Previous posts in this discussion:
PostObama Administration, Intelligence, and Russian Hacking: NYT (Massoud Malek, USA, 03/02/17 4:27 am)
I think WAISers should read this:
Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking:
JE comments: If it's from the New York Times, it must be fake!
Perhaps the biggest revelation of recent days is the possibility that Attorney General Sessions perjured himself concerning previous contacts with Russian diplomats. Shouldn't the Attorney General investigate...?
Politics is usually plus ça change, except for when it isn't. One example of the latter: During the good ol' days of the Cold War, Republicans were the hard-liners with Russia, while Democrats tried to play nice. Now, in the present Cold War, it's the other way around.
(WAIS this morning has been a series of one-liners and FYIs. Why do the WAISitudes have so little to say?)
Will Attorney General Sessions Resign?
(Istvan Simon, USA
03/03/17 4:09 AM)
JE wrote on March 2nd: "Perhaps the biggest revelation of recent days is the possibility that Attorney General Sessions perjured himself concerning previous contacts with Russian diplomats. Shouldn't the Attorney General investigate?"
It is not a possibility. Sessions did perjure himself and of course must resign immediately. That is the second high official in less than two months of the Trump presidency who will have to resign. Trump has the Sadim (reverese Midas) touch. Whatever he touches turns to sh*t...
JE comments: Of course, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. What we do know is that Sessions has agreed to recuse himself from any investigation of the Administration's contacts with Russia. And there is a groundswell of "Sessions Must Resign" petitions and the like. Their impact on the president will be zero, although Trump may still have to cut his AG loose to take the heat off himself and "eliminate distractions from the nation's vital work." It would be similar to his settlement in the Trump University suit.
Sadim is Midas spelled backwards. This wasn't obvious to me at first. I thought Istvan was referring to some Middle Eastern potentate I hadn't heard of.
US Meddling in Foreign Elections
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
03/03/17 7:10 AM)
From a foreign point of view, the present debate on Putin's influence in US politics is ridiculous.
For the last 72 years the US has meddled in every possible election around the world. Certainly this has been true for Italy. So now, if the Russian meddling is true, the US is finally getting a dose of its own medicine.
Furthermore if the US is the greatest Empire, and up to now nobody can deny this, how can it spend so much time discussing the useless Russian meddling?
What does it all mean? Is it the feeling that the heart of the Empire is getting weaker?
Oh by the way, the Soviet Empire was also meddling in Italian elections through the Communist Party, but following the collapse of the USSR the party changed its name and became a good lackey of the US. It's the cupidigia of servilismo (cupidity of servility) of Italy's post-War II political gang.
JE comments: Americans prefer to think that we meddle in elections for noble reasons--democracy, plurality, economic opportunity, and human rights--while the Russian Bear does so out of conniving self-interest. Eugenio Battaglia's A u vas negrov linchuyut response demands that we think more critically. What say you, WAISizens? For starters, how about US political interventions in Latin America from, say, 1898? Arbenz? Allende?
US Meddling in Foreign Elections; Smedley Butler
(John Heelan, UK
03/03/17 10:11 AM)
JE asked on 3 March: "How about US political interventions in Latin America from, say, 1898? Arbenz? Allende?"
Let us not forget Project Condor, the School of the Americas. One also remembers the "complaint by Marine General Smedley Butler (1881-1940) rightly a hero of the USMC, who said: I served in all commissioned ranks from a second lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism."
Today one might add US geopolitics to that list, as in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq--with Iran and ex-USSR client states currently on the back burner.
JE comments: Smedley Butler comes up on WAIS every year or so, as do other notorious quotesters, such as Max Weinreich of "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy" fame. Here's another Butler quote: "I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street." Or how about "[War] is the only [racket] where the profits are measured in dollars and the losses in lives."
At the time of his death in 1940, Gen. Butler was the most decorated Marine in history. There is a Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D Butler on Okinawa. Have any of our WAISer Marines spent time there?
Don't miss this detailed 2005 discussion of Gen. Butler, with comments from WAISers Michael Sullivan, Cameron Sawyer and Robert Whealey. (Yikes--this post needs a good reformatting.)
