The Lost Equilibrium: International Relations in the Post-Soviet Era

By Bettie M. Smolansky; Oles M. Smolansky | Go to book overview

The CIA and the Soviet Union:
The Politics of Getting It Wrong

MELVIN A. GOODMAN

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can
make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which
is to be the master—that’s all.”

—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

“Facts can confuse.”

—CIA Director William J. Casey, 1985

THE QUESTION ABOUT WHO STARTED THE COLD WAR HAS BEEN REplaced by why the cold war ended the way it did. The answers to the latter question may never be satisfactory to scholars and students of the cold war, but we already know that the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union totally surprised U.S. policymakers. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had provided no warning. President George Bush stated that he had no idea the Berlin Wall was coming down, and his national security adviser Brent Scowcroft could not recall receiving any CIA warning about the Soviet demise.1 President Ronald Reagan’s last national security adviser and Bush’s chairman of the joint chiefs General Colin Powell has written that CIA specialists could not “anticipate events much better than a layman watching television.”2 Former CIA Director Admiral Stansfield Turner charges that the agency’s “corporate view missed by a mile” and that it “should not gloss over the enormity of the failure to forecast the magnitude of the Soviet crisis.”3

The memoirs of former Secretary of State George Shultz offer the best description of the CIA’s failure to track the Soviet decline and the revolutionary impact of Gorbachev’s leadership. Shultz believed that “CIA analysis was distorted by strong views about policy” and accused CIA Director William Casey of providing “bum dope” to the president. He warned the White House that the

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