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This paper looks at the end of the Cold War as the end of a monumental competition. Until 1981, the United States competed mainly on its own side of the playing field. It was a good defensive effort called containment, but it avoided taking the competition into the Soviet side. The Reagan Administration changed the policy. It would undertake to "win the cold war" by taking advantage of every Soviet weakness and every U.S. strength to force a change in the Soviet bloc system.
After 23 months of effort, President Ronald Reagan received a report stating that "the combined weight of the burdens being created will cause the Soviet system to implode in this decade."
On October 14, 1986, Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev speaking on Soviet TV told his people: "The U.S. wants to exhaust the Soviet Union economically ... to wreck its plans ... of improving the standard of living ... thus arousing dissatisfaction with their leadership." That is what the Reagan administration intended. That is what happened.
In 1980 the Soviet Union and its ruling elite felt their country was winning the Cold War. The USSR had good hard currency earnings and high expectations of much more. It was buying and smuggling western technology; it had taken over Afghanistan and was in a position to press on in the Middle East. The Soviets had updated their weapons, "... secretly deploy[ing] SS-20 missiles in Europe unilaterally," according to Anatoly Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador to the United States from 1962 to 1986, and had support in the West for disarmament and a nuclear freeze (Dobrynin, 1995, p. 430).
The incoming Reagan Administration had campaigned for changing this, but it faced many challenges:
* Western Europe was making loans to the USSR at half the normal interest rate.
* Sweden was buying restricted high technology needed by the Soviets and reselling the items with all the necessary instructions.
* Many western firms were selling restricted technology to companies fronting for the USSR.
* The technologies the Soviets could not buy, they were trying to steal.
* The USSR was earning hard currency by selling oil at three times its production cost.
* The USSR was earning hard currency by selling weapons to oil rich countries like Iran, Iraq and Libya.
* Europe was financing two gas pipelines from Siberia. If completed, West Germany, for instance, would become dependent on Moscow for 60 percent of its energy and Soviet hard currency earnings would double to $60 billion per year (Schweizer 1994, p. 42-3).
* The Soviets had effectively taken over Angola and Mozambique, and the Soviet military was providing aid and advice to many countries in Africa.
* U.S. military spending had declined from 9.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) under President John Kennedy in 1962 to less than 4.6 percent under President Jimmy Carter in 1979 (Federal Government Historical Budget, Tables 3.1 and 10.1).
* In Nicaragua, the USSR financed equipment and thousands of trainers to "... build ... an army of 60,000 regulars backed by an equal number ... militia" ... armed with heavy weapons." The plan was to expand to 500,000 under arms (Singlaub, 1991, p.443-4).
* The Soviets were positioning themselves to threaten Western Europe into less cooperation with the United States.
* The USSR had invaded and was winning in Afghanistan (Cold War Seminar, 1999).
In August 1999, I had the opportunity to join a group celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall. It brought together former leaders from the Reagan Administration: Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Ambassador-at-Large Vernon Walters, National Security Adviser Richard Allen, National Security Adviser William Clark, Personal Adviser and later Attorney General Ed Meese, and James Buckley, President of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. It also included National Review editors and writers: William Buckley, Kate O'Beirne, Peter Rodman and John Sullivan. During the two-week Baltic cruise, we spent 21 hours in formal sessions and talked individually with the speakers. They described in detail how the Reagan Administration implemented a many-faceted strategy that abandoned the policies of containment and detente and used our competitive strengths to take advantage of what they saw as moral, economic and systemic weaknesses in the Soviet bloc. The policies, now declassified, were spelled out in many secret National Security Decision Directives (NSDD) (Cold War Seminar, 1999).
These directives had many specific steps, but the broadest of them were the following:
* NSDD 32 (1982) -- Goal to" `neutralize efforts of the USSR' to maintain its hold on Eastern Europe" (Schweizer, 1994, p. 76-7, interview with William Clark).
* NSDD 66 (1982) -- Cut off access to Western technology and reduce the USSR's hard currency earnings. "NSDD-66 was tantamount to a secret declaration of economic war on the Soviet Union" (Ibid. p. 126, interview with Roger Robinson, its principle author).
* NSDD 75 (1983) -- "Launch ... economic, military, and political initiatives which convince the Soviet ruling elite that ... unless it ... shared ... some of its power with the Soviet people ... it would lose all of it" (Shattan, 1999, p. 250).
* NSDD 166 (1986) -- The new goal was to win in Afghanistan. Satellites would now track Soviet movements so that more attacks could be planned (Schweitzer 1994, p. 213 & 230).
