Friday, 25 December 2015

December 24th 1979

"Amin had been sentenced to death at a revolutionary trial for crimes against the state and that sentence had been carried out"
Radio Kabul, December 24th 1979

Soviet troops, in Afghanistan by invitation, were not engaged in any military action, insisted the deputy chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and president of the Tadzhik Republic. 

They were assisting the Afghan Army in forming its units and helping to deal with "bandits" entering Afghan territory.

Radio Kabul was officially telling it, meanwhile, "subversive and foreign elements and spies working under the command of their foreign masters" were killing, burning, blowing up, and terrorizing peaceful Afghans.

Christian Science Monitor, 1980


ZB: I told the President, about six months before the Soviets entered Afghanistan, that in my judgment I thought they would be going into Afghanistan. And I decided then, and I recommended to the President, that we shouldn't be passive.

INT: What happened?

ZB: We weren't passive.

Overall, there were over 20 requests for military assistance from the Afghan leadership in 1979.  

In the telephone conversation with Afghan Prime Minister Taraki [April 20th 1979], Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin explains to his Afghan counterpart that the Soviet Union would not send troops, and encourages Taraki to rely on the local population, and specifically to mobilize industrial workers of the Herat province, which shows the lack of understanding of the local situation on the part of the Soviet leadership (industrial workers, the “proletariat,” which was supposed to be the base of the socialist revolution were practically non-existent in Afghanistan).  

The Politburo session, convened urgently to discuss the situation in Herat, shows the differences of opinion among the participants: while practically all Politburo members were against sending Soviet troops to Afghanistan, some of them at the same time argued that “we cannot lose Afghanistan.”  The decision arrived at after much deliberation and summed up by General Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev was that economic and military assistance with equipment and advisers would be provided but no Soviet troops would be sent to Afghanistan [in April].

" Before Ponomarev made an unofficial visit to Kabul, Taraki and Amin took hasty measures to speed up the process of getting rid of potential rivals for power. There were mass arrests and repressive measures against personal rivals in the party and the underground. A personal enemy of Taraki, M.A. Akbar was accused of working for the CIA. 

Twenty-seven "conspiracies" were uncovered during the first few months following the April Coup. On 15 August the head of the general staff, Shapur, was arrested. On 17 August, the Minister of Defense [of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan], A. Qadir was arrested, followed by other ministers and officials. 

The policy of Taraki and Amin to get rid of people they considered unsuitable in order to concentrate all power in their own hands became very apparent. It was thought in Afghanistan that, as the USSR was helping the country and was not hindering the removal and elimination of people who were known for their pro-Soviet views, the Soviet leadership had betrayed them. An example was the case of Qadir who had played an important role in the coups of 1973 and 1978.

According to Taraki, those arrested were being held in a special prison. Only a very narrow circle knew where this was situated. He told Ambassador Puzanov: "Many of them are close to committing suicide. Hedeyat has already killed himself. The conspirators do not want to disclose any new facts and are therefore prepared to do this. Qadir has not confessed yet but he has admitted several mistakes he made. The task now is to reveal the political leadership of the conspiracy, to find out who is behind Qadir and Shapur. We are sure that we will manage to do this."

Shapur was in a depressed state of mind. He constantly cried and asked to be shot quickly. As the head of counter-intelligence, Aziz, said confidentially, investigations were only held in cases where the accused were prepared to give evidence. The rest of those arrested were shot. 

The followers of Khomeini and members of the Muslim Brothers organization were to be elirninated at once.

The KGB in Afghanistan
Vasiliy Mitrokhin
Working Paper No. 40

"The situation in Afghanistan following the events of September 13-16 of this year, as the result of which Taraki was removed from power and then physically destroyed, remains extremely complicated...

Thus, in the person of Amin we have to deal with a power-hungry leader who is distinguished by brutality and treachery. In conditions of organizational weakness of the PDPA and the ideological immaturity
[nezakalennost’] of its members the danger is not precluded that, thanks to the preservation of his personal power, Amin might change the political orientation of the regime...."

- Andropov
November 29, 1979
Report on the situation in Afghanistan, Gromyko, Andropov, Ustinov, and Ponomarev to CPSU CC 
(Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Central Committee)

The Soviet authorization to invade Afghanistan, December 12, 1979.  

The Soviet leadership was so anxious about maintaining secrecy that they hand-wrote the document and circulated to individual Kremlin leaders for their signatures, which appear diagonally across the page. 

[Source: Fond-89]

Soviet view: We're only rooting out Afghan 'bandits'

NEW DELHI — As Soviet Vice-President Makhmadula Kholov told it in the Indian capital this week, the Afghan Army is quite capable of dealing with the Afghan rebels on its own.