Smedley Butler's Great-Nephew
(David Duggan, USA
03/04/17 4:23 AM)
General Butler's great-nephew, the Rev. Wes Smedley, is the rector of St. Chrysostom's Episcopal Church in Chicago's "Gold Coast" neighborhood.
JE comments: The Marines and the Church sound like strange bedfellows for one family, but traditionally this was not the case. In the days of primogeniture, second and third sons of respectable families had only two career choices: the sword or the cross.
How did the Rev. Smedley end up with his great uncle's first name as his last? Doesn't it usually work the other way around?
Have any of you read Butler's 1935 book, War is a Racket? The complete text is available on-line.
Rev. Wes Smedley and Gen. Smedley Butler
(David Duggan, USA
03/06/17 4:38 AM)
In my brief conversation with the Reverend Wes Smedley (see my post of March 4th), who like his relative was from the Philadelphia area, he acknowledged the relationship but did not know much about his great uncle. To answer John E's question about the "Smedley" name, I suspect it was his uncle who was given a family name as his first name.
JE comments: The "D" of Smedley D Butler stands for Darlington. The General was named after his grandfather, Smedley Darlington (1827-1899), a member of the US House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. Mystery solved, sort of: we still don't know how the "Christian" name of the Congressman became the Reverend's surname.
- Russian Interference in Foreign Elections: Nothing New (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 03/03/17 5:08 AM)
"If it's from the New York Times, it must be a fake!" noted JE on March 2nd, and this can very well be a correct assessment.
It seems to me rather strange to discuss the US security and intelligence services' reaction to the Russian meddling in the US presidential election, because we are well aware of the consequences. And namely, 35 Russian diplomats with families were expelled, two Russian compounds closed down and nine entities and individuals were sanctioned, including the Russian military intelligence, GRU, and, very strangely to me, its security service, FSB. (Strangely, because if America is involved in an intelligence operation overseas it will only be logical to "santction" the CIA but not the FBI, which, like the FSB in Russia, is a domestic security agency. It is of course a typical confusion because the FSB is traditionally associated with the KGB in many minds, which is wrong.)
Okay, back to the election meddling and a possible Russian role in it. I would like here to reproduce the full text of a Sunday Times article by my senior colleague, the eminent British intelligence historian Professor Christopher Andrew, probably the best international expert on Russian foreign intelligence operations. This is what Professor Andrew writes, followed by a couple of my own comments.
"Spooks, forgeries and hacking: 40 years of Kremlin meddling," 15 January 2017:
"The most surprising thing about Russian attempts to influence the outcome of November's US presidential election is that they should have caused surprise. Attempts to rig elections are a KGB tradition.
Every country in the post-war Soviet bloc established in eastern Europe became communist as the result of fraudulent elections which, throughout the Cold War, continued to deliver bogus majorities of more than 99%.
Walter Ulbricht, leader of the East German communist party, told his senior party officials after the Second World War: 'It's got to look democratic but we must have everything under our control.'
"The KGB also made somewhat less ambitious post-war plans to influence the outcome of elections in the West-- especially those of its 'main adversary,' the US. Its strategy was the same as that of the recent attempts to undermine Hillary Clinton's election campaign--to collect and covertly distribute compromising material (some of it fabricated) against candidates it wished to lose.
"The recent report by the US intelligence community on 'Assessing Russian activities and intentions in recent US elections' cites documents in the Mitrokhin Archive--top secret files smuggled out of Russia in the 1990s by a former senior KGB archivist, who was exfiltrated by MI6 to Britain.
"He and I worked together on these extraordinary papers while I was writing a history of KGB foreign operations. They show that, more than 40 years ago, the KGB recruited a Democratic Party activist to report on future president Jimmy Carter's 'campaign and foreign policy plans.'
"Probably no American policy-maker at any time during the Cold War inspired as much fear and loathing in Moscow as Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s. The first priority of KGB influence operations (officially known as 'active measures') was to prevent his re-election in 1984.
"The main obstacle to the KGB's covert campaign was Reagan's almost blameless private life and visible devotion to his wife, Nancy. So the 'Centre' (KGB HQ) decided to portray him instead as an out-of-control militarist who threatened to provoke a third world war. 'Residencies' (KGB stations) around the world were ordered to popularise the slogan 'Reagan means war!'
