The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB

By Christopher Andrew; Vasili Mitrokhin | Go to book overview

F0URTEEN
POLITICAL WARFARE
Active Measures and the Main Adversary

The philosophers," wrote Marx, "have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it."1 In addition to collecting intelligence and producing politically correct assessments of it, the KGB also sought to influence the course of world events by a variety of "active measures" (aktivinyye meropriatia) ranging from media manipulation to "special actions" involving various degrees of violence. Inspired by exaggerated accounts of its heroic defeat of counter-revolutionary conspiracies between the wars and a desire to impress the political leadership, it frequently overestimated its own effectiveness.

Throughout the Cold War the United States was the main target for KGB active measures as well as for intelligence collection. Most were at the non-violent end of the active measures spectrum--"influence operations" designed to discredit the Main Adversary. A conference of senior FCD officers in January 1984 reaffirmed a priority which had remained unchanged since the end of the Second World War: "Our chief task is to help to frustrate the aggressive intentions of American imperialism . . . We must work unweariedly at exposing the adversary's weak and vulnerable points."2 Much of what was euphemistically described as "exposure" was in reality disinformation fabricated by Service A, the active measures branch of the FCD, and spread by Line PR officers in foreign residencies. Line PR officers were supposed to spend about 25 percent of their time on active measures, though in practice some failed to do so.

The wide variation in the sophistication of the disinformation generated by Service A reflected the uneven quality of its personnel. About 50 per cent of its officers were specialists in active measures. Some of the remaining 50 per cent were rejects from other departments. Few of the ablest and most ambitious FCD recruits wanted jobs in Service A; it rarely offered the opportunity of overseas postings and was widely regarded as a career dead end.3 There were, of course, exceptions. Yuri Modin, the last controller of the Magnificent Five, became an active measures specialist, was appointed deputy head of Service A and subsequently had a successful Line PR posting spreading disinformation in India before becoming head of political intelligence at the Andropov Institute.4 Many Service A officers, however, had little, if any, experience of living in the West and relied on crude conspiracy theories about the capitalist and Zionist plotters who supposedly operated a secret "command center" in the

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