[Editorial note: This article continues the article The Disaster of U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.]
When experts speak to foreign tyrants in the twilight chambers of kremlins, they may find it too easy to believe in the eternal secrecy of their conversations. Thick rampart walls, dim lights, and a stable dictatorship - all of which looks so reliable that the expert convinces himself that his duplicity may never be revealed to the world. And yet, sooner or later, the regime falls, and some of the secret archives see the light of the day.
Here is a document from the top secret Soviet archives: a memo by Radomir Bogdanov, Deputy Director of USA and Canada Institute in Moscow (and a ‘retired’ KGB Colonel), dated 5 May 1989:
Professor Seweryn Bialer, Director of the Institute on International Change at Columbia University, arrived to Moscow on 4 May. During confidential talks, he revealed some decisions taken in the US ruling circles, citing his talks with Deputy State Secretary [Lawrence] Eagleburger and National Security Advisor [Brent] Scowcroft.
The essence of those decisions is as follows: it is currently in the US interests to play a waiting game with the Soviet Union and make no active moves. The US information and analytical services estimate that the process of weakening and disintegration of the Soviet state is accelerating. […] A few days ago, the National Security Council discussed the US-Soviet relations and reached the conclusion that the weakening Soviet Union will be making more and more concessions to the United States. All they need to do is to be patient and wait until ‘the overripe apple falls down from the tree’.
At the same NSC meeting, special attention was paid to the need to resist the pressure of NATO allies and to push for the decision to modernize tactical nuclear weapons. The matter was not just modernization, but essentially the future of the whole European development. American troops won’t stay in Europe without tactical nuclear weapons. Therefore, the present battle is about the future of the US policy in Europe, as it was for the last 40 years. It was noted that, according to the present analytical surveys, it is quite realistic to expect that Kohl’s government [in West Germany] will be defeated at the next election and replaced with a coalition of Social Democrats and the Greens.
[At his upcoming visit] in Moscow, [State Secretary James] Baker is going to follow the ‘waiting game’ course. He will be creating an impression that there is some progress in the US-Soviet relations, but construct that progress in such a way that it would not cause any real movement.
S. Bialer told about the ‘game’, played by Defense Secretary [Dick] Chaney, State Secretary Baker and President [George W. H.] Bush. The Defense Secretary made the sharpest public statement against the Soviet leadership, and it was the first in time. That position was somewhat softened by State Secretary Baker, and then softened even more by President Bush. As a result, the Defense Secretary’s statement received the greatest prominence, and caused widespread response in the international political circles.
According to S. Bialer, there is a working group operating in the National Security Council, which was created very recently. Its task is to work out the arguments sewing doubts about the successful perestroika [reforms] in the Soviet Union and the reliability of the Soviet leader. S. Bialer believes that the American side has fallen hopelessly behind with the establishment of such a group, because it is now practically impossible to undermine the credibility of M. S. Gorbachev, particularly in Western Europe.
(GF Archive, f. 2, inv. 1, 5 May 1989)
The document is densely covered with handwritten marks and notes, which indicate that it was used in Gorbachev’s preparations for his talks with Baker. Some sections of the text are crossed out, including all references to Bialer’s name, which are replaced with the handwritten insertion in the beginning: “We have received information about some decisions taken in the US ruling circles.” The references to Eagleburger and Scowcroft as Bialer’s original sources are also crossed out. Apparently, the memo served as a basis for another, less secret, document, which could be circulated more widely in the apparatus without a risk to give away the sources.
No matter what Bialer’s intentions might have been, the information he supplied to the Soviets was treated as intelligence and used as intelligence. Of course, the majority of Sovietologists were not Soviet spies. However, too many of them walked like spies, and talked like spies, and saved the KGB the trouble of infiltrating the National Security Council with real agents.
The negotiations between Baker and Gorbachev took place one week later, and of course, the Soviet leader constructed his argument bearing in mind Bialer’s information. The transcript of negotiations reads:
M. S. GORBACHEV. […] Obviously, I closely followed the discussions of the US internal and foreign policies which you had in recent months. […] You have heard a lot of various opinions, recommendations, suggestions, including the following one: no need to rush, the Soviet Union is now developing towards destabilization and collapse, let this apple ripe and fall into your hands.
I hope you understand this is very far from the truth...
What followed was a lecture about the perestroika which, Gorbachev claimed, would actually consolidate the Soviet regime - and having a strong Soviet Union would only serve America’s best interests.
M. S. GORBACHEV. […] I have heard that a special working group has been created in the US National Security Council, whose task is to discredit Gorbachev and the perestroika. Possibly, it is Mr. Gates here who leads that effort. If that is true, we shall never have a breakthrough in our relations. We, on our part, have no intention to play dirty tricks on the United States. Such attempts would be simply unrealistic. But we have a right to expect that the United States would take the same attitude towards us. […]
J. BAKER. […] I would like to assure you that there is no special unit in the National Security Council which aims to discredit you or perestroika. Neither the President nor I have any knowledge of the existence of such a group. If it really existed, its members would have to search for new jobs pretty soon.
R. GATES. Neither Scowcroft nor I have any knowledge of the existence of such a group.
(GF Archive, f.1, inv. 1, 11 May 1989)
Eventually, the George W. H. Bush administration changed its approach to unreserved support for Gorbachev and his perestroika. Clearly, that resulted from Soviet disinformation and pressure. As the outcome of the Cold War demonstrated, the initial analysis was quite correct: the Soviet Union was going to collapse, so all the concessions made to Gorbachev were wasted. Yet, he successfully deceived the West till the very end of his rule, and of course, that deception was made possible - among other factors - by the duplicity and stupidity of Sovietology experts.