protocol”.

Finally, at the very last moment, literally two weeks before the opening of the Games another opportunity presented itself (1 July 1980, St 217/8):

“Since certain Soviet military units which are not presently needed in Afghanistan are being moved back to the USSR, with the agreement of the Afghan government, it would be expedient to use this measure to exert additional influence on the national Olympic committees of certain countries to ensure wide representation at the Games in Moscow.”

There followed yet another round of instructions, messages and telegrams to Soviet ambassadors and to all other Soviet consulates and delegacies. You see? We’re leaving Afghanistan, we’re leaving… It was a propaganda machine that acknowledged neither fatigue nor obstacles, nor defeat.


When it was all over the fraternal Communist and workers’ parties in socialist countries received the following report (19 August 1980*, St 224/7).

“A general assessment shows that the idea of a boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games, which the US administration and certain of its allies tried to impose on others, has failed. National sports delegations from 81 countries, a total of more than 8,300 individuals, took part in the Games. 3,500 honorary guests and official persons, and 200,000 tourists came from 72 countries to watch the Games. The competition was attended by about 5 million spectators.

… The Olympic Games in Moscow drew wide attention in the world. 5,529 media organisations were accredited to cover the Games, of which 3,500 came from abroad. TV reports about the Games were transmitted to all the continents of the world, and were watched each day by more than 1.5 billion viewers.

“We can say that overall we managed to deflect the anti-Olympic and anti-Soviet wave of Western propaganda and break the ‘information blockade’ surrounding the Games. … Many Western journalists at first did not spare their efforts to find ‘negative materials’ but soon were forced to talk about the punctual organisation of the competitions, the first-class state of the sports facilities, the responsive nature of the Soviet information services, and so on.

“It was also noted that among those who came to the USSR with a preconceived attitude to socialist reality the overwhelming majority of participants and guests at the Olympics subsequently gave a sharp rebuttal to the slanderous fabrications of bourgeois propaganda.”

The Kremlin celebrated a victory. Those who had excelled themselves were to be decorated with medals and awards (12 August 1980, St 223/17): 300 soldiers, 1,500 policemen and 850 from the KGB. Not forgetting the “Friendship of Peoples” award to Lord Killanin.

5.8   Salvaging detente

Afghanistan and its problems had receded into the background. The main concern now was to “save détente” and break the country’s political isolation. This had been anticipated by the Soviet leaders: as far back as March 1979 they made an entirely realistic assessment of the consequences of the invasion. Early in 1980 the Politburo gave its approval to “further measures to protect the State interests of the USSR in connection with events in Afghanistan”.

These aimed at stabilising the situation in Afghanistan itself and included “measures of a special character to spread disunity among Afghan émigré organisations and discredit their leaders” (one source of the civil war and slaughter that took place after the Soviet forces finally withdrew). In their report to the Politburo Gromyko, Andropov, Ustinov and Ponomarev (28 January 1980*, Pb 181/34) stated that “The need to protect the broad foreign policy interests and security of the USSR demands that we continue to preserve the offensive nature of the measures we undertook in relation to the Afghan events.”

The action programme they proposed encompassed almost all aspects of foreign policy.

“- In relations with the USA we must continue to maintain a balanced and firm line in international relations to counteract the provocative steps of the Carter administration. …

“- Our influence over the positions of certain US allies in NATO, above all France and the Federal Republic of Germany, must be intensified, making the greatest use … of the differences between them and the USA as exposed in their choice of response to the actions of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

“- Noting that China and the USA are using the events in Afghanistan as a convenient pretext for a further rapprochement on an anti-Soviet basis, we should draw up long-term measures to complicate relations between Washington and Beijing in the context of developing relations within the so-called triple alliance of the USA, China and Japan. …

“- In the Non-Aligned movement, the resources of Cuba and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and countries on the progressive wing of the Movement, should be used to inspire statements in support of the Afghan government …

“- The main efforts in opposition to the hostile activity of the USA and its allies should be concentrated on the Islamic countries of the Middle and Near East. …

“- Measures should be taken to preserve the anti-imperialist and, above all, anti-American aspects of Iran’s foreign policy. …

“- In carrying out these foreign policy and propagandistic measures, the thesis must be even more widely promoted that the Soviet Union’s military assistance to Afghanistan cannot be viewed in isolation from the provocative attempts of the USA, over the course of a long period, to achieve unilateral military advantages in regions strategically important to the USSR.”

This document laid out almost the entire future course of Soviet foreign policy. Soon afterwards there followed the “Cuban initiative” in the Non-Aligned Movement (Cuba was then in the chair) aimed at achieving a “political settlement” in Afghanistan through bilateral negotiations with Pakistan and with Iran. Subsequently these negotiations would be held in Geneva. Propaganda directed at Iran was intensified, including TV broadcasts from the Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan (8 July 1980, St 218/6).

A campaign was launched “to stimulate protests by the international community against the aggressive actions of the USA in the Persian Gulf region”. South Yemen was given the task of launching the campaign but the “planned measures” encompassed almost all countries in the region, if not all Asia and part of Africa, and it was implemented through such bodies as the Organisation for Solidarity with the People of Asia and Africa, the World Peace Council and their allies (13 March 1980, Pb 187/55). All the “progressive” regimes, organisations and forums, and all the strongholds of socialism in the Indian Ocean region, were brought into play. By April when the campaign was under way the Politburo adopted a further decree (5 April 1980, Pb 191/8): “On opposing the plans to expand the US military presence in the Near and Middle East, and in the Indian Ocean”. Instructions were sent to all Soviet ambassadors and a special task for the KGB: “Using its channels the KGB is to facilitate the activation of protests in developing countries, especially in the Arab States and Iran, against the American military presence and the threat of invasion posed by the USA. …”

The Politburo issued at least two resolutions about China, attempting to “counteract US-Chinese military cooperation” and “expose the pro-imperialist policies of Beijing” in the eyes of the Third World. Yet despite their wide scope all these actions were of secondary importance. The main thrust of the “offensive” campaign would unfold in Europe and the USA. This explains why, two months after the invasion of Afghanistan, the first whom the Politburo approached were Europe’s social democrats, its partners in détente.


They turned especially to Willy Brandt and to someone we met at the beginning of this book, Kalevi Sorsa, the head of Finnish Social Democracy (16 December 1980*, St 241/108). By this time, Brandt was chairman of the Socialist International. Sorsa was one of its vice-chairmen and headed the special group coordinating the International’s activities on issues of détente and disarmament. The Politburo’s messages can be summarised as follows.

One, there was no link between the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and the increase in international tension. The latter, the Politburo asserted, was a consequence of the aggressive policies of the West and of the USA, in particular. There followed the first reference to the “December meeting of the NATO council” as the principal source of all woes: later this would become the favourite argument of the “forces of peace, progress and socialism” in the West. The message to Brandt read (1 February 1980*, Pb 182/2):

“Recently, and especially because of the decision taken by the December meeting of the NATO council, events have occurred that sharply complicate the international situation. … the Soviet Union has repeatedly warned that if NATO adopts this decision in December it will knock the ground from under the negotiations and destroy their foundation. Our agreement to negotiate when NATO has taken this decision would mean discussing only a reduction in Soviet defence potential while the USA is fully engaged in preparing new nuclear missile systems.”

This, wrote the Politburo, “expresses the policies of the present US administration, which were not adopted today as a response to events in Afghanistan.” This policy had become clear long ago “and has merely received a more precise expression in the ‘Carter doctrine’.”

“Evidently Carter and Brzezinski are gambling on frightening the USSR and isolating our country, creating problems wherever possible. This policy is doomed to fail for it is impossible to scare the Soviet Union or shake its resolve.

“During meetings with the Socialist International’s working group in Moscow there was discussion about the goals President Carter was pursuing. Now this has been fully confirmed. It is indeed a matter of destroying what was done in the last ten years through the efforts of people of goodwill, including the Social Democrats”.

Two, no matter what the cause of increased international tension, the most important task was to “save détente”.

“In this situation, it is essential to confirm the policy of détente. Statements that it is now important ‘to keep a cool head and continue negotiations’, ‘to not allow nervousness to replace a well-thought-out policy’, and ‘it is essential to beware of unthinking and exaggerated reactions, which do not match the events and could thus lead to an even worse situation’, are all of the greatest significance. …”

As concerned “events in Afghanistan” which, naturally, had no bearing on the subject, they should be regarded “without preconceived views or nervousness”, remembering that they had been provoked by the “undeclared war” waged by the CIA and Beijing.

The message to the trusted Sorsa contained the same ideas and, often, the same expressions. The difference was that it read more as a series of instructions (1 February 1980*, Pb 182/2):

“International Social Democracy could play a role here. In the next few days there will be a meeting of leaders of social-democratic parties in Vienna at which Comrade K. Sorsa will deliver a speech. Considering the confidence that has developed over the past few years in our relations with you, would you consider it possible, at your own discretion, of course, to use certain of the following ideas?”

There followed, point by point, what Comrade Sorsa should tell his colleagues.

1. Although it is hardly justified to talk about the “end of the decade of détente” (as its opponents do), it is hard to deny that the process of détente has stalled.

2.  It is of particular cause for concern that there is no advance in military détente. The Vienna negotiations are in a blind alley, Carter has postponed ratification of SALT-2, and the December decision of the NATO council makes it impossible for the USSR to continue negotiations about reducing middle-range nuclear weapons in Europe.

3. Both the super-powers, USA and the USSR, provide different explanations for the increase in international tension. What is important, however, is what they are suggesting. Citing a non-existing Soviet threat, Carter is persistently pushing for a build-up in the military strength of the USA and NATO. …

Whatever differences of opinion there might be in Europe when assessing the causes of increased tension in the situation, the letter continued, “the predominant opinion is that détente should be preserved”. The most effective way Europe could help would be not to “choose between the USA and the USSR”, but between “cold war” and détente. Of course, this would require a more active policy on issues of disarmament and other areas of cooperation.

… International experience confirms that the approach of the Socialist International in taking a more active part in the consideration and resolution of issues of disarmament was right. This approach … has shown that Social Democracy also has considerable capacity to exert a positive influence on the governing circles of those countries on which success in advancing military disarmament depends.

