Western Intelligence and the Collapse of the Soviet Union, 1980-1990: Ten Years That Did Not Shake the World

Western Intelligence and the Collapse of the Soviet Union, 1980-1990: Ten Years That Did Not Shake the World

Western Intelligence and the Collapse of the Soviet Union, 1980-1990: Ten Years That Did Not Shake the World

Western Intelligence and the Collapse of the Soviet Union, 1980-1990: Ten Years That Did Not Shake the World

Synopsis

During the 1980s Western intelligence services spent about $40 billion each year. They certainly proved the oxymoron to be true. The Soviet Union collapsed but no-one knew! In much the same way the World Trade Center towers were destroyed. This volume offers a scathing criticism of Western intelligence.

Excerpt

When the worst terrorist atrocity in American history occurred on 11 September 2001, the intelligence agencies of the United States and most of the Western world were taken completely by surprise. Ten years earlier, in 1991, those same organizations were surprised when the Soviet Union collapsed, although they invested enormous resources in intelligence and waged a campaign against the Soviets across the entire globe.

This book sets out to explain why Western intelligence failed to diagnose the Soviet Union's terminal condition, despite the many obvious symptoms, and, worse, why the intelligence agencies failed to convey what they did know and did assess correctly to the political echelon.

Although the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the terrorist actions against the United States in 2001 were very different events, we thought it would be useful to analyze, albeit in abbreviated form, why the intelligence agencies failed to foresee and preempt what President George W. Bush called “a declaration of war on America.” The last chapter of the book deals with that.

In the course of gathering material for this book, dozens of people were interviewed: government officials, academics and intelligence personnel. Most were from the United States and Russia, the others from Britain, Germany, France and Israel. The interviewees included foreign ministers, intelligence chiefs and experts on the Soviet Union and communism. Written material was also used, including biographies of the secretaries of state in the 1980s, as well as classified documents released by the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Intelligence Council, the body responsible for national evaluation in the United States.

Despite this abundance of source material, we have not produced an academic book. It is rather an attempt to share with our readers, in jargon-free language, the impressions the authors gained from their interviewees, many of whom played key roles in the last decade of the Cold War, and the trends that emerge from the CIA documents on the relevant topics.

Every one of the interviewees readily admitted to having been surprised by the collapse of the Soviet Union. They differed only in the reasons they gave for their blindness. Clearly the capacity to understand historic turning points as they occur is limited, however sophisticated the intelligence-gathering machinery at work.

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