"To assist them, the KGB forged a series of bellicose documents, including a letter to the King of Spain bearing Reagan's signature, calling on the king to deal promptly and decisively with those obstructing Spanish membership of NATO.
"Another of the KGB's favourite deceptions was bogus documents purporting to reveal secret dealings between the Reagan administration and the apartheid regime in South Africa. One such document was planted on the unsuspecting Washington correspondent of the New Statesman, which featured it prominently in its issue of November 5, 1982.
"The recent US intelligence report concludes that: 'President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.
"'We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for president-elect Trump.'
Computer hacking and the advent of cyber-warfare made it much easier in 2016 for Russian intelligence to collect private information on presidential candidates than during the Reagan era. But Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the election were scarcely more successful in 2016 than in 1984. There is no convincing evidence that their efforts made a significant contribution to Clinton's defeat.
"Though largely ineffective, however, Russian interference in US elections remains deeply sinister. Under President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, interference declined. Under Putin it is sharply on the rise.
"As the US intelligence report also concludes: 'Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow's long-standing desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.'
"Though the report does not mention it, there is also reason to suspect the compromising material (kompromat) collected by Russian intelligence on both Trump and Clinton before the election included, as in the Soviet era, fabricated evidence. The whole wretched story provides further, worrying evidence of a return to the Cold War" (end of quotation).
BV: In general, I believe that what is said about the Russian hackers and their skills is, unfortunately, absolutely true. They are obviously copying and probably even outdoing their new Chinese "friends"/"partners" caught red-handed several times in the past few years.
Everybody interested in the topic will recall cases when it was established without doubt that Russian hackers penetrated several closed computer networks (Pentagon, big banks, credit cards, private mail accounts). "In addition," declared President Obama in a published statement related to the present investigation, "the Secretary of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information."
Not too long ago, when analysing elections in several European countries, I came to the conclusion that the Russian Special Services (what was earlier known as the 16th Department of the KGB and then FAPSI--now parts of the SVR, FSB and FSO, three former elements of the KGB-- all reporting to the Putin's Presidential Administration) were directly involved in the Ukrainian presidential election of 2004 (Yanukovich versus Yushchenko), acting against Victor Yushchenko. I have multiple reports from Kiev that the Russian "technicians" were virtually everywhere during the election campaign.
I also recall Austrian General elections 2006 when probably the best Austrian chancellor in the past decades, Wolfgang Schüssel, the only non-socialist in 30 years, very suddenly and entirely unexpectedly lost against the socialist candidate Alfred Gusenbauer. Gusenbauer only managed to remain in office for less than a year and then left immediately becoming an adviser to the President of Kazakhstan.
It seems to me the Russians were also involved in the May 2006 elections in Italy of Romano Prodi, the "Kremlin friend" as his was publicly labelled. The so-called Mitrokhin Commission of the Italian parliament presided by Senator Paolo Guzzanti directly accused Prodi of being "a KGB agent." Prodi, like Gusenbauer in Austria, also did not last long leaving his post in 2008 before his term expired. One will notice that because no one ever thought of a possible Russian intervention into elections in a democratic country, no one considered the problem from this side.
Anyway, in Austria and Italy, not to mention Ukraine, they did not have (and quite certainly do not have now) adequate technical facilities to catch the hackers. Only the USA and possibly Britain have such technology.
Neither Gusenbauer, nor Prodi or Yanukovich, nor others were ever afraid to be seen as the Russian stooges. I hear rumours from Washington that nowadays if you are not a Kremlin friend, a holder of a Russian state award or a person with good contacts in Moscow, you have no chance to get appointed to an important post. President Trump, as we see, does not seem to care too much and the Russians are proud (and make it part of their increasingly nationalistic propaganda) that more and more prominent Americans and other Western celebrities are queuing for Russian passports.
In short, to be a Kremlin collaborator again becomes fashionable these days. As our respected editor noted, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"--the more things change, the more they stay the same. And no one is anymore afraid to talk about the New Cold War.
NB: the appointment of Dan Coats (born 1943) the new Director of National intelligence seems another faux pas to me.
JE comments: It's great to have WAISworld's #1 espionage authority, Boris Volodarsky, back in the WAIS fold. For some months his WAIS mail had been inexplicably blocked--international intrigue?--but we've solved the problem the old-fashioned way, by switching to a different e-mail address.