In conclusion, the Politburo wrote

“An analysis of the present situation permits us to make the following recommendations:

“it would be expedient for the Socialist International to continue pursuing its own approach on issues of disarmament. It would seem particularly important to finalise a position on the whole complex of issues concerning disarmament and for the Socialist International to adopt it as its own document. […]”

Comrade Sorsa conscientiously carried out the instructions of his Moscow colleagues. His speech in Vienna on 5 February 1980 contains almost all their advice and sometimes repeats their phrases. He concluded his long speech with the words [18]:

“Comrades! I believe that having gathered here we have every reason to remind ourselves and the whole world that Social Democracy always was and will be a movement for peace. Wide-ranging activities for peace and disarmament are today demanded to a far greater extent than when the international situation is favourable. Our movement is strategically aimed at influencing both the processes within our own States and societies, and relations between our countries. In the present tense situation, we must act in such a way that it can have no disastrous effect on our interests in the future. We must act, before all else, in the interests of society, recognising the possibility and necessity of peace and disarmament and not retreat before the pragmatism of political acts and demonstrations of power politics. …”

We cannot tell what the leaders of European social democracy thought when they listened to the impassioned speeches of their Finnish colleague, and whether they guessed whose wishes he was following with such ardour. Even the Italian Communists had by then condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and among the Socialists only PASOK, the Greek Socialist Movement, had failed to do so. Many of those social democrat leaders, moreover, were then in government, ruling countries that were NATO members. So, a resolution calling for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan could not be avoided in Vienna.

They were entirely unanimous, on the other hand, in their striving to “save détente”: for them there really was no alternative. Sorsa’s “recommendations” were adopted almost without discussion:

“Member-parties should create the necessary organisational and financial conditions for effective and prolonged activities for disarmament.

“Member-parties should work with the relevant organisations, such as trade unions and other related bodies, especially in the fields of education and training, and to mobilise the public.

“Member-parties should carry out active work to promote disarmament both at the State level, working with other non-governmental organisations in the corresponding institutions of their countries. … The UN-organised Week of Disarmament should be transformed into an event widely marked throughout the country, involving various political, civil and scientific organisations, and embracing all sides of life. Socialists and social democrats are actively at work, to make this week-long event a success.”

The appeal issued by the Socialist International later that year declared [19]

“Citizens! The Socialist International, a free association of the world’s socialist and social democratic parties, calls on the people of all countries to work … for the cause of disarmament, peace and progress.

“… We are appealing to each individual, no matter what his or her political convictions, to contribute to the common effort in the cause of disarmament, peace, détente and international cooperation.”

5.9   “The Struggle for Peace”

If the social democrats and socialists and their affiliated trade unions, youth, and women’s organisations had not cooperated with the fraternal communist parties, the Soviet “struggle for peace” which swept West Europe in the early 1980s would not have been half as successful. Its sudden appearance, its frankly pro-Soviet orientation and its very timely emergence so far as Soviet interests were concerned were astonishing. Yet more striking was the sheer scale of the movement, which was the measure of its success.

In late 1979 and early 1980 the demonstrations gathered no more than 10‑20,000 participants. By the end of 1980 the figures were beginning to reach 80-100,000 and by autumn 1981 the earth shook beneath their marching feet: 350,000 in Bonn, 250,000 in Brussels, up to 250,000 in London, about half a million in Rome, 400,000 in Amsterdam, around 100,000 in Copenhagen, 30-40,000 in Bern and even in Norway no less than 10,000. The culmination of the campaign came in December 1983 when deployment of the new missiles began in Europe. Then up to a million demonstrated in West Germany, 600,000 in Rome, 300,000-400,000 in London, and up to half a million each in Brussels and The Hague… [20] The numbers bewitched the crowds, seeming to confirm that they were right, and the crowds grew larger and larger. The numbers embarrassed even sophisticated people: Moscow could not have that many agents and “fellow-travellers”?! Nothing, it seemed, could now halt this epidemic of anti-nuclear hysteria. A little more and one of the governments would give in and seek a compromise. NATO would be split and the USSR would be assured of an unlimited sway in “non-nuclear”, “neutralised” Europe. Beyond lay the abyss and no garrulous socialist with his vain hopes of being an intermediary between East and West, his Utopian dreams of “socialism with a human face” and of convergence, would halt at the brink. Thereafter Moscow would decide when it was time to replace the latest Kerensky with a steadfast Leninist, and in which European country…

After the decorative façade collapsed and the Soviet regime was revealed in all its malignant squalor, it was hard to believe that only 10-12 years earlier millions of people in Western Europe had seen no alternative but capitulation. It is difficult to imagine how a routine Soviet campaign, which would not have fooled a schoolchild in the USSR, aroused mass hysteria among the adult population of prosperous, free and well-defended Europe. Forgetting Afghanistan and the other crimes of Communism, they demanded unilateral disarmament of their governments. And the lengths to which they went! Missile bases were occupied, surrounded by living cordons; in the Netherlands soldiers declared that they would not use nuclear weapons. No logic or arguments had any effect on them.

“Protest and Survive!”[21] Protest – against what? Against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? Against the Soviet medium-range SS-20 missiles already deployed in Europe? No, against NATO’s intention to deploy its Pershing and Cruise missiles in Europe.

“Our nuclear deterrent must no longer deter anyone!” What had happened? Why? Had war broken out?

“Never before has the danger of worldwide nuclear destruction been so great!” cried the pro-Soviet World Peace Council. “We are entering the most dangerous decade in the history of mankind!” echoed independent Western peace-lovers.

What had caused this sudden danger? Throughout the 1970s they had been playing détente or, to be blunt, seeing how fast they could lose, playing checkers with the Kremlin. If these games had continued for another five years it is frightening to think what might have happened. Perhaps that was the cause? The leaders of these movements, let alone their followers, did not ask themselves such difficult questions. Their arguments, if hysterical cries can be dignified with such a term, were so contradictory that it is impossible to understand how they could exist within a single movement. The only common factors were irrational fear and a readiness to capitulate even without any demand for surrender. “Better red than dead”, especially since most the protestors were already, if not red, then at least a deep shade of pink.

I must confess that I cannot stand hysterical people. They stir in me a blind fury and a barely resistible urge to slap them across the face (which is, in fact, the only way to bring hysterical people to their senses). To witness this mass, pro-Soviet hysteria was intolerable. At times, I was seized by despair. I had spent half my life trying to explain the nature of the Soviet system to people and, it seemed, they had now understood. All it took, however, was for Moscow to jerk the string, give them a little fright and once again I had to begin from the beginning – as if our trials had never taken place, our books had not been published and the Gulag had never existed. Indeed, the entire history of the 20th century seemed to have vanished from the memories of millions of people. Like an audience in a theatre, we were forced to watch the repetition of an already familiar tragedy: in 1917, an insatiable thirst for peace, now and at any price, made people ready to see entire countries vanish from the face off the earth to the delight of the Bolsheviks; in 1938, a similar peace-loving paroxysm opened the road to Europe for their brown-shirted brothers, Germany’s National Socialists.

What could be done? Unable to slap each and every one across the face, I chose the nearest equivalent and wrote a lengthy and provocatively worded article in The Times (London) “Better Red than Dead is not good enough” (4 December 1981). It was then translated and published in most Western countries [22]. A revised and expanded version, “The Peace Movement and the Soviet Union”, appeared in Commentary (5 January 1982). I wrote then:

“There is a term in Party jargon coined by Lenin himself: “a useful idiot.” Now, in spite all their blunders, senseless adventures, economic disasters, the Polish crisis and the stubborn resistance of the Afghan peasants, Reagan’s rearmament plan and UN resolutions, the Soviet rulers have scored a spectacular victory: they have recruited millions of useful idiots to implement their bankrupt foreign policy. They are no longer isolated and there is still a big question as to whether the Americans will be allowed to place missiles in Europe. …

“This is not to deny that there are plenty of well-intentioned, and genuinely concerned and frightened people in the movement’s ranks. I am certain that the overwhelming majority of them are. Just as it did in the 1950’s, the movement today probably consists of the same odd mixture of Communists, fellow-travellers, muddleheaded intellectuals, hypocrites seeking popularity, professional political speculators, frightened bourgeois, and youths eager to rebel just for the sake of rebelling. There are also the inevitable Catholic priests with a “mission” and other religious people who believe that God has chosen them to make peace on earth right now. But there is also not the slightest doubt that this motley crowd is manipulated by a handful of scoundrels instructed directly from Moscow.”

It is not hard to imagine what a howl of outrage there was and how the left intelligentsia came to hate me, especially since I could offer no direct proofs of my thesis. All I then possessed were official Soviet publications, certain materials of the World Peace Council – and a good knowledge of my beloved native land. Like anyone who grew up in the USSR I knew that the “struggle for peace” was an inseparable part of the Soviet ideological struggle with the outside world or, to be more precise, one of the forms it took since real peace was possible, according to Communist ideology, only when socialism had triumphed throughout the world. In Newspeak these concepts had long been synonyms: the “struggle for peace” simply meant the struggle of the USSR to expand its influence. All Soviet people were obliged to take part in this struggle, and all Soviet institutions and organisations, many of which – the Peace Committee, the Friendship Societies with various countries (and their analogues in those countries), the Soviet Women’s Committee or the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for Foreign Relations – were created for the purpose. Their task was that of any Soviet organisation that dealt with foreigners: they were to dupe those foreigners, infiltrate the international organisations and movements that bore a similar name, find fellow-travellers there and push “our” approach on any question. That was their struggle for peace.

This vast propaganda machine never stopped working. The usual fluctuations in Soviet foreign policy from “cold war” to détente and back again required minimal changes in its work. The need for the USSR to overcome a backwardness in its nuclear armoury, and to counter the creation of NATO and the general rise in anxiety in the early 1950s, required an aggressive campaign for disarmament in general and, especially, against nuclear weapons. Hence the explosion in peace-loving activity at the time, the famous Stockholm Appeal, Picasso’s “doves of peace”, and so on. The shift to détente in the 1970s in no way signified a decline in these activities. The same Western structures were targeted and the ties with particular individuals did not disappear but, on the contrary, grew stronger. The activities of the World Peace Council and other bodies were re-directed towards the current problems of Soviet policy (23 March 1976, No 235): the campaign against the war in Vietnam; “solidarity with the Chilean people” or with the Palestinians; the fight against apartheid, and so on. The Cold War of the 1980s merely shifted the focus of this unending “struggle”. Nothing changed fundamentally. There was the World Peace Council in Finland with its perennial chairman Romesh Chandra and its branches throughout the world, controlled behind the scenes by the same director, Boris Ponomarev; and it had the same clients, which for the most part were front organisations set up by the local Communist party. Even the financing of this network remained the same; the money passed mainly through the Soviet Peace Fund, to which every Soviet citizen was obliged to pay part of his wages. The funding was on a significant scale. According to very approximate calculations that I published in 1987, based only on official Soviet sources, the Peace Fund gathered about 400 million roubles a year. One third of this total, 140 million roubles or 35 million dollars at the unofficial exchange rate of the time, was spent in the West [23] to “provide financial assistance to organisations, movements and individuals who are struggling for peace and disarmament; to fund international congresses, symposia, festivals and exhibitions that give those organisations and individuals the opportunity to coordinate their actions on an international scale.”

