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Soviet ‘Active Measures’ Against RFE and RL

SOVIET UNION – Moscow. USSR. KGB materials, 1990.
SOVIET UNION – Moscow. USSR. KGB materials, 1990.

The Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellite states invested considerable efforts over decades to monitor and counter RFE and RL. Jamming was one method used to limit the impact of their broadcasts. In addition, archival Communist party documents show that the intelligence services of each country repeatedly conferred to assess the threat posed by the broadcasts and enact other countermeasures.

One document, dated 1976, is a draft Action Program outlining countermeasures against RFE and RL that were discussed at a meeting of the intelligence services of the Eastern bloc countries (minus Romania) in Prague in 1976. In his opening remarks, Soviet KGB counterintelligence chief Oleg Kalugin described active measures that were “completed” or “in preparation” with the objective “to expel the US centers of subversion in the form of RFE and RL from the European continent.” Kalugin adds that “The optimal goal would consist of their total liquidation.”

Active measures included propaganda to “compromise the enemy” and mobilize international public opinion “for the purpose of ending the criminal activities of RFE and RL as hotbeds of ideological subversion whose existence is in contradiction with international law and the Helsinki Final Act.” Other measures included the possibility of holding a public tribunal against RFE and RL, and methods “to disorganize the internal activities of RFE and RL” by exerting psychological pressure on their journalists. These included efforts “to effect defection,” infiltration and spying, encouragement of “nationalist tendencies” to generate hostility between broadcast services, and “zionization” of broadcast departments to promote divisiveness among them.

A top-secret report from Bulgaria’s State Security Directorate documents a follow-up meeting in July 1978 in Moscow that was typical of many such meetings held to discuss regime responses to RFE and RL at the time. KGB Vth Directorate Lt. Gen. F.D. Bobkov states that “the KGB is falling behind in denouncing” the “committee” that supports RFE and RL, which he says “unites all enemy forces against the USSR and other fraternal countries.” Bobkov states that RL’s “subversive propaganda has been exposed, but its intelligence activity has not,” a reference to the Soviet canard that RL was a spy agency. To expose RL, Bobkov proposes organizing an international trial.

Based on material from Cold War Broadcasting: Impact of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe by A. Ross Johnson and R. Eugene Parta.