(Please let me stress that I was not accusing the NYT of printing fake news.)
So much to discuss in Boris's post, but I'll limit myself to one question: How can Professor Andrew be so sure that the Russian intervention wasn't the decisive factor in the Trump victory?
Mitrokhin Commission; Romano Prodi
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
03/04/17 8:00 AM)
Excellent post from Boris Volodarsky, 3 March.
I have, however, to mention that in Italy the mentioned Mitrokhin Papers and Commission were (unfortunately?) considered anti-climactic, even if the indications about radio transmitters. hidden weapons and ubiquitous collaborators were correct.
In 2002 a Parliamentary Commission was instituted to verify the information in the Mitrokhin Papers.
The conclusion of the majority (center-right at that time) found a precise and definitive responsibility of Italian Prime Ministers Lamberto Dini (center-left), Romano Prodi (center-left) and Massimo D'Alema (former Partito Comunista) for several mistakes, coverups and omissions.
The report of the minority (center-left) stated on the contrary that most of the revelations were already known, and furthermore no element of judiciary guilt had been proven.
The judiciary system started an investigation, but it was soon dropped with "no grounds for prosecution."
Of course, up until the collapse of the USSR the Italian Reds were ready in case of conflict to side with the armies coming from the East to bring the promised "paradise on earth to the workers." How many people wanted to bring us something--democracy, paradise, etc? Now the extreme Islamists want to bring Islam to Rome.
Attacking Prodi in those years was like blasphemy for half the Italian people.
Even if I do not like him, I would say that Prodi was not a Kremlin man prior to 1991, but afterwards he rightly considered Russia a very different country, far removed from the USSR, and with which it is imperative to cooperate and revoke the sanctions, which are extremely dangerous for Italy. By the way, when the South Stream was in the planning stage, the presidency of it was offered to Prodi but he refused.
JE comments: On the Mitrokhin Commission, see this very thorough Wikipedia article. Eugenio Battaglia's original word to describe the papers and resulting investigation was "flop"; I opted instead for "anti-climatic."
Mitrokhin Commission and the Litvinenko Assassination
(Boris Volodarsky, Austria
03/05/17 7:21 AM)
I am grateful to Eugenio Battaglia for his kind words (4 March).
There's a lot I could reveal about the Mitrokhin Commission and its work. Suffice it to say that Paolo Guzzanti is a good friend and I am the only person who was allowed to visit Mario Scaramella in prison when he was incarcerated in Rome.
Senator Guzzanti quite certainly made a mistake by using the services of Scaramella who brought in Alexander Litvinenko--yes, the very same Sasha Litvinenko who was later poisoned in London--and Yevgeny Limarev, a KGB collaborator who did a lot of harm to the Commission. When Paolo contacted me in London it was too late...
Eugenio and other WAISers who understand Italian may wish to read this:
JE comments: I was not aware of the role of Mr Guzzanti as the director of the Mitrokhin Commission. Wikipedia (see below) claims that the reason for Litvinenko's assassination may have been his involvement in the Commission. I'm sure Boris Volodarsky could tell us much more.
Mitrokhin Archives and Latin American Connection
(Timothy Brown, USA
03/06/17 3:46 AM)
On the Mitrokhin Archives:
While researching When the AK47s Fall Silent (Hoover: 2000), I found a handwritten letter from Manuel Ramón de Andara y Úbeda (a Nicaraguan Marxist) to José "Pepe" Puente (AKs, pp. 9-52). Puente, a second-generation Marxist revolutionary, was Fidel Castro's aide in Mexico City for a few months, and later a Director of Nicaragua's FSLN, was trained in guerrilla warfare by Noel Guerrero, who confirmed during a taped interview that he had been a COMINTERN agent.
While the letter was innocuous enough, Puente had been the FSLN's liaison with the Soviet and Cuban intel in Mexico. When I showed him the letter he mentioned that he'd arranged travel by Andara to Russia, where he was trained in Line F Sabotage and assigned the code name PRIM. When Andara returned, he moved to Ensenada, Mexico.
In the Mitrokhin archives, a Nicaraguan medical doctor code name PRIM was identified a the head of a sabotage sleeper cell on the US-Mexico border.
JE comments: Tim, WAISers would be intrigued to know more about the sleeper cells' assignments. What exactly were they supposed to do--and when?