"Reagan entered office in 1981 with a clear strategy in mind ... The objective was to find weak points in the Soviet structure, to aggravate these weaknesses, and to undermine the system ... He believed the proper strategy was one of clearly gaining the upper hand, and then negotiating from a position of strength ... all in order to convince the Soviets that it would be hopelessly expensive, even impossible, to keep abreast [of the U.S.]." Only then would the Soviets agree to negotiate verifiable agreements (Allen, 1996, p. 62).
Reagan's strategy was strongly supported by his closest ally, Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of Great Britain. She wrote in her memoirs, "... from the first I regarded it as my duty to do everything I could to reinforce and further President Reagan's bold strategy to win the Cold War, which the West had been slowly, but surely losing" (Thatcher, 1993, p.157).
SOVIETS' VIEW IN 1980
The Soviet leaders viewed their position vis-a-vis the West favorably--except for the USSR's low economic growth, reliance on foreign sources for critical equipment and technology and its low labor productivity. The USSR was again expanding its empire. Afghanistan would soon be under complete control; then the Soviets could exert more pressure on Iran and Pakistan. Mozambique came under Soviet control without opposition, except by internal guerillas. The Communist government of Angola had 12,000 black Cuban troops and thousands of Soviet Bloc advisers. Neighboring African countries supported the non-communist guerillas, but since 1976 the American Congress had prohibited U.S. assistance.
Underway were a gas and oil project with Japan and a dual gas pipeline from Siberia to Western Europe that would greatly increase Soviet hard currency earnings. The USSR, because it had three times as many tanks as the West, felt it could easily overrun Europe in a non-nuclear war. The new SS-20 missiles could threaten Europe with a nuclear war separately from the U.S. These would help make Europe vulnerable to pressure. Soviet agents and advisers were active in many countries working to extend the Soviet Empire or at least its influence.
The Soviets' ability to buy or steal Western technology was not only saving billions of dollars, but also providing what the Soviets were not capable of building themselves. Overall, the Soviet elite felt that they were winning and they could continue to postpone making good on their many promises to improve the standard of living of the average Soviet citizen.
CASEY AND THE CIA
In February 1981, William Casey, the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) called for two initiatives. The first was: "to pay attention to worldwide `intangible threats' ... [like] subversion and ... terrorism with special attention to the degree ... [they were] supported ... by forces hostile to [the U.S] ..." The second was: develop "a new intelligence estimate" that would enable the administration to take advantage of U.S. strengths and the weaknesses of its adversaries (Gates, 1996, p. 203).
Casey was not an ordinary director of the CIA. He was in the Cabinet, on every foreign policy decision-making body, and on the five-member National Security Planning Group (NSPG). He had an office in the extended White House, met with the President twice a week, often alone, and was guaranteed open access to him. (Schweizer, 1994, p. 3, 6, interview with Herb Meyer) "Push. Push. Push. Casey never stopped coming up with these ideas--or forwarding those of others--for waging the war against the Soviets more broadly, more aggressively and more effectively," writes Robert M. Gates (Gates, 1996, p. 256).
Robert Gates, whose CIA career extended from 1966 to being Director in 1991, wrote, "Casey quickly put his finger on a serious deficiency in the CIA's collection and analysis [of information] on the Soviet Union ... while [CIA Operations] collected information on Soviet covert action and espionage activities around the world ... these reports were regarded as operational ... and were rarely shared with the analysts and even more rarely ... outside...." Because of Casey, "A CIA ability to monitor Soviet covert action in an organized and thorough manner at last was born--35 years into the Cold War" (Ibid. p. 202, 207).
SOVIETS SUPPORT TERRORISM
CIA analysts had neglected the seamier side of Soviet activities. In March, Secretary of State Al Haig asked for a CIA analysis of how the USSR was sponsoring terrorism around the world. The report that came to Casey for signature concluded that the USSR did not. The evidence submitted were public quotes by Soviet leaders condemning terrorist groups. Casey wrote the head of the analytical section that he was "greatly disappointed" in its quality since it relied on Soviet statements. He asked Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to conduct a new study using CIA's historical records that the analysts did not have or request (Ibid. p. 203-5).
After negotiations on the wording, the report was eventually issued in May 1981 as a joint report by the CIA and the DIA entitled The Soviet Role in Revolutionary Violence. It described a worldwide effort to weaken unfriendly societies, destabilize hostile regimes and advance Soviet interests. The Soviets had no scruples about using terrorist tactics. Even many terrorist groups without a political agenda had individuals who "had been trained by Soviet ... friends and allies that also provided them with weapons and safe transit." The Soviets often publicly condemned such groups, which is what the first study was quoting (Ibid. p. 205).
After the collapse of the Warsaw Pact countries, the CIA learned that even the second report understated the support to terrorists. These governments, especially East Germany, supplied not only sanctuary, but also training, false …