This, I repeat, was known then, in the early 1980s and from quite accessible Soviet publications. Furthermore, from time to time scandals linked to the Soviet manipulation of the peace movement made a fleeting appearance in the Western media. A Danish activist Arne Petersen, for instance, was caught receiving Soviet money for publishing the announcements and petitions of his movement in the local press. Soviet diplomats in Switzerland were found to be involved in the organisation of anti-nuclear demonstrations [24]. A year earlier the West German Greens had a public falling out with their Communist allies, accusing the latter of total manipulation of anti-nuclear rallies [25]. The high percentage of Communists among the leadership of most anti-war organisations in Britain [26], the Netherlands and West Germany [27], not to mention Italy, was in itself convincing evidence.

Then, however, I did not possess more direct confirmation and had no knowledge of many aspects of this “offensive measure”. I wracked my brains trying to establish exactly when the Politburo took the decision to unleash the campaign for disarmament. Was it before or after the invasion of Afghanistan? I was inclined to believe that a decision was reached sometime in mid-1979, about the same time as the Soviet leadership decided what to do in Afghanistan. I was wrong.

5.12 Behind the scenes

To begin with, the decision itself was not related to Afghanistan. It was adopted as far back as spring 1976 at the 25th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party “as part of the General Programme for the Further Struggle for Peace and International Cooperation”. It was necessary to reinforce the achievements of détente and the Helsinki Accords which had legitimated the post-war territorial expansion of the USSR in Europe. The rapid increase in Soviet armaments must be camouflaged and, furthermore, no retaliatory measures must be permitted by Western governments.

There was already a certain disquiet concerning Soviet military superiority. As Andropov reported to the Central Committee (14 December 1975*, 3088-A)

“Recently the attention of military-political circles in NATO member-countries has been drawn to the issue of the so-called smart tactical weapon. According to forecasts this could lead to a change in the structure of the armed forces and have a serious influence in future on the development of the international situation. The distinctive feature of the smart weapon is its ability to hit the target with virtually one shot independent of the distance, in any weather conditions and at any time of day or night. Examples of a weapon of this type are: bombs with laser or television guidance that have already been used during the war in South-East Asia; various types of missile and shell that are guided by lasers (the anti-tank Hellfire missile and 155 mm artillery shell developed in the USA), or by the relief of the locality (the Pershing-2 tactical missile with a probable deviation from the target of 20-40 metres, pilotless airplanes) and so on.”

All these developments, continued Andropov, would introduce several stabilising and destabilising factors into the international situation. On the one hand,

“… the appearance of such weapons could lead to the abandonment of certain contemporary and expensive types of aviation and armoured equipment and to an increasing role of cheap tanks, armoured personnel carriers, unpiloted planes, and in future result in the conduct of military operations using small highly-mobile detachments.”

On the other hand,

“… as NATO military circles assume, the threat of a guaranteed strike against targets by the new weapon will require an entire range of measures to disperse military-industrial installations, weapons stores, and major military bases. The high efficiency of the new weapon can be listed as a stabilising factor since it reduces the likely use of offensive nuclear weapons and increases the ability of the defending side to resist even the superior forces of the enemy.

“… NATO military-political circles consider it will be expedient to equip the smart weapon with nuclear warheads of a small capacity. In their view, such weapon systems could strike major targets causing hardly any damage to civilian installations or any significant losses among the civilian population. These qualities of the new weapon are being used by leading figures in NATO as an argument for the need to simply the procedure for taking the decision to use tactical nuclear weapons.

“The USA is trying to use the opportunities provided by the appearance of the new tactical weapon to strengthen the NATO bloc and ‘raise confidence among their West German allies in their ability to resist the forces of the Warsaw Pact.”

Moscow could not possibly let this happen. The entire purpose of the “peaceful offensive” was to make Europe vulnerable and dependent on the will of the Soviet Union, i.e. incapable of resisting the forces of the Warsaw Pact. One might say that all the manoeuvres of the Soviet leadership with weapons, from as far back as Stalin’s day, were directed towards this goal. The appearance of nuclear weapons at the end of the Second World War profoundly confused their plans.

The colossal numerical advantage of the socialist camp meant that Moscow would then have been happy to shed all its weapons: even barehanded the Communist hordes could have overrun Europe. Nuclear armaments provided Western leaders everything they could have desired. Democratic Europe was incapable of keeping pace with the totalitarian monster in conventional weaponry. To achieve that they would have had to militarise the entire life of the continent and mobilise all their resources, transforming themselves into just such a totalitarian State as the Soviet Union. That was why, from the very moment that NATO was created in 1949, Truman and Attlee relied on the nuclear option: it allowed Europe to enjoy democracy, flourish economically and remain independent. Nuclear weapons, however, had certain drawbacks. They could not be used to repel a Soviet attack without destroying half of Europe in the process. All Western leaders could do was to place their faith in the deterrent force of nuclear weapons, and live constantly with the threat of nuclear catastrophe. This was the source of the shameless Soviet exploitation of people’s fear.

Would the West have the nerve to use nuclear weapons at the critical moment? That was the main problem facing European security, and it arose after every change in the political situation. Therein lay the paltry nature of détente, with its temptation of peace and cooperation, and the dishonesty of its Western advocates who knew very well what game they were playing. Faced by an impossible choice between capitulation and nuclear suicide, between being “red” or “dead”, people would begin gravitating towards the first, unwilling to consider the nightmare of Communist enslavement. Especially at the height of détente when it was thought indecent to refer to that bondage – that was the “rhetoric of the cold war”!

The appearance of the smart weapon, the neutron bomb and, later, the idea of the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI, better known as “Star Wars”) was a response to this problem. That was why they aroused such a furious response in Moscow. By negating its vast numerical superiority – at the end of the 1970s the Warsaw Pact outnumbered NATO almost 3:1 in ground forces, tanks and aviation [28] – they removed its chief advantage, the ability to inspire fear. If these NATO plans were implemented West Europe would not face the painful choice between slavery and death. The ability of the West to ensure its own security without the participation of the USSR in any “collective agreements” (which could then be interpreted to one’s own advantage) was a source of constant anxiety for the Kremlin. It would end their dreams of gaining control of Europe and its industrial potential without firing a single shot.

That was how the Soviet leaders saw the future. They did not plan to occupy West Europe or destroy it with nuclear weapons. As we can see from Andropov’s report they had no fear for their own safety if NATO countries began to deploy the new weapons. The Kremlin understood very well that they had a purely defensive function. The demonstrative deployment of hundreds of SS-20 missiles in the late 1970s was a direct response, naturally, to the new NATO weapon, but only in the sense that it deprived the West of the new defensive advantages mentioned in Andropov’s report. Moscow was telling the West: “Do not dream of any ‘clean’ nuclear weapon that reduces civilian losses to a minimum. When you use your new tactical weapon, we shall send SS-20 missiles with nuclear warheads in reply.” Nothing but a striving to place Europe, once again, before the painful choice between suicide and capitulation, can explain the purpose of these missiles, nor their provocatively unconcealed deployment, at the rate of one a week in 1979, without the slightest attempt at camouflage. If it so wished, for example, the USSR knew how to conceal from American satellites the constant modernisation of its missiles which had been proceeding at least since 1974: there was a specialised department in the General Staff, the main directorate for strategic camouflage, which was very good at its job.

“Soviet paranoia” was a well-managed element of Soviet disinformation, eagerly taken up by leaders of the peace movement and various Sovietologists. With its powerful system of espionage and the mightiest army in the world what did the USSR have to fear? In strategic terms, however, the Soviet leaders made an entirely sober calculation. An abrupt shift to hostility after a decade of demoralisation, and the sudden Western realisation of the East’s colossal military superiority, which left NATO no chance of defence, would make Europe “go red”. As I wrote then [29]:

“… from that very moment you will gradually begin to lose your freedom, being exposed to constant and unrestrained Soviet blackmail.

“You may like or dislike your trade unions, but would you like them to have to consider a possibility of foreign invasion every time they wanted to declare a strike – as Solidarity had to do in Poland for eighteen months? You may like or dislike your mass media, but would you like to see the self-censorship of your press in order to avoid an angry reaction by a powerful neighbour – as in Finland? You may like or dislike your system of representation, but at least you are free to elect those whom you choose without considering the desires of a foreign power. Nobody threatens to come into your country and impose a government of its choosing – as in Afghanistan. The nature of the Soviet system is such that it can never be satisfied until you are similar to them and are totally under their control.”

The campaign for disarmament had already been planned, therefore, in 1975, although it was then considered a project for the future. The deployment of medium-range SS-20 missiles was scheduled only for the end of the 1970s and the American missiles were not expected any earlier. Andropov concluded his report (14 December 1975*, 3088-A):

“At present the work on creating the smart weapon is at the stage of implementing already tested models, study of the experience acquired during their practical application, and the design of new experimental systems. At an unofficial meeting of representatives from the military and political circles of NATO countries, which took place in the Federal German Republic in 1975, it was concluded that the wide distribution and possible military use of the smart tactical weapon would become realistic by the early 1980s.”

It was proposed that the “struggle for peace” be fully under way by the beginning of the 1980s. The preparations were thorough. In summer 1975, the World Peace Council released its appeal for disarmament, to coincide with for the 25th anniversary of the Stockholm Appeal [30]. Only in May 1976 did the Central Committee adopt a decree on “The procedure for conducting a campaign in the USSR to end the arms race and for disarmament” and confirmed the plan for the main events (21 May 1976, St 9/4). The Central Committee wrote

“The conduct of a worldwide campaign for an end to the arms race and for disarmament is an important social and political action, helping to explain to the public abroad the peace-loving foreign policy of the USSR and the countries of the Socialist commonwealth, creating a broad public front in support of Soviet initiatives to end the arms race and for disarmament, isolating the militarist forces of imperialism and Maoism which are striving to undermine the process of détente in international tension.”

The main event would be a mass petition in response to the appeal issued a year earlier by the World Peace Council: “The gathering of signatures under the WPC appeal is to be carried out on a strictly voluntary basis among Soviet citizens, aged sixteen and over. Foreign citizens in the Soviet Union may add their signatures to the appeal if they so wish…” There were to be evening events, meetings, exhibitions, festivals, and the issue of posters, brochures, photo displays and, even, of postage stamps “for an end to the arms race, and for disarmament” to mark this event. Only at the end of this list was it modestly added that “TASS, APN, Gosteleradio, and the central newspapers and magazines are to report regularly on the course of this campaign in the USSR and abroad. In work aimed at foreign countries special attention should be paid to promoting the basic points of the Soviet position on issues of disarmament, and to showing the mass character of the campaign within the country.”