Soviet troops, in Afghanistan by invitation, were not engaged in any military action, insisted the deputy chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and president of the Tadzhik Republic. They were assisting the Afghan Army in forming its units and helping to deal with "bandits" entering Afghan territory.

In increasingly candid broadcasts, the government-operated radio has been reporting rebel activities -- ascribed to "terrorists -- in the key western city of Herat near the Iranian border and in four northern provinces bordering the Soviet Union: Balkh, Kunduz, Samangan, and Jawzjan.

Although the Afghan government has claimed success in repelling, capturing, and killing rebels, it has also given wide publicity to the dispatch of "volunteers" to take on the insurgents -- often in areas it has just reported as calm and peaceful.

With "cries of joy and happiness," the government news media reported this week, volunteers have gone off to combat the enemies of Afghanistan's Marxist revolution. These enemies, it said, are receiving "direct financial and military support by United States world-plundering imperialism, British reactionary circles, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, hegemonous China, and other retrogressive countries of the world."

Meanwhile, as diplomats, travelers, and other Kabul- watchers clustered in the Indian capital were telling it, Soviet troops only recently finished tangling with fleeing defectors from the Afghan Army's 14th armored division based in Ghazni. With armor and their dreaded MI-24 helicopter gunships, they continued to pound villages suspected of harboring or aiding the insurgents.

The Afghan Army, according to diplomatic accounts, has shrunk to fewer than 30,000 men -- less than half its original estimated strength of 80,000. The government's effort to enlist fresh recruits has degenerated into press gangs scouring city streets for youths as young as 15.

"They've had to actually go out and drag these guys out of their homes," a Western observer reports.

Coup and Army defection rumors abound. Observers say Soviet control of the primary road network extends no farther than the distance of their longest-range weapons. Afghan emigres happily pass along rebel claims of assassinations of hated party figures and large victories over Soviet and Afghan troops.

To the puzzled outsider, Afghanistan has become many different wars seen through the perspectives of those relating it.

Normally knowledgeable diplomats stationed in Kabul are restricted to a 20 -mile radius of the capital. Aside from their own observations of military movements in and out of the city, they must pick, sift and piece together rumors , facts, and observations from colleagues and internal travelers to give their capitals and outside missions some inkling of events inside Afghanistan. Only a few Western reporters have enveigled their way into the country in the face of a flat ban on the Western press.

Inconsistencies and contradictions abound. Afghanistan's government-controlled news media feel no need to reconcile day- or week-old antirebel success stories with their own fresh reports of new "terrorist" activities in the same regions.

In his first meeting with New Delhi's corps of avid Afghan watchers, Mr. Kholov retreated to a nonplused "no reply" when asked an embarrassing question: How could the rebels inflict as much damage as Radio Kabul is reporting if the Soviet-assisted Afghan Army was so capable of taking them on?

Mr. Kholov is heading a Soviet delegation here to commemorate the 9th anniversary of the Indo-Soviet friendship treaty. He is also attending India's annual independence day celebrations Friday. He could not understand, he added, why the Afghan situation drew so much interest in India.

"On the Situation in 'A'"
12 December 1979
1. After the coup and the murder of Taraki in September of this year, the situation in Afghanistan began to undertake an undesirable turn for us. The situation in the party, the army and the government apparatus has become more acute, as they were essentially destroyed as a result of the mass repressions carried out by Amin.

At the same time, alarming information started to arrive about Amin's secret activities, forewarning of a possible political shift to the West. [These included:] Contacts with an American agent about issues which are kept secret from us. Promises to tribal leaders to shift away from USSR and to adopt a "policy of neutrality." Closed meetings in which attacks were made against Soviet policy and the activities of our specialists. The practical removal of our headquarters in Kabul, etc. The diplomatic circles in Kabul are widely talking of Amin's differences with Moscow and his possible anti-Soviet steps.

All this has created, on the one hand, the danger of losing the gains made by the April [1978] revolution (the scale of insurgent attacks will increase by spring) within the country, while on the other hand - the threat to our positions in Afghanistan (right now there is no guarantee that Amin, in order to protect his personal power, will not shift to the West). [There has been] a growth of anti-Soviet sentiments within the population.

2. Recently we were contacted by group of Afghan communists abroad. In the course of our contact with Babrak [Karmal] and [Asadullah] Sarwari, it became clear (and they informed us of this) that they have worked out a plan for opposing Amin and creating new party and state organs. But Amin, as a preventive measure, has begun mass arrests of "suspect persons" (300 people have been shot).

In these conditions, Babrak and Sarwari, without changing their plans of opposition, have raised the question of possible assistance, in case of need, including military.