KGB Sleeper Cells in Latin America
(Boris Volodarsky, Austria
03/08/17 6:18 AM)
In commenting on Tim Brown's post of 6 March, JE wrote, "WAISers would be intrigued to know more about the sleeper cells' assignments. What exactly were they supposed to do--and when?"
As we all know, Timothy C. Brown is the author of a very interesting and useful book, When the AK-47th Fall Silent: Revolutionaries, Guerrillas and the Dangers of Peace (Hoover, 2000). With Timothy's permission, I shall be happy to explain based on the Mitrokhin documents and other sources.
The aggressive global strategy against the United States devised in the summer of 1961 by the KGB leadership and approved by Nikita Khrushchev and the Politburo, envisaged the use of national liberation movements both in operations against the Main Adversary (USA) and in pro-Soviet propaganda. Reports by the KGB stations (rezidenturas) in Latin American countries, as well as information from the friendly Cuban intelligence service, the Dirección General de Inteligencia (DGI) headed by Manuel Piñeiro Losado, placed Nicaragua's newly founded Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) at the top of the list of national liberation movements. Losada reported, "Of all the countries of Latin America, the most active work being carried out by us is in Nicaragua."
Carlos Fonseca Amador, one of the founding members of the FSLN, was recruited by the KGB in 1959 on a trip to Moscow and given the codename GIDROLOG (‘Hydrologist'). In 1960, the KGB organized funding and training for 12 individuals that Fonseca Amador hand picked, all of them core members of the FSLN. In November 1961 Alexander Sakharovsky, the head of the KGB's foreign intelligence directorate, reported to the leadership:
"In accordance with the long-term plan for the KGB's intelligence operations in Latin America and Directive No. 191/75-GS of the highest authorities [Instantsyia] dated 1 August 1961, our residency in Mexico has taken measures to provide assistance in building up the national liberation movement in Nicaragua and creating a hotbed of unrest for the Americans in the area. The Residency, through the trusted agent GIDROLOG [Fonseca] in Mexico selected a group of Nicaraguan students (12 people) headed by the Nicaraguan patriot doctor PRIM [Manuel Ramón de Jesus Andara y Úbeda], and arranged for their operational training. All operations with PRIM's group are conducted by GIDROLOG in the name of the Nicaraguan revolutionary organization 'The Sandinista Front,' of which he, GIDROLOG, is the leader. The supervision of the group's future activities and financial aid given to it will also be provided through GIDROLOG. At the present time PRIM's group is ready to be dispatched to Honduras, where it will undergo additional training and fill out its ranks... In order to equip PRIM's group and provide for his final training in combat operations, assistance amounting to $10,000 is required."
In 1965 Andara (PRIM) traveled to Russia for training in Line F operations. This must be explained. The so-called "special tasks" or "direct actions"--sabotage, assassinations, poisonings, identification of targets in the West and preparation for their destruction by specially trained sabotage and intelligence groups (diversionno-razvedyvatelnaya gruppa, DRG) were the responsibility of the KGB's 13th Department. In the KGB stations abroad this activity was entrusted to the so-called Line F officers. There also existed a PR Line (political), S&T Line (scientific and technical), etc. all staffed by one, two, or several officers of the station. A large KGB (now SVR) station/rezidentura like those in Vienna or Washington usually consists of 30 to 40 officers.
Andara (agent PRIM) was almost certainly trained in the guerrilla training camp in Balashikha near Moscow that is still fully operational. According to Timothy's research, after his special training, Andara traveled from Moscow to Mexico City in 1966. By this time, Sandinista guerrillas formed the basis for a KGB sabotage and intelligence group (DRG) established in 1966 on the Mexican-US border, with support bases in the area of Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, Tijuana on the Baja California Peninsula, and Ensenada about 80 miles south of San Diego. Intelligence from what became know as the Mitrokhin Archive and from MI6 files show that among the chief sabotage targets across the US border were American military bases, missile sites, radar facilities and the oil pipeline which ran from El Paso in Texas to Costa Mesa in California (those who live in California may have seen Russian Lukoil gas stations there these days). From Mexico City Andara proceeded to the KGB base in Ensenada.