A report was specially sent to all Communist and Workers’ parties around the world. In confidence, the leadership of the socialist countries were additionally informed (8 July 1976, St 11/5, p. 3): “The mass character of the campaign in support of the World Peace Council’s appeal in Socialist countries will serve as an additional stimulus to public participation in this campaign in capitalist and developing countries.” Like millstones, you can feel how slowly the wheels of this gigantic machine began to turn, in the fraternal countries and parties, their associations and branches, and then among their friends, fellow-travellers on all the continents of the world (apart from Antarctica). The Central Committee reorganised its work, and increased financial aid to various foreign structures, particularly in Scandinavia (8 June 1976*, St 11/7). One can judge the planned scale of the campaign and its intended deadlines from the timely and successful efforts of the USSR and its clients to secure a special session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on disarmament in 1978 (and again in 1982). The concluding document of the 1978 session reads [31]

“Concerned by the threat to the very survival of mankind which has arisen because of the existence of nuclear weapons and the unceasing arms race, and remembering the destruction caused by all wars,

Convinced that disarmament and arms limitation, nuclear arms in particular, are essential to avert the danger of nuclear war and the strengthening of peace and security in all the world, and to permit the economic development and social advancement of all nations, and that this will open the way for new international economic order…”

Let us not forget that this was 1978, at the height of détente, when there was still no apparent or direct threat of nuclear war. There was an assertive Soviet expansion in the Third World. In Central Europe there were Communist hordes, armed to the teeth, and the only defence against them were nuclear weapons: and, when it came to it, it was not sure whether they would be used. Where then did the UN see the threat to peace? What alarmed the General Assembly? It was the very existence of this final line of defence against Communism. What did the UN suggest? Nuclear disarmament, as a result of which a “new international economic order”, i.e. socialism, would triumph throughout the world: “Furthermore, it must be emphasised, this special session marks not the end but the beginning of a new phase in UN efforts towards disarmament.” The action programme adopted by the Politburo turned the UN with all its innumerable structures an appendage of the Soviet “struggle for peace” although that body mainly existed thanks to Western funding.

The 1980s were declared a “decade of disarmament” and States and entire regions were openly invited to announce that they were “nuclear-free”. At this very time, the Central Committee issued an instruction to “take measures to increase the role of the Soviet Union in UNESCO and to raise the number and active involvement of Soviet employees in the secretariat of that organisation”. It reported on the successes already achieved in drawing up, on the initiative of the USSR, a UNESCO declaration on the basic principles for the use of the media to strengthen peace and international understanding, and to combat war-mongering. The achievements were indeed significant. A special decree of the Central Committee, “On further raising the USSR’s active involvement in the activities of UNESCO”, drew up a balance sheet for the past 25 years (28 August 1979, St 173/6).

“Because of the principled approach of the USSR and fraternal socialist countries within UNESCO that organisation has adopted a course of active involvement in resolving pressing international issues, above all the struggle for peace, détente and disarmament, and against colonialism and racism. …

This led “despite opposition from the Western powers” to UNESCO events celebrating “the 150th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, the centenary of the birth of V.I. Lenin” and important political decisions orienting the organisation “towards more active support for the efforts of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries to create a healthier international atmosphere”. There were also more direct benefits: “Through UNESCO Soviet scientists gain access to information that is of value for our sciences, the economy and defence.” But more could be done in all these respects, working through UNESCO’s “scientific and technical programme” and the publishing activities of the organisation.

This, be it noted, was achieved through Western funding and the sums were significant. In 1979 UNESCO’s annual budget was 151.6 million dollars! Some years would pass before the USA and the United Kingdom withdrew their financial contribution to UNESCO, having understood that the organisation had been transformed simply into an instrument of Soviet policy and a breeding-ground for spies. However, roughly the same was then true of most international organisations, including the United Nations itself. A simple list of these bodies would take up several pages and in each there were Soviet representatives with their clients and fellow-travellers, all using these channels, funds and prestige. Combined with the “peace movement” set in motion by left-wing forces, this became a powerful instrument for influencing public opinion.

Almost any subject, any pretext, provided an opportunity to widen the campaign and extend its infrastructure. For example, the UN declared 1979 the Year of the Child. This had no relevance, it would seem, to the Soviet campaign for Western nuclear disarmament. That was only how it would appear, however, to the naïve Western man in the street (14 August 1979, St 171/5) [32].

“Decree No 139-44, 5 February 1979, of the CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers permits the Committee of Soviet Women, the All-Soviet Central Council of Trade Unions and the Central Committee of the Komsomol to hold a conference in Moscow in September 1979 ‘A Peaceful and Happy Future for All Children’ in which up to 700 foreign representatives will take part.”

If you do not take a hard look this appears quite innocuous. Children are delightful. Who would not wish them “a peaceful and happy future”? One could only thank the Soviet Union for all its efforts and expenditure on such a noble cause. The cost was certainly considerable: 1.5 million roubles and 80,000 hard-currency roubles. Just for the sake of the children?

“The organisation of the World Conference in Moscow will open up new opportunities to explain the peace-loving policy of the Soviet Union and its efforts in the struggle for disarmament and an easing in international tension, and to promote the advantages of socialism in creating the conditions for a happy childhood. The conference will give a new impulse to the development of cooperation between wide forces of world public opinion in the struggle for the rights of children.”

5.10   Maintaining the initiative

The Afghan escapade hindered the Soviet campaign for the West’s unilateral disarmament, confusing all its plans and strategies. Before the invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 the political atmosphere in the world was far more favourable to their aims. If that campaign had continued for a few more years who knows if the West would have held its positions?

The first real test of strength was the campaign against Carter’s idea of equipping NATO with the neutron bomb. One of those technical innovations mentioned by Andropov in his December 1975 report, it was aimed at strengthening European defences against the superior conventional forces (especially the tanks) of the Warsaw Pact. It was clearly a defensive weapon. The campaign against it was frankly pro-Soviet, but highly successful. A few protests in the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway between 1977 and 1978 were enough to alarm Carter and force him to reconsider his attitude to the neutron bomb. Without a doubt this was a defeat for NATO and an easy and greatly encouraging victory for Moscow.

The International Department recommended an increase in the funding of the World Peace Council (26 September 1978, St 126/8) [33]:

“A significant increase in the activities of the World Peace Council, especially in the struggle to end the arms race and against the neutron bomb has made it possible, recently, to raise the level of mobilisation among the masses and widen the socio-political base of anti-militarist demonstrations, above all in capitalist countries, including the USA and Western Europe.

Throughout the late 1970s, the “struggle for peace” continued to widen and grow, according to plan, and was totally unaffected by the world situation. Even after Brezhnev and Carter met in Vienna (29 May 1979, St 160/5) to sign the SALT-2 treaty limiting nuclear weapons and to hold their summit meeting, there was no slackening in the growth of the movement.

On the contrary, the USSR kept up the pace by putting forward endless “peaceful initiatives” and proposals that were clearly one-sided and knowingly unacceptable to the West: no first strike, measures to strengthen “confidence” via the unilateral reduction of a small part of the Soviet forces in Germany, and so on (16 March 1979, Pb 147/8). An artificial but by no means unsuccessful impression was thus created of the Soviet leaders’ tireless concern for peace while NATO and the US government were left looking indifferent, at the least, when they were forced to reject these initiatives. By the end of 1979 the Soviet Union was winning the campaign, in organisational, psychological and strategic terms.

The most important aspect of the Afghan invasion, perhaps, was not the Soviet act of aggression – that had already happened in the past. It was the extraordinarily bad timing, which led to a change in the situation throughout the world and the entire global political context. It would be hard to find a more graphic illustration of what “peaceful coexistence” with the Soviet regime could mean, especially for a small neutral country. During a Soviet campaign for disarmament and peaceful existence based on mutual confidence that illustration had even more of an impact. NATO could not have produced a better advertisement for the alliance: even Switzerland wondered about the value of its traditional neutrality.

At the very least, Afghan events could not boost the “expansion of the socio-political basis” of the Soviet peace movement. From this moment on, the contrast between left and right in Western politics grew much sharper, especially on matters of defence, and the right adopted a clear and well-founded position. This was one reason why the West moved to the right politically in the 1980s, bringing Ronald Reagan to power in the USA and, later, Helmut Kohl in West Germany. There was also a polarisation within the socialist and social-democrat parties of Europe. The more moderate, pro-Atlantic wing of the leadership either broke away to form another party (as happened in the British Labour Party) or prevented its party from adopting a more radical position (Helmut Schmidt in the German Social Democratic Party, Bettino Craxi in the Italian Socialist Party).

The Soviet leaders, meanwhile, were forced to intensify their campaign, disrupting plans and deadlines, and to stretch their resources, trying to overcome their new political isolation. The reduction in “cultural exchanges” because of boycotts and protests against Soviet policies seriously undermined their capabilities, especially in the USA. The need to overcome this isolation prompted suspicions about any of their campaigns. As a result, even I gained the impression that the energetic “struggle for peace” was much more closely linked to events in Afghanistan than was really the case. This makes the success of the Soviet campaign all the more astounding. In April 1980, the Central Committee adopted a decree “On additional measures to intensify public protest against the NATO decision to manufacture and deploy new US missiles in Europe” (15 April 1980, St 206/15), confirming a new action plan in the current situation. The Soviet media and its “NGOs” all received the same order. Broadcasters and newspapers were to

“… intensify a well-argued criticism of the decisions of the Brussels session of the NATO council as one of the main reasons for an increase in international tension; explain the significance of Soviet proposals for the reduction of medium-range weapons in Europe and for military détente in the continent to secure a radical reduction in tension in the relations between States. …

“Soviet non-governmental organisations are to make the maximum use of planned ties and exchanges with West European countries, and the additional suggestions by the Soviet embassies in these countries so that the campaign against the militarist plans of NATO constantly grows and reaches its greatest intensity by the spring session of the leading bodies of that bloc (May-June this year).”

In June 1980 demonstrations indeed began in Europe [34]. Many events had already been planned and prepared, which made the task that much easier. All they needed was wider support and increased finance: they were not beginning from scratch. The International Conference of Parliamentarians “for Peace, Disarmament and International Security” held in Helsinki in May 1980 (23 May 1980, St 212/57): the international conference for a ban on nuclear weapons in Japan in August 1980 (28 July 1980, St 221/35): or the “World Parliament of Peoples for Peace”, held in Sofia in September 1980, had all been planned at least a year earlier [35]. The last of these, as I rightly guessed in my brochure, truly became the central event of 1980. Its purpose was  [36] “to intensify protests against the opportunist policies of the imperialist circles in the USA, NATO and the Peking hegemonists, and to support the preservation and continuation in the 1980s of the process of relaxation in international tension.”