We have two battalions stationed in Kabul and there is the capability of rendering such assistance. It appears that this is entirely sufficient for a successful operation. But, as a precautionary measure in the event of unforeseen complications, it would be wise to have a military group close to the border. In case of the deployment of military forces we could at the same time decide various questions pertaining to the liquidation of gangs.

The implementation of the given operation would allow us to decide the question of defending the gains of the April revolution, establishing Leninist principals in the party and state leadership of Afghanistan, and securing our positions in this country.


[Ed. note: For a translation and facsimile of the handwritten document (12 December 1979) entitled "On the Situation in 'A'," recording the Soviet decision to approve the military intervention in Afghanistan, see CWIHP Bulletin 4 (Fall 1994), p. 76.]"

From: Alexander Lyakhovsky,
The Tragedy and Valor of Afghan
GPI Iskon, Moscow, 1995, pp.109-112

Alexander Lyakhovsky—Major General, General Staff of the Russian Army. During the war in Afghanistan served as assistant to Commander of Operative Group of the USSR Defense Ministry in Afghanistan General V. I. Varennikov.

On December 8, 1979, a meeting was held in L. I. Brezhnev’s private office, which was attended by the narrow circle of the CC CPSU Politburo members: Yu. Andropov, A. Gromyko, M. Suslov and D. Ustinov. They took a long time discussing the present situation in Afghanistan and around it, considered all the pros and contras of introducing the Soviet troops in the area. 

Yu. Andropov and D. Ustinov cited the reasons justifying the necessity of such step, such as: the efforts, undertaken by the CIA of the USA (U.S. resident in Ankara--Paul Henze), for creating a “new Great Ottoman Empire,” which would have included the Southern republics of the USSR; the absence of a reliable air defense system in the South, so that in the case of stationing of the American missiles of the “Pershing” type in Afghanistan, they would threaten many vital Soviet objects, including the space center Baikonur; the danger that the Afghan uranium deposits could be used by Pakistan and Iraq for building nuclear weapons; [possible] establishment of opposition regimes in the Northern areas of Afghanistan and annexation of that region by Pakistan, and so on.

At the end of the meeting they have decided, as a preliminary plan, to develop two options: 

(1) to remove H. Amin by the hands of KGB special agents, and to put Babrak Karmal in his place; 
(2) to send some number of Soviet troops on the territory of Afghanistan for the same purposes.

On December 10, 1979, the Defense Minister of the USSR D. F. Ustinov summoned Chief of General Staff N. V. Ogarkov, and informed him that the Politburo had reached a preliminary decision of a temporary introduction of the Soviet troops into Afghanistan, and ordered him to prepare approximately 75 to 80 thousand people. N. V. Ogarkov was surprised and outraged by such a decision, and said that 75 thousand would not be able to stabilize the situation, and that he was against the introduction of troops, calling it “reckless.” The Minister of Defense cut him off harshly: “Are you going to teach the Politburo? Your only duty is to carry out the orders . . .” On the same day, Nikolai Vasilievich [Ogarkov] was promptly summoned to L. Brezhnev’s office, where the so-called “small Politburo” (Yu. Andropov, A. Gromyko and D. Ustinov) was in session.

The Chief of General Staff once again tried to convince those who were present, that the Afghan problem should be decided by the political means, instead of relying on using force. He cited the traditions of the Afghan people, who never tolerated foreigners on their soil, warned them about the possible involvement of our troops in military operations, -- but everything was in vain. However, in the end of the conversation they tentatively determined that for the time being they would not make the final decision on the immediate military assistance, but, in any case, the troops should start preparing.
In the evening, D. Ustinov gathered the Ministry of Defense Collegium and informed the narrow circle of officials from among the highest military leadership that possibly in the near future the decision would be made to use the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, and that they had to start preparing the appropriate forces. For this purpose Directive # 312/12/00133 was sent to the troops. Beginning from December 10, D. F. Ustinov started giving oral instructions to the Chief of General Staff regarding formation of a new Army in the Turkestan military district. On the basis of these instructions, selective mobilization of troops was carried out, and airborne and other military units were transferred to the Turkestan military district. All arrangements were carried out in secret, and noted on the maps.

Apparently, the final step was made after they received the report from the KGB representative, General-Lieutenant B. Ivanov, stationed in Kabul, with his evaluation of the situation in Afghanistan. This report was on the table of the Defense Minister at the moment when he was leaving for the CC CPSU Politburo meeting in the morning of December 12. General-Major V. P. Zaplatin, who was at that time adviser to the Chief of Political Administration of the Afghan army testified about it. The day before, the USSR Defense Minister summoned him to Moscow to report on the situation as the man with the most thorough knowledge of the state of affairs in the army of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, since principal military adviser S. Magometov, who had just arrived [in Afghanistan], did not fully grasp the Afghan situation yet. However, when the General expressed his disagreement with the assessments of the Afghan Army provided by our special services, and presented his arguments to the effect that they had dramatized the situation developing in Afghanistan excessively, D. F. Ustinov showed him a coded telegram signed by the KGB representative, and said, “You cannot come to an agreement there, but we need to make a decision [here].”

