Part 2: The Victory of the Dissidents
On August 1, 1975 the Soviet leadership committed what turned out to be a strategic blunder in its war against the dissidents. As part of the Helsinki Accords on Security and Co-operation in Europe, the United States , Canada and all European states save Albania and Andorra agreed to protect a series of basic human rights. Though Andropov warned against the consequences, a majority of the Politburo shared Gromyko's confident view that "We are masters in our house"--that the Soviet Union would be free to interpret the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Accord as it saw fit. In fact, as Zbigniew Brzezinski predicted, the accord "put the Soviet Union on the ideological defensive."1 Henceforth its human rights critics both at home and abroad could justly claim that it was in breach of an international agreement it had freely entered into.
The most influential of those critics was, increasingly, Andrei Sakharov. From the KGB's viewpoint, both the importance and the difficulty of discrediting Sakharov before world opinion were heightened by his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1975. The Oslo residency had been instructed to do all in its power to prevent the award, but was forced to confess that it was powerless to influence the Nobel Peace Prize committee which, it claimed, was wholly composed of "reactionaries"-- chief amongst them its chairwoman, the Labor Party deputy Aase Lionaes.2 Sakharov pronounced the Peace Prize "a great honor not just for me but also for the whole human rights movement":
I feel I share this honor with our prisoners of conscience--they have sacrificed their most precious possession, their liberty, in defending others by open and non-violent means.3
Just over a week after he received news of the award, the first of the " Sakharov Hearings," held in response to an appeal launched by Sakharov and other dissidents a year earlier, opened in Copenhagen to hear evidence of Soviet human rights abuses-- almost all of them in breach of the Helsinki Accords.
On November 22 Andropov approved a document entitled "Complex Operational Measures to Expose the Political Background to the Award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Sakharov." The sheer range and ambitiousness of the active measures pro-