To begin with this “parliament” was planned to be a much more modest event, part of the usual activities of the World Peace Council, and was called simply “the World Congress of the peace-supporters’ movement”. Then, however, there arose the need to intensify the “struggle”, funds were greatly increased and the preparatory work was strengthened (especially as concerned the involvement of non-communist organisations). Following Kalevi Sorsa’s recommendations, the socialists and the social democrats gave a helping hand and the event was transformed into a “parliament of peoples”. It would meet many needs.

One, decisions taken in Moscow would be enhanced by the authority of this event, just as phoney banks are used to launder dirty money [37]. As the Soviet Peace Committee reported to the Central Committee (24 July 1980, No 155) [38]:

“The political preparations for this central event in the popular movement for peace, which will lay down the main directions in which the peace-loving people are to direct their efforts in the next few years, are being made in cooperation with international and national organisations of varying political outlook. 1500-2000 delegates and guests are expected to take part in the work of the World Parliament from more than 100 countries, from the UN, UNESCO, UNCTAD and other governmental and non-governmental organisations.”

Reality exceeded expectations. Over two thousand supporters of peace came to Bulgaria from over 137 countries. They represented 330 political parties, 100 international and more than 3,000 national NGOs, 200 members of parliament, approximately 200 union leaders, 129 leading social democrats (of whom 33 belonged to the executive committee of their respective parties), 150 writers and poets, representatives of 33 liberation movements, 83 communist and workers parties, women’s, young people’s and religious organisations, 18 representatives of various commissions and specialised services at the UN, and so on [39]. Of course, this “parliament” unanimously supported the Soviet action plan, the “Appeal to the World”, and other documents.

Two, this mixed gathering was a convenient way of resolving numerous organisational issues concerning future protests, and for strengthening ties with a variety of useful Western organisations, i.e. to further refine the movement’s infrastructure. To this end many delegates (around 600 individuals!) were even taken to Moscow on their way home from Sofia. For a week they established “bilateral relations” in the Soviet capital and, whilst there, “became acquainted with Soviet reality” (15 September 1980, St 228/44).

Finally, it was important to “implement the decisions of the Parliament of Peoples”. Once its participants returned home it was important to make sure that they passed similar resolutions in their own organisations, adopted the action plan and put it into practice. A Central Committee decree “On measures to ensure the further intensification of protests by the peace-loving public in the light of the conclusions of the Parliament of Peoples for Peace” (18 November 1980, St 237/101) laid down the basic lines of activity and the major forthcoming events. All Soviet institutions and non-governmental organisations, for example, were instructed to “… coordinate their actions with the corresponding organisations in fraternal socialist countries and with progressive organisations in the non-socialist part of the world” so as to “ensure an active, anti-war focus at forthcoming major international events:

the Brussels public movement on issues of security, cooperation and disarmament (Brussels, November 1980); the Congress of the International Union of Students (Berlin, November 1980); the World Forum of Youth and Students for Peace, Détente and Disarmament (Helsinki, January 1981); the session of the General Council of the Organisation of Solidarity with the People of Asia and Africa (Aden, March 1981), and the Congress of the Women’s International Democratic Federation (Prague, October 1981).

Particular attention should be paid to the forthcoming enlarged meeting of the leadership of the International Forum for Ties between Peace-Loving Forces, to be held in January 1981 in Vienna, striving to ensure a strengthening and development of the cooperation established between various political parties and mass organisations on an anti-war platform and guiding the business so that … a decision is taken to call a representative world conference on disarmament and détente in one of the capitalist countries …

Certain Soviet organisations, among them the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, the Central Committee of the Komsomol and the Committee of USSR Youth Organisations, were given specific tasks. The proposed congresses and forums, the marches and demonstrations, the “nuclear-free” zones and letters from scientists, followed almost exactly as prescribed. Ahead lay ten years that had already been designated the “Decade of Disarmament” by the United Nations.

Nothing, it seemed, would stop this peace-loving epidemic until the entire world had finally turned red. As the wise rabbi said in the Soviet joke of the 1950s, “There will be no war, but the struggle for peace will be so intense that not a building will be left standing.”

5.11 Birds of peace

Hundreds of documents about the Soviet manipulation of the peace movements in the West now lie before me, and there would appear to be answers to every question, but still I cannot answer the question that troubled me most of all. What motivated these peace-lovers – was it stupidity or dishonesty? And if the answer is both, then in what proportions?

At a press conference I remember being asked, What should a person do to avoid being a “useful idiot”? My answer was to avoid being an idiot and if it was impossible to change that condition for purely biological reasons, then one had to follow a very simple rule: never be of use to the USSR and its policies. If the person concerned found it difficult to understand what these polices were, then, evidently, it would be better for him not to engage in public activities at all. He should certainly not take part in any events together with Soviet spokesmen and their obvious friends.

That, it might seem, was an elementary rule that even a simpleton could grasp. Yet our peace campaigners drove themselves into a corner when they declared their readiness to cooperate with all “anti-war” forces. How can we demand that our governments cooperate with the USSR on matters of disarmament, if we ourselves are not ready to do so? We must show everyone an example of dialogue – and they did. Naïveté or pretence? Was this stupidity or a convenient self-justification? I do not know. I only recall what righteous indignation my pamphlet stirred among the leaders of the peace movement. Was it not possible, they demanded, to have dealings with the Soviet authorities or local communists and, at the same time, remain “independent”? “… there is not the slightest proof that the peace movement received Soviet funds,” wrote one of them, striking a pose of offended innocence [40], as if everything came down to money and it was impossible to be an unpaid stooge of the Soviets. Some of them made a point of refusing to take part in any events organised by the World Peace Council, understanding how odious this Soviet organisation was. Just look at us: we’re independent!

The Central Committee, in its wisdom, had anticipated this response. The subject arose at a special meeting for the Central Committee secretaries of all fraternal socialist countries, held in Budapest on 14-16 July 1980. Convened on Honecker’s initiative it discussed, among other international issues, “the coordination of international mass non-governmental movements for peace” (9 June 1980*, St 214/74). Even before the meeting took place the East Germans were insistent on a few issues:

… We think it would be appropriate for our parties to reach agreement on the key issues of strategy and tactics of the world peace movement and reach agreement about the most important international demonstrations.

“Of course, we accept that the World Peace Council must retain and further increase its important role. However, it is universally recognised that the WPC reaches far from all the political forces that are ready to fight for peace, détente and disarmament. Numerous reformist trade union organisations, religious groups of the Christian, Muslim and Buddhist confessions, and many national action committees representing millions of people are not ready to join the WPC or work with the council. … It is a fact that a great many important protests (the Dutch “No to the neutron bomb!” movement, the Brussels demonstration against NATO missiles, the international peace marathon) have taken place without the participation of the WPC and often against the initial opposition of its individual leading figures.”

Events such as the 1980 “World Parliament of Peoples for Peace” in Sofia, wrote the East Germans, would undoubtedly be very important, however,

“The preparatory committee … is composed for the most part of representatives from the WPC. The fact that the Dutch “No to the neutron bomb!” movement, the British Labour Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Belgian ‘Committee for Peace and Cooperation’ and the Danish ‘Committee for Cooperation’ have still not become involved in the preparation of the event is evidently linked to their well-known position of not cooperating directly with the WPC. Meanwhile the World Parliament of Peoples for Peace is still unambiguously referred to as an event organised by the World Peace Council.”

The proposal of the East German Socialist Unity Party to adopt more flexible tactics and pursue greater coordination with social democrats and socialists received full support in Budapest. A great many more “moderates” than expected were drawn to Sofia, as a result, and work with them began to produce dividends.

Two months later the International Department reported (11 August 1980, 25-S-1395) [41] on a promising initiative

“The noted Belgian public figure, former government minister, and member of the Socialist Party, A de Smaele, is an active participant of the Brussels movement for European security. He has informed Soviet officials of his intention to put forward an idea aimed at strengthening the security of Europe’s non-nuclear nations. The main motive behind this proposal, he emphasised, was the deep concern of the European public when faced by the proliferation of nuclear weapons in Europe by the militarist forces of the USA and NATO.”

Amusing, isn’t it? The superiority of the Warsaw Pact’s conventional forces, and the Soviet SS-20 missiles which had already been deployed and targeted at de Smaele’s country did not stir any concern in this “former government minister”. For some reason, moreover, he was in a hurry to let Moscow know about his proposed initiative even before it had been publicly announced. So, what was this initiative? How would it “strengthen the security of the non-nuclear countries of Europe”?

“De Smaele’s proposal is that the public in European countries that do not possess nuclear weapons should strive to secure the status of non-nuclear States for their countries. He lays primary significance on the refusal by countries where nuclear weapons are already deployed to increase their numbers and deploy new types of nuclear missile, and, in future, the reduction and total removal of the already existing nuclear weapons.

“In the near future, the Belgians intend to discuss this proposal with the representatives of the public in other socialist countries and of neutral and non-aligned countries in Europe.”

Naturally, the “initiative of Belgian public circles” delighted Moscow.

“Such a public discussion would now help to strengthen the struggle against the deployment in Western Europe of the new types of medium-range American missiles.”

There was, it is true, one small discrepancy.

“… the draft proposal for guarantees of security to non-nuclear countries in its present form differs from the position agreed between the socialist countries.”

It was, to put it simply, unacceptable for the countries of the Warsaw Pact but entirely suitable for Western Europe. Consequently,

“… discussion of the ideas put forward by de Smaele should be used to further the promotion of our known proposals in Western political circles…”

Enthused by the powerful support of the Soviet bloc, former government minister de Smaele engaged in feverish activity and, as a result, his initiative became entirely “directed at strengthening the rejection by the public in non-nuclear countries of the increase in Europe of nuclear weapons that was being imposed by the militarist forces of the USA and NATO” (17 November 1980, 237/76). It gained “support among the leadership of both socialist parties and Catholic circles in Belgium, and in the Netherlands and other neighbouring countries”. Taken up and reinforced by the Soviet propaganda machine, this initiative would become a continent-wide movement.

The Central Committees of all fraternal communist parties were instructed to support this campaign in every possible way, using it to

“advance in Western political circles the proposals by L.I. Brezhnev to simultaneously examine the issue of medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe at the Soviet-American negotiations which had just begun and to link that discussion with the issue of forward-deployed American nuclear weapons…”

These were to be combined with

“… the proposals put forward by Comrade Gromyko at the 35th General Assembly of the United Nations concerning guarantees that nuclear weapons would not be used against European States that did not possess such weapons and did not have foreign nuclear weapons on their territory.”