Cuba, the "Island of Freedom" (and the location of WAIS '17 Conference in October) also provided support for the FSLN. By the end of 1966, Cuba had established more than a dozen international guerrilla-training camps under the supervision of Soviet KGB Colonels Vadim Kochergin and Victor Simonov.
Professor Andrew, the former Official Historian of the British Security Service MI5, reveals that three sites on the American coast were selected for DRG landings, together with large capacity dead drops in which to store mines, explosives, detonators and other sabotage materials together with radio transmitters. A support group code-named SATURN was given the task of using the movements of migrant workers (in today's Europe they are called refugees and asylum seekers), known in the area as braceros or manual laborers, to conceal the transfer of agents and munitions across the border. SATURN's headquarters was a hotel belonging to a Russian-born agent in Ensenada. The agent's two sons owned a gas station that was selected as a hiding place for DRGs and their equipment, as well as a base from which to conduct sabotage in the United States.
A sleeper cell, in our case the above-mentioned hotel proprietor and his sons plus possibly one or two agents, like PRIM trained in combat operations and supplied with an appropriate booby-trapped arms and radio cache, should have been kept in an inactive state waiting for a signal from Moscow (actually, a KGB station in Mexico). This could be weeks or years. In case of hostilities breaking out with the USA, DRG were ready to be deployed within hours, landing by parachutes or from the sea according to the plan.
You remember KGB Colonel Victor Simonov, who supervised guerrilla training in Cuba? One of Colonel Simonov's first graduates was Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (a.k.a. "Carlos the Jackal") currently serving two life sentences in France.
JE comments: This real-life intrigue is more fascinating than any spy novel! Thank you for the excellent overview, Boris. One curiosity: were the braceros tasked with shipping munitions across the border willingly, or were they coerced? I would suspect the latter.
KGB Sleeper Cells in Latin America: Tim Ashby's "The Bear in the Back Yard"
(Timothy Ashby, Spain
03/09/17 6:03 AM)
Boris Volodarsky's posting of March 8th reminded me of a personal story about possible KGB sleeper cells. In 1983 I was a Visiting Research Scholar at the Hoover Institution while I was writing my PhD dissertation on Soviet Strategy in the Caribbean. I became friendly with Dr. Edward Teller (my girlfriend, later my ex-wife, was his PA). One evening I was in Teller's office when a pair of male Latino cleaners came in. While they were emptying wastepaper baskets, etc., I asked where they were from. "Nicaragua," they responded. What a treasure trove of intel they could have collected if they were KGB agents!
Fellow WAISers may be interested in the following review of my 1987 book, The Bear in the Back Yard: Moscow's Caribbean Strategy, which was based on my doctoral dissertation. It parallels much of what Tim Brown wrote about in his excellent booked cited by Boris. By the way, Dr. Tom Mahnken, the reviewer, is now a professor at the Naval War College.
232 SAIS REVIEW: The Bear in the Back Yard: Moscow's Caribbean Strategy. By Timothy Ashby. Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1987. 240 pp. $22.95/cloth. Reviewed by Thomas Mahnken, M. A. candidate, SAIS.
"As Timothy Ashby amply demonstrates, since 1960 Soviet influence has increased in Latin America and the Caribbean. According to Ashby, Soviet strategy aims to use this influence to apply geopolitical pressure on the United States pressure that the Soviets hope will lead to a retraction of US overseas commitments and to a shift in the global balance of power. The policy is vulnerable, however, because Latin America is distant from the Soviet Union, while literally in the back yard of the United States. Hence, the strategy is not only extremely costly to the USSR but also dependent on proxies, which are themselves vulnerable to internal and external pressures (and which, though Ashby rarely mentions it, have their own interests). Ashby's thesis, that the USSR has a systematic plan for the penetration of Latin America, is itself arguable. Still, his enumeration of Soviet activities in the region is impressive. The linchpin of the strategy is Cuba, the USSR's "unsinkable aircraft carrier." Despite the fact that Fidel Castro's relationship with the Cuban Communist party began as one of mutual mistrust and hostility, Soviet assistance to Castro escalated rapidly after he seized power. Cuba's dependence on the USSR grew throughout the 1960s, climaxing in Castro's 1968 decision essentially to trade Cuban sovereignty for steady aid. Since then Cuba has become a major Soviet surrogate for spying, power projection, and support of revolutionary movements.