And tell me after this about “independent” movements for a nuclear-free Europe, for “nuclear-free” zones, cities, districts or villages. It was astonishing how stubbornly Western peace activists refused to see how they were being used by this Soviet machine for its own purposes. Most important of all they had no wish to acknowledge that it was impossible to reach agreements or understandings with this machine, far less cooperate as equals. How then can we establish whether this was a case of self-deceptive naïveté or congenital stupidity?

The nuclear-free zones and towns were yet another “independent” movement set in motion by the Soviet authorities through the system of town-twinning. It was decided to roll out such a campaign in a Central Committee decree issued on 15 January 1980 [42]. Towns and cities had been “twinned” ever since the end of the Second World War. The Soviet regime had used this opportunity for the “propaganda of Soviet reality, the achievements of Communist construction, the peace-loving policies of the CPSU and the Soviet State”. Over the years this had been reduced to any empty formality. From time to time there were exchanges of delegations; exhibitions and amateur artistic groups, there were “days” and “weeks” of friendship. Of course, the worsening of international relations also affected these ties. The chairman of the Union of Soviet Societies for Friendship and Cultural Ties with foreign countries reported to the Central Committee (12 March 1980, No 418) [43]:

“During the last two months there have been attempts by reactionary, anti-Soviet forces to upset the friendly ties between Soviet and foreign cities. Letters have been received from the districts of certain towns in the USA, Norway and Britain, stating that they have decided to end or interrupt their ties with Soviet cities because ‘of the invasion by Soviet forces of Afghanistan’. The districts within certain Italian cities, including those run by Communists, have elected Sakharov an honorary citizen of their cities and sent protests against the ‘banishment’ of this ‘human rights activist’ to Gorky. It should be noted that the Chinese have been feverishly active in establishing ties with cities in Japan, the USA and Italy in pursuit of their hegemonist goals.”

The Central Committee, however, did not intend to let the enemy take over this “important channel of political and ideological influence on the public abroad” (14 July 1980, St 219/96). A special plan of events was drawn up to boost these activities. Funding was increased, Party oversight and the selection of cadres were improved, as was the provision of propaganda materials, and coordination with fraternal socialist countries. It was planned to hold a conference of the mayors of European capital cities “dedicated to cooperation and disarmament” in 1981. The number of twinned cities rapidly increased.

The first British city to declare itself “nuclear-free” in November 1980 was Manchester, twinned with Leningrad; there followed Sheffield, twinned with Donetsk. By the mid-1980s in Britain alone 180 councils had declared themselves “nuclear-free zones”; in Norway, the total was 17; in Spain and Portugal almost 400; and the entire province of Quebec in Canada. It was virtually forbidden for any naval vessel carrying nuclear weapons to enter a port in Japan and New Zealand. The first international conference of “nuclear-free” towns took place in Manchester in 1984. A year later a second conference was held in the Spanish city of Cordoba, twinned with Bukhara [44].

Had all these mayors and town councillors really not understood after decades of perhaps infrequent contact that the lives of their Soviet “twins” were very different? That their appeals, for instance, were far from spontaneous? It should surely have struck them as strange that despite their own fraternal appeals not a single Soviet city declared itself “nuclear-free”. One visit to a place like Donetsk or Bukhara was all it would take a person of average mental ability to cease harbouring any illusions.

5.13   Payment in kind

The material support received from Moscow by these movements was significant. It rarely took a purely monetary form. The Danish episode was most probably an exception to the rule. The GRU and the KGB played only a supporting role in the “peace” campaign because the main coordinator, the International Department of the Central Committee, had no need to send money directly to Western peace movements – that was managed through long established channels via the local communist parties (8 January 1969*, Pb 111/162).

This way of doing things not only reduced the probability of exposure: it also met the need to strengthen the influence of the communist parties within the peace movement. The leaders of those movements, in turn, were able quite “sincerely” to deny that they depended on funding from Moscow. It is hard to believe, however, that they did not know what proportion of their organisation’s expenses was covered by the Party funds of their communist allies. And it was not at all difficult to guess where the money funding those parties came from.

Material support also took the form of free transport on Aeroflot planes (and the air companies of fraternal countries) for hundreds of delegates to international forums, especially from the Third World; it covered their board and lodging, especially when a forum was held in a socialist country; and it paid for such services as simultaneous translation. Such aid was regularly provided, even in some cases when Soviet organisations and their allies were not hosting a certain event in the West. At the least, this ensured the necessary majority when it came to the vote, and helped to avoid undesirable resolutions. Nikolayeva-Tereshkova, for instance, the first woman in space and the head of the Soviet Women’s Committee, reported to the Central Committee about an imminent event (2 July 1980, No 76) [45]:

“In Copenhagen, the Forum of Non-Governmental Organisations will take place between 14 and 24 July this year, in parallel with the World Conference being held to mark the UN Decade of Women. It is expected that about 10,000 people will take part in the Forum. The preparatory work for the Forum shows that reactionary forces are trying to use it for their own purposes. …

“We may expect that the issues of Afghanistan, Kampuchea, refugees and human rights, and so on, will also be used for hostile purposes. …

At the request of the WIDF the Soviet Women’s Committee is paying in Soviet roubles for the round trip to Copenhagen of up to 40 women representatives from several Asian and African countries (Afghanistan, Vietnam, Kampuchea, Laos, Angola, South Africa, Ethiopia, and others), and of progressive forces in the USA. The cost of board and lodging for these delegations in Copenhagen, however, will require some financial support in hard currency.”

The conference was grandly opened by the Queen of Denmark. It was not a great success, descending into fights that required intervention by the police [46]. Undesirable topics were effectively blocked, however, even though (let us remember) this was not a Soviet event.

It’s easy to imagine what happened when they were the organisers. For instance, the “World Forum of Youth and Students for Peace, Détente and Disarmament”, held in Helsinki from 19 to 23 January 1981, was mentioned earlier as one of the most important in this series of forthcoming events. It was organised on the initiative of the Soviet Komsomol and, as the first secretary of that organisation, Boris Pastukhov, reported to the Central Committee (18 December 1980, No 01/1281) [47] the preparations were well in hand.

“The preparations were helped by an intensification of joint protests for peace by youth and students at the national and international levels. In Finland, the preparatory work is being carried out by the National Committee of Youth Organisations, supported by the President of the Finnish Republic, U.K. Kekkonen.”

It was truly something out of the ordinary. Up to 600 delegates were expected from more than one hundred countries, including the international youth organisations of young social democrats, liberals, centrists, Christian democrats and other political tendencies, as well as representatives of the UN, UNESCO and UNCTAD and other bodies.

“At the same time, because of the wide spectrum of political forces taking part in preparations for the Forum there have been attempts by individual organisations, above all conservative groups, to impose discuss during the Forum of the ‘violation’ of human rights in socialist countries, the situation in Afghanistan and Poland, etc., and to include among the participants several reactionary youth organisations. Such attempts did not receive the support of the overwhelming majority of organisations.”

Such matters were no joke, however, and it was better to prepare in good time “a positive political balance of forces through the participation of progressive youth organisations from the liberated countries”. Unfortunately, “in view of their difficult material conditions” many of them required additional expenditure: to fly 110 delegates by Aeroflot from Moscow to Helsinki and back; to pay for up to 150 delegates to make the round trip by rail; “up to 18,000 hard-currency roubles to pay for the travel of delegates on routes that were not served by Aeroflot”; and “to send a group of up to 15 Soviet simultaneous translators to Finland to work at the Forum”.

Pastukhov was quick to report on the successes of the event (6 February 1981, 01/118) [48].

“The overwhelming majority of speakers, including those representing social-democrat, centrist and liberal organisations spoke in favour of continuing the policy of détente, for the further limitation of strategic weapons, and gave a positive assessment of the contribution of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries in assuring peace and security. They condemned NATO plans to deploy new medium-range nuclear missiles in several West European States and sharply criticised the concept of a ‘limited’ nuclear war. Many delegates declared that the hegemonist policy of the Peking leadership was a threat to peace. …

“The behaviour at the Forum of representatives of the right-wing of the youth movement revealed their intention to undermine the cooperation that has grown up over the past decade between various political forces and, above all, to drag the social democrats and socialists away from joint actions with the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) and the International Union of Students (IUS). …

“Relying on the WFDY and the IUS, the Soviet delegation took measures to isolate the right-wingers and to consolidate the Forum on an anti-militarist basis. This work was made more difficult by the Komsomol of the ‘Eurocommunist’ tendency (Italy, Japan, Sweden, Spain) who spoke out in opposition to Soviet military aid to Afghanistan. Member organisations of WFDY and the IUS from Asian, African and Latin American countries played a positive role in this discussion.”

The Forum, in short, represented the entire political spectrum at that time but not in their true proportions. That was why all the efforts of the right-wing forces in attendance were in vain, not to mention their limited experience in such matters compared to the Soviet organisers. “The most important initiatives of the Soviet Union and the fraternal countries of socialism were reflected in the final document, which was adopted unanimously by the Forum participants,” reported Pastukhov.

One can only hazard a guess, taking into account the direct and indirect financing of Western peace activists, how much all this struggle for peace cost Moscow. In 1981 alone it was planned to provide free transport on Aeroflot planes for hundreds of delegates [49]. There were those who came “for recreation and medical treatment”, “to become acquainted with Soviet reality”, mainly to the country’s sanatoria. There was also the constant aid given to friendship societies and solidarity committees… There was no end to it all. Others, it would seem, made requests simply to enjoy themselves free of charge (8 April 1980, St 205/10).

“The Soviet Peace Committee, the Komsomol Central Committee, and the Committee for Soviet Youth Organisations have received a request from the leadership of the French movement for peace for 50 activists of the movement’s youth commission to come to the USSR and hold a seminar there on issues of peace, détente and disarmament. … Their visit to the USSR will help to intensify the activities of the commission, raise its authority and enable us to widen our cooperation with various forces in France demonstrating for peace, détente and disarmament.”

The costs of travel (12,000 hard-currency roubles) and of board and lodging (30,000 roubles) were paid by the Soviet Peace Fund. For those times the sums were quite significant. The average salary in the USSR was then 150 roubles a month, or 5 roubles a day. Each Soviet citizen was obliged to give up one day’s salary to the Soviet Peace Fund, whether he or she wanted to or not. This fact, it is worth noting, was never concealed from anyone. On the contrary, it was widely reported in the press and mentioned in many Soviet peace publications [50]. Western peace activists could not help knowing that their “struggle” was being paid for by the involuntary labour of the Soviet population. But did they worry about such things?

5.14   The oldest profession

People are often arrogant and self-regarding; they consider themselves cleverer than anyone else on the planet, and most certainly wiser than their own government. These faults are particularly strong among the intelligentsia. I cannot recall an instance when the intelligentsia admitted it was wrong, especially in a quarrel with the lawful authorities. Evidently, the reasons lie in the feeling that they are not needed and that their real ability has not been put to use. Yet they are the “elite” and they should be running the world or, at the least, exercise power over the way people think.

Life, however, is an unfair judge and condemns them to the most modest of activities: teaching children to read, healing our sicknesses, examining bacteria under a microscope, leading a tiresome life in a provincial court or administering communion to parishioners and listen to their endless complaints about the injustices of this world. Meanwhile, in the world at large, quite different people take important decisions that determine the fate of humanity. Yet they are no wiser, more educated or worthier in a moral sense. How to reconcile oneself to this situation? For a member of the intelligentsia cannot make himself simply get on with his job without ploys and pretensions. He cannot just teach children to read and write, no, he must “educate the future generation”; he cannot simply prescribe a pill and ease his patient’s ills, no, he must care for the health of all humanity; while the priest has no doubt that the Lord Himself called on him to save the human race.

Our peace activists were the same. The majority were primary school teachers, nurses, parish priests and other semi-intellectuals, those whom Solzhenitsyn accurately dubbed the “chatterers”. Such were their leaders, for many of whom being in charge was far more important than the substance of their cause. And how in this case can you determine whether they were fools or scoundrels? Did they understand they were helping Moscow, or not? It simply did not interest them; they did not want to know. Even their famous fear of nuclear catastrophe was fabricated from the first, and more a case of self-hypnotism than spontaneity. What can one say? Of course, saving humanity is a far more flattering occupation than battling to teach children their times-table, year after year. When they engaged in the peace movement, they gained a certain significance and notes of furious nobility appeared in their voices. The crowds gained the power to solve global problems while their leaders gained power over the crowd. What would happen in the uncertain future was no one’s concern. It was not their responsibility. If things did not turn out as they had dreamed who would make them pay? Their intentions were noble, our world was imperfect.

The crowds were driven by hysteria. The same was not at all true of their leaders. It was the combination of insolence and ignorance among the latter that was astonishing and the more ignorant they were, the greater their insolence. Most, for example, had not received the right education to understand the technical aspects of nuclear missiles or issues of strategy and geopolitics. The facts and calculations of official experts with the relevant training were, nevertheless, indignantly dismissed by these leaders as “propaganda”. Instead they created “their own experts” who told them what they wanted to hear. Countless dubious “institutes”, “research groups” and “commissions” were created, many of them, naturally, including their own pro-Soviet “experts” or simply Soviet representatives. For some reason, they were believed.

The overwhelming majority of the “leaders” of the anti-war movements did not have the slightest conception of the Soviet regime, the realities of life in the USSR, and its history, or even of Communist ideology, although it would not seem to be an irrelevant issue. The situation depended at least 50% (in reality, almost 100%) on the USSR, its intentions and behaviour. Yet the majority simply declared this “irrelevant” and openly placed their reliance on official Soviet statements or what was said by such experts as Georgy Arbatov. Some of them did acquire their “own experts” on the USSR drawn, as a rule, from among their own supporters who had visited the Soviet Union three or four times. Even the opinion of Zagladin, who worked for the Central Committee’s International Department, was considered sufficiently objective among them to be cited in the Western press as a source of unprejudiced information about the USSR. He was quoted, moreover, as an authoritative rebuttal of my prejudiced opinions [51]. Our views, on the contrary, like any negative information about the USSR, were declared “propaganda” and “stereotypes of the Cold War “. No matter how absurd it may sound, almost no one involved in these “debates” was concerned about the “other side” – the Soviet Union, its satellite states, its armaments and intentions.

In the USA, the “struggle for peace” was led by the Left-wing establishment which had gained its position during the campaign against the Vietnam War and taken power during the détente era. There mass brain-washing was particularly brazen, open and on a massive scale. The “struggle for peace” consciously fanned a mass hysteria which was concentrated solely on one aspect of the issue, the horrors of nuclear war. The liberal foundations (Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, MacArthur, George Gund) allotted billions of dollars to the campaign so that, in the words of the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, “the prevention of nuclear war in the 1980s would become what the civil rights movement had been in the 1960s” [52].

Hollywood and television companies produced dozens, perhaps hundreds of films, both fictional and documentary, about the consequences of a nuclear explosion and the end of civilisation. Suddenly all American “intellectuals” became “concerned”: there were concerned scientists, concerned teachers and concerned physicians. The doctors led the way with their widely-promoted appeal to their Soviet colleagues, eloquently titled, “Danger – nuclear war” (The New York Times, 2 March 1980. Whether they thought up such a profound idea themselves or whether it was suggested to them by a body like the Pugwash Conference, and proposed by the wise Central Committee, I cannot say. I find it hard to believe, however, that they failed to understand they were appealing to the Central Committee and the Soviet government, not to their colleagues in the USSR, and that this gave those bodies a perfect opportunity for propaganda. The Soviet minister of health Petrovsky reported to the Central Committee (4 April 1980, No 1099) [53]:

“In accordance with the Central Committee decision of 20 March 1980 the USSR Ministry of Health is presenting a draft reply by leading Soviet physicians and medical experts to the letter from American physicians and medical experts. Suggestions by the Academy of Sciences, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence and the KGB have been taken into account. We are at the same time reporting that there has been a meeting with B. Lown, one of the organisers of the doctors’ movement in the USA “Physicians for Social Responsibility “. He told us that American scientists intend to organise a wide international movement in the medical community against nuclear war and, in particular, plan to hold a conference in the USA at the end of 1980, with the participation of Soviet and Japanese physicians. The location of the conference and the programme have not yet been decided.”

Naturally the Central Committee accepted this game with gratitude. It was not every day that the opportunity arose to promote its own position through independent research organisations in the USA, especially through the doctors who are especially influential in a society obsessed with health like America. “As concerns the signatures on the reply by Soviet medical experts,” The Central Committee decided [54], “it would seem expedient to organise the collection of a significant number of signatures but restrict those on the letter to comrades representing the largest scientific organisations.” Among them was the inevitable Ovchinnikov, vice-president of the USSR Academy of sciences and Academician Blokhin, the director of the oncological centre in Moscow. They also needed a cardiologist, however, since the instigator of the appeal was the American heart specialist Bernard Lown. That was how Academician Yevgeny Chazov, chairman of the All-Union Scientific Society of Cardiologists, appeared on the scene.

Chazov subsequently reported to the Central Committee (17 December 1980, No. 3457) [55]:

“In accordance with the decision of the Central Committee in December this year a Soviet delegation led by Academician Chazov and composed of Academicians of the Academy of Medical Sciences L.A. Ilyn and M.I. Kuzin travelled to Geneva. There it took part in a meeting with American scientists who represent the “Physicians of the World for the Prevention of Nuclear War”. The American delegation was led by Bernard Lown, a well-known professor of cardiology at Harvard (Boston), president of the American movement “Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War”. The delegation included Doctor Eric Chivian, a psychiatrist from Massachusetts University (Boston) and Jim Muller, the secretary of the society.

“The meeting was consultative and devoted to a discussion of the possibility of creating an international movement of “Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War”. A memorandum of the principles of this movement was drawn up at this meeting. They are acceptable to us in the main because they are based on the concept of banning nuclear war.

“Agreement was reached at the meeting to hold a Soviet-American conference from 19 to 26 March 1981 of medical experts and physicians fighting the prevention of nuclear war. The organiser of the meeting this time will be the American side, which will invite ten noted Soviet physicians and three specialists in the field of nuclear arms and disarmament to take part in the conference.

“It is envisaged that appeals will be adopted at the end of the conference to all doctors in the world, to governments and people of various countries, and to the Soviet and US heads of state. These appeals will emphasise the terrible consequences for the nations of the world if a nuclear war breaks out, and call for limitation and prohibition of nuclear arms.

“To prepare drafts of our documents we request the necessary instructions to be given to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Defence. It is envisaged that well ahead of the event the delegations will exchange the draft versions of the said documents and conduct a preliminary discussion of them so as to have already agreed texts at the meeting itself.”

What a piece of luck. The appeals of the “concerned” physicians were in effect composed ahead of the meeting by Soviet generals and diplomats. The American side, after all, were too “independent” to ask the advice of the Pentagon or the State Department, let alone follow the instructions of their own government. The Soviet “experts on nuclear arms and disarmament”, naturally, would explain things as needed at the conference itself. Since the doctor had told him that smoking, cholesterol and nuclear war were bad for his health, the average American would demand that his congressman and senators agree to rapid nuclear disarmament.

The American campaign which attracted the most supporters took up Brezhnev’s “peaceful initiatives” in 1979: “a nuclear freeze”, “no first strike” and so on. The most active protesters gathered in crowds, forcing their way into military bases or arms factories and falling into hysteric fits. One such group even tried to put the Biblical command to “turn swords into ploughshares” literally into practice. They burst into the workshop where the missiles were produced and beat themselves against them until the blood flowed [56]. The psychiatrist from MIT and the cardiologists could have applied their skills there but no, this did not concern them. By then they were in Oslo receiving the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo together with their colleague Dr Yevgeny Chazov. Although by rights it should have been awarded to the wise Central Committee.


It was not just the doctors. Almost the entire American educated class were mobilised. How could they lag behind their more enterprising colleagues? Even the bishops made an effort and issued a “Pastoral message on war and peace in the nuclear age”, in which, speaking on behalf of God, they declared nuclear weapons to be totally amoral, leaving us to guess how amoral were the tanks and artillery, for example, of the Second World War. The learned gentlemen of other disciplines were not slow to join in. They had a problem, however.

The banishment of Andrei Sakharov, an honorary member of the American National Academy of Sciences, to Gorky in January 1980 had led to a boycott of the Soviet side by American scientists. Even this was no disaster. The noble cause of saving humanity could justify any action, even betrayal. Alexandrov, the president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, reported to the Central Committee (16 December 1980*, St 241/9)

“at meetings with the USSR Academy of Sciences in Moscow in June this year and in the United States in August this year the US National Academy of Sciences proposed that we organise bilateral exchanges of opinion concerning issues of strengthening peace, international security and disarmament. The secretary of the NAS for foreign relations, T. Malone, believes that such exchanges will be one way to restore bilateral meetings between scientists which were broken off at the beginning of this year by the American side.

“In May 1980, the NAS established within its organisation a committee for international security and arms control made up of 16 people headed by the president of the California Institute of Technology, Marvin L. Goldberger. The committee intends to establish and maintain contacts with Soviet scientists and with academies in Western Europe and Japan. The members of the committee believe that issues of international security should be considered not only via governmental channels but also through contacts between scientists in order to seek a way to regulate the issues that arise in the field of security and transmit the corresponding recommendations to their own governments without giving them excessive publicity.”