"Unfortunately, the book lacks sufficient consideration of the effect of domestic politics on Cuban foreign policy. While Ashby sees Havana's policies as a function of subservience to Moscow, Castro's own aspirations to grandeur may be equally important. A similar transformation occurred on Grenada following the 1979 coup that brought Maurice Bishop and his New Jewel movement to power. Evidence of the Soviet- and Cuban-sponsored covert buildup, which made the island an epicenter of regional revolutionary activity, is compelling and is corroborated by documents captured during the 1983 US invasion. Grenada was anxious to be a Soviet proxy, probably as much for national prestige as for socialist internationalism. While Grenada was no doubt valuable to the Soviets as a rallying point for regional destabilization, its strategic significance is debatable.
"Ashby's exploration of the origins of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua is insightful, although here, too, the analysis suffers from ignoring Nicaraguan society as a variable. In contrast with its initially cautious attitude following the Cuban revolution and its covert assistance to the Bishop regime, Moscow heralded the Sandinistas with immediate and substantial aid. Cuban and Soviet sponsorship of the massive Nicaraguan buildup is incontrovertible , as is the Nicaraguan role in exporting revolution through such groups as the Faribundo Marti National Liberation Front in El Salvador and the M- 19 faction in Colombia. Ashby uses a wide range of sources to back his assertions, including captured Cuban, Grenadan, and Nicaraguan documents; interviews with government leaders and defectors; congressional testimony; and memoirs. The author's reliance on details, however, often obscures the larger picture in which regional events occur and which would provide a more useful context for studying Soviet strategy in the Caribbean."
JE comments: What a difference just two years makes! Consider that the Soviets themselves would be on the ropes by the end of the 1980s.
Revolutionary Grenada is an even deeper reach into the past, ending with the US invasion of 1983. "Jewel" stood for Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education and Liberation. In 2009, the international airport in Grenada was named for Maurice Bishop, as a reconciliation of sorts with the island's history.
Did anyone in WAISworld visit Grenada during the New Jewel era?
- KGB in Nicaragua (Timothy Brown, USA 03/09/17 6:53 AM)
I very much appreciate Boris Volodarsky's fascinating comments of 8 March. Clearly he's interested in many of the same things I am, since that makes two of us. My own interest in Central America and especially Nicaragua began when I was an 18-year-old Marine Embassy Guard. Then I went away, only to be pulled back almost 40 years later. As Boris hopefully knows, From 1987 through 1990 I was the USG's top liaison officer working with the Nicaraguan Resistance and later I went back to school and did my dissertation, since published, The Real Contra War (Oklahoma 2001). Hopefully, the following comments will further pique his interests:
While stationed in Managua, I did my Marine best to enjoy a lively social life, and Carlos Fonseca Amador had a rather attractive sister so I got to know the family as well. His father, Fausto Amador, was an Air Force officer and Fonseca was his mother's name. I found the photo of Fonseca with his mother (p. 22, AKs) and pre-marital blood certificates of him and his bride, María Hayde Terán Navas (p. 37) were in the central archives of the FSLN. I found them in the Mexico City home of Pepe Puente (chapter 2 in AKs), and arranged for their being placed in the Hoover Archives. Before I included the photo and blood tests, I visited his widow and got her verbal permission to publish them. I still have a signed invitation to Nicaragua's Air Force Day, which Don Fausto sent me.
Contrary to the FSLN cover story that the FSLN had been formed "somewhere in Central America," it was formed in Havana, Cuba and its first leader was another Nicaragua Communist, Noel Guerrero Santiago. (The only know photo of him is on page 52 of my book Diplomarine.) When I filmed Guerrero, he confirmed that he had been a COMINTERN agent before WWII and had been infiltrated into the US as a railroad union organizer.
It was actually Guerrero who trained both Fonseca and Puente in guerrilla warfare. He began their training in Tegucigalpa and before inserting them into Nicaragua, he completed their training at a base on the banks of its Patuca River. During his interview he confirmed that, at the last minute, he was ordered not to send in Fonseca or Puente. He also introduced me to the Honduran wife he'd married while he was training them.
Supper's ready, so I'll stop here, except to mention that after Fidel took power in Cuba, Guerrero had been Che Guevara's top assistant at the bank in Havana charged with organizing more revolutions in Latin America, beginning with the Sandinsta revolution in Nicaragua which, by the way, is still in power there.