The Central Committee joyfully accepted this initiative. Declaring the “right to live in peace” the most important human right was, after all, the main slogan of their “struggle for peace”. Freeing themselves from the boycotts and embargoes provoked by their repressive policies was one of the tasks of the campaign to restore détente. But where, you may ask, did these members of the US National Academy of Sciences get the itch to interfere? If your lawfully elected government needed your help on issues of State security it would itself ask you. No, the intellectual is always wiser than the government. Nothing must happen without his participation.

What then about their colleague Andrei Sakharov? “Despite our constant deep concern about Sakharov there are, nevertheless, subjects so important for the future of all humanity that we consider it essential to continue discussing them with the Soviet side,” wrote Frank Press, the president of the US National Academy of Sciences, [57] at a time when Sakharov, according to Western press reports, was near death as the result of a hunger strike. “In this sense, we give highest priority to problems of arms control and international security. Our members believe this subject to be extremely important.” Are you going to tell me that America’s scientists did not know what they were doing?

I cannot believe in the naïveté of these people. The sole exception, perhaps, was E.P. Thompson, leader of the small but influential “elite” organisation END, “European Nuclear Disarmament”. For all his left-intelligentsia confusion he at least did not deny that the process of disarmament demanded changes in the policies of both sides, and that a movement for disarmament only made sense if an analogous movement, one independent of its government, existed on the other side of the Iron Curtain. He was genuinely indignant at the Soviet manipulation of Western peace movements and wrote about it openly, calling his less scrupulous colleagues in the movement “lunatics” [58]. Even he, however, could not fully grasp that it was simply impossible to have dealings with the Soviet machine.

He was, it seems, sincere but muddle-headed. Furthermore, he also had his own personal “expert on Soviet life”, our old acquaintance Zhores Medvedev (see 4. — WE FIGHT BACK). Medvedev, naturally, was one of the co-authors of the END appeal issued in April 1980 for a “nuclear-free Europe from Poland to Portugal”, signed on behalf of “Soviet dissidents”, supposedly, by his twin brother Roy Medvedev [59]. Evidently, the Medvedevs explained to Professor Thompson that there are (a) bad and (b) good dissidents. The bad dissidents do not believe in socialism and serve the cause of reaction; the good dissidents believe in socialism and could fully support the END appeal. Professor Thompson then spent several years, unsuccessfully seeking for the “good dissidents”. Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia and KOR in Poland both politely rejected any suggestion of unilateral disarmament by the West as a pro-Soviet policy. The crafty Jacek Kuron, himself a first-class manipulator, contrived to smuggle a letter to the 1984 END conference out of prison in which he proposed a joint struggle to end martial law in Poland and achieve complete demilitarisation of Central Europe. A year later Vaclav Havel tactfully tried to explain to Western peace activists that their utopian approach would not make sense to the East European public with its involuntary scepticism. It was typical, however, that even after meeting such a unanimous response from East European dissidents Thompson did not doubt for one moment that he was right. He made not the slightest effort to re-examine his views and kept up the search for other “good” dissidents who would agree with him. And this was one of the best leaders of the Western peace activists, a thoughtful and sincere man! What then could be expected of the rest, who were often cynical political intriguers, time-servers and gasbags (if not worse).

Yet therein lay the weakness of their campaign. By turning Western disarmament into an issue of party politics a decision could be reached through elections, the standard mechanism of democracy. Moscow and its allies could achieve success only through manipulation, fraud, hysterical propaganda and blackmail. When the issue was put before the voters all the clever campaigning was doomed. The hysterical crowds melted away and “public opinion polls”, which regularly showed a growing support for the idea of unilateral disarmament, were proved wrong. In Britain, the Labour Party made nuclear disarmament the basis of its platform in the 1983 elections and for that reason was crushingly defeated. In West Germany, despite all the efforts of Chancellor Schmidt to restrain the radicalism of his party, it became firmly associated in the minds of voters with the anti-nuclear campaign and in 1983, like its British colleagues, the German Social Democrats too were defeated. Only in the Netherlands and Belgium, where proportional representation doomed any government to an unstable coalition dependent on the demands of even tiny political groups, was the deployment of the new missiles postponed for several years. Throughout the rest of Europe deployment proceeded according to schedule and this did even more to undermine the peace campaign. For contrary to their prophesies deployment did not lead to nuclear war. This was, undoubtedly, a turning point. After 1983 the campaign went into decline and by the mid-1980s it had run out of steam.


Thus ended this shameful page in Western history. As we had repeatedly predicted, the threat of a new world war and of “nuclear holocaust” disappeared with the collapse of the Soviet regime. Today the nuclear bombs, missiles and warheads lie in store, in Russia and the USA. No one worries about them. This might seem the very moment that the concerned intelligentsia should demand their destruction. Here they are, these “totally amoral” weapons: take them and dismantle them. But there are no outraged peace protesters on the streets of Europe’s capital cities; there are no raving harridans gathered around the missile bases. Where are they? Where did they go?

They have gone nowhere. Today those constantly concerned individuals are promoting the falsehood of inevitable ecological catastrophe, the “greenhouse effect” and “holes in the ozone layer”, with the same aplomb and noble passion in their voices with which they once scared the weak-nerved bourgeois with the horrors of nuclear war.

Chapter Five (ii)…



[1] 26 June 1974 (St 129/11), p. 5.

[2] 26 June 1974 (St 129/11), p. 4.

[3] 17-18 March 1979* (Pb), p. 8.

[4] 17-18 March 1979* (Pb), pp 12-17.

[5] 17-18 March 1979* (Pb), pp 18-28.

[6] See 31 October 1979* (Pb 172/108), pp. 2-7.

[7] A Lyakhovsky, “Operation Storm”, Sovershenno Sekretno, No 8, 1992. This and subsequent quotations.

[8] 27 December 1979 (Pb 177/151), pp 17-18.

[9] 23 June 1980, Central Committee Plenum, p. 5.

[10] Ibid. p. 10.

[11] Ibid, p. 4.

[12] Ibid, pp 26 & 29.

[13] Bukovsky articles: “How Russia breaks the rules of the Games”, The Daily Telegraph, 2 October 1979; “Games Russians play”, Wall Street Journal, 6 October 1979; “Do athletes want the KGB to win the Olympics?” News of the World, 20 January 1980.

[14] 16 June 1978 (1213-A).

[15] 20 May 1980 (No 1/3110), p. 3.

[16] Henry Tanner, “A fake Pravda announces Moscow coup”, The New York Times , 26 July 1980.

[17] 27 June 1980 (No 554/GS)^.

[18] Kalevi Sorsa, Speech to the conference of heads of member-parties of the Socialist International , 5 February 1980.

[19] “Conclusions of the study group on disarmament”, Congress of the Socialist International , 13-16 November 1980, Madrid .

[20] April Carter, Peace Movements: International protest and world politics since 1945, Longman: London, 1992, pp 120-121. (A Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford, from 1976 to 1984, Carter served as CND secretary from 1970 to 1971.)

[21] A Peace Movement brochure in which E.P. Thompson and others mocked Protect and Survive, a booklet containing the official advice for coping with a nuclear attack.

[22] Vladimir Bukovsky, “’Better Red than Dead’ is not good enough”, The Times (London), 4 December 1981; Les pacifistes contre la Paix, France 1982. US and Dutch editions were published in 1982; Swiss, Polish and Greek editions followed in 1983, and a Swedish edition in 1984.

[23] Vladimir Bukovsky , Soviet Hypocrisy and Western Gullibility (with Sidney Hook and Paul Hollander), Ethics & Public Policy Center, 1987, “Peace as a Political Weapon”, pp 23-24.

[24] John Vinocur, “KGB officers try to infiltrate antiwar groups”, New York Times, 26 July 1983.

[25] John Vinocur, “Antimissile group in Bonn is divided,” New York Times , 6 April 1982.

[26] Douglas Eden, “The story of who is behind Britain’s CND”, Wall Street Journal, 22 February 1983.

[27] Wynfred Joshua, “Soviet manipulation of the European Peace Movement”, Strategic Review, Winter 1983.

[28] Winston Churchill, Defending the West, Temple Smith: London, 1981, p 87.

[29] Vladimir Bukovsky, “The Peace Movement”, (1982).

[30] Victor Suvorov, Inside the Soviet Army, Hamish Hamilton: London, 1982, pp 102-105.

[31] Final Act of the General Assembly’s session on Disarmament (23 May to 1 July 1978), Office of Public Information, United Nations , pp 3-22.

[32] 14 August 1979 (St 171/5), p 8.

[33] See 26 September 1978 (St 126/8), pp 7-8, 27 August 1978 (227).

[34] See Carter (1992), p. 120.

[35] For “World Parliament”, see 12 September 1979 (St 176/1).

[36] 11 August 1980 (St 223/53), p. 3.

[37] Vladimir Bukovsky, Soviet hypocrisy (1987), pp 23-24.

[38] See 11 August 1980 (St 223/53), p. 6.

[39] Daily reports in Pravda , 23-29 September 1980.

[40] Bruce Kent, Letters, The Times (London) 9 December 1981.

[41] 2 September 1980*, St 226/4, pp. 3-5.

[42] 15 January 1980 (St 193/2)^, mentioned in 8 July 1980 (St 218/8), p. 7.

[43] 8 July 1980 (St 218/8), pp. 19-20.

[44] Carter (1992), pp 132, 133, 142, 168, 175.

[45] See 11 July 1980*, 219/59, p. 4.

[46] See, for example, report in Politiken, 8-31 July 1980.

[47] 6 January 1981* (St 244/11), pp. 9-11.

[48] 6 January 1981 (St 244/11), pp. 14-17.

[49] See also 15 January 1980 (St 246/22).

[50] See Pravda , 30 April and 31 May 1982, and Sputnik monthly, February 1982.

[51] Nicholas Humphrey, “The Rat’z a Rat for a’that”, The Guardian , 29 March 1982.

[52] Kathleen Teltsch, “Philanthropies focus concern on Arms Race”, The New York Times , 25 March 1984.

[53] See 15 April 1980 (St 206/19), p. 12.

[54] 15 April 1980 (St 206/19), p. 18.

[55] 13 January 1981* (St 245/14), pp. 8-9

[56] Carter (1992), p 164.

[57] Frank Press, “Scientific exchanges must go on”, The Washington Post, 11 May 1984.

[58] E.P. Thompson, The Guardian, 2 February 1983.

[59] Carter (1992), pp 117-118.