JE comments: What has struck me from Tim Brown's Diplomarine and his various WAIS posts is the "all-in-the-family" aspect of Central American politics. Political enemies know each other socially--or at least they did in the 1950s and '60s. If I recall correctly from Tim's book, he was the youngest Marine embassy guard in history when he arrived in Managua. I'm fuzzy on exactly how he finagled the assignment, but there's a detailed account of it in Diplomarine. Every WAISer should have a copy. (!)
- COMINTERN in Latin America, 1920s; Nicaragua Canal (Timothy Brown, USA 03/11/17 8:25 AM)
Actually, in reply to Boris Volodarsky (8 March), according to documents in the COMINTERN archives, Russia/Soviet efforts to control the Nicaraguan and other Central American Communist parties date back to the 1920s. In one document, a three-page analytical paper in English on the historical background of the Nicaraguan situation, dates back to the 1920s, eighty years ago, because "the United States could not afford, from a military point of view, to have any rival power to build a canal through Nicaragua" (B/575/10 Info Dept. EECI Report No. 10./1/27).
JE comments: Aren't the Chinese planning to do just that? Which reminds me, we're overdue for an update on the Chinese canal project. Reports from last fall speculated that the $50 billion boondoggle is stalled and might be dead:
COMINTERN in Latin American during the Interwar Period: Scholarly Works
(Boris Volodarsky, Austria
03/13/17 2:48 AM)
Timothy Brown (11 March) wrote about the Comintern in Nicaragua and other Central American countries and its relations with local Communist parties.
I would be happy to have a copy of the three-page analytical paper in English dating nine decades back (January 1927) that Timothy mentions, but I have to say that, fortunately, today there are a large number of documents available throwing light on the Comintern activities in Latin and Central America in the interwar period. What may interest Timothy and others who wish to explore the subject is a collection of documents (in Russian) edited by Nikolai Kalmykov [Николай Калмыков], Comintern and Latin America (Moscow: Nauka, 1998), M. Smelova, "Коминтерн и Латинская Америка" (available online), as well as a number of works, including a 2-volume edition of Хейфец В.Л. and Хейфец Л.С. Формирование и развитие латиноамериканского левого движения в 1918-1929 гг (СПб.: Изд-во ГУАП - ИЛА РАН, 2012), Vols. 1-2, 710 pages.
A review (in Russian) is available online: http://naukarus.com/komintern-i-latinskaya-amerika . Lazar Heifets and his son Victor Heifets are Russian specialists from the University of St. Petersburg: http://sir.spbu.ru/profs/?id=229 and http://sir.spbu.ru/profs/?id=145
I briefly covered Soviet espionage and Comintern/OMS activities in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico in the interwar period in my book Stalin's Agent (Oxford, 2015).
JE comments: Excellent leads; thanks! It's been way too long since I've attempted an entire book in Russian. Not to say that the 710-page Heifetz & Heifetz study would be the best place to start. It sounds like one of those mind-blowingly deep opuses that the Anglophone world no longer publishes. (Such bricks are tailor-made for on-line circulation.)
- KGB in Nicaragua (Timothy Brown, USA 03/09/17 6:53 AM)
- KGB Sleeper Cells in Latin America: Tim Ashby's "The Bear in the Back Yard" (Timothy Ashby, Spain 03/09/17 6:03 AM)
- KGB Sleeper Cells in Latin America (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 03/08/17 6:18 AM)
- Mitrokhin Archives and Latin American Connection (Timothy Brown, USA 03/06/17 3:46 AM)
- Mitrokhin Commission and the Litvinenko Assassination (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 03/05/17 7:21 AM)
- Russian Interference in Foreign Elections: Nothing New (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 03/03/17 5:08 AM)
- Rev. Wes Smedley and Gen. Smedley Butler (David Duggan, USA 03/06/17 4:38 AM)
- Smedley Butler's Great-Nephew (David Duggan, USA 03/04/17 4:23 AM)
- US Meddling in Foreign Elections; Smedley Butler (John Heelan, UK 03/03/17 10:11 AM)
- US Meddling in Foreign Elections (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 03/03/17 7:10 AM)