On December 12, at the session of the CC CPSU Politburo (or rather its elite), on the initiative of Yu. V. Andropov, D. F. Ustinov, and A. A. Gromyko, the final decision was made unanimously—to introduce Soviet troops into Afghanistan, although in the interest of secrecy, it was called “the measures.” The Soviet leaders believed that that step was intended to promote the interests of strengthening the state, and pursued no other goals. The protocol of that session, handwritten by K.U. Chernenko, which for a long time was super secret, was not shown to anybody, not even those among the highest leadership and was kept in a special safe, survived in a special folder of the CC CPSU.

This document to a large extent clarifies who were the initiator and executor of the introduction of Soviet troops into Afghanistan. The protocol was signed by all the CC CPSU Politburo members, who were present at the session. In those times nobody spoke “against” [it]. Every Politburo member knew how a disagreement with the opinion of General Secretary would be received, and therefore all proposals were “received with unanimous approval.” The principle of collective cover-up ruled the day. It is significant that A.N. Kosygin, whose position on this issue was negative, did not attend the session. In the document, the letter “A” signified Afghanistan, and the word “measures” signified the introduction of Soviet troops into that country. Therefore, all the false rumors, and inconsistencies regarding who was responsible for making the decision to introduce troops into Afghanistan have been removed.

The coded telegrams coming from Afghanistan looked as if they provided confirmation that the steps undertaken by the USSR leadership in regards to Afghanistan were the right ones.

There was no Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet on the issue of the introduction of troops. All orders were given orally. That was justified by the need to ensure secrecy and the need to confuse H. Amin.

In those times, such actions were possible as a result of the existing practice of making important political decisions: in reality, after their adoption by the CC CPSU Politburo (the highest organ of the ruling party), they were, for the main part, simply formally “approved” by the state organs, and were announced to the people. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that if that issue was raised at the Supreme Soviet, it would have been decided unanimously positively. Because that was the era of “unified thinking,” and the strict system of hierarchy created by the party nomenclature did not allow even one step outside the line determined by the CC CPSU Politburo; the people who occupied the key posts in the government, were under the total control of that system.

Translated by Svetlana Savranskaya, The National Security Archive.

Invasion Newspeak: U.S. & USSR

Noam Chomsky

FAIR, December, 1989

In May 1983, a remarkable event took place in Moscow. A courageous newscaster, Vladimir Danchev, denounced the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in five successive radio broadcasts extending over five days, calling upon the rebels to resist. This aroused great admiration in the West. The New York Times (8/6/83) commented accurately that this was a departure from the official Soviet propaganda line, that Danchev had “revolted against the standards of doublethink and newspeak.” Danchev was taken off the air and sent to a psychiatric hospital. When he was returned to his position several months later, a Russian official was quoted as saying that “he was not punished, because a sick man cannot be punished.”

What was particularly remarkable about Danchev’s radio broadcasts was not simply that he expressed opposition to the Soviet invasion and called for resistance to it, but that he called it an “invasion.” In Soviet theology, there is no such event as the Russian invasion of Afghanistan; rather, there is a Russian defense of Afghanistan against bandits operating from Pakistani sanctuaries and supported by the CIA and other warmongers. The Russians claim they were invited in, and in a certain technical sense this is correct. But as the London Economist grandly proclaimed (10/25/80), “An invader is an invader unless invited in by a government with some claim to legitimacy,” and the government installed by the USSR> to invite them in can hardly make such a claim, outside the world of Orwellian newspeak.

Implicit in the coverage of the Danchev affair in the West was a note of self-congratulation: It couldn’t happen here — no U.S. newscaster has been sent to a psychiatric hospital for calling a U.S. invasion “an invasion” or for calling on the victims to resist. We might, however, inquire further into just why this has never happened. One possibility is that the question has never arisen because no mainstream U.S. journalist has ever mimicked Danchev’s courage, or could even perceive that a U.S. invasion of the Afghan type is in fact an invasion.
Consider the following facts. In 1962, the United States attacked South Vietnam. In that year, President John F. Kennedy sent the U.S. Air Force to attack rural South Vietnam, where more than 80 percent of the population lived. This was part of a program intended to drive several million people into concentration camps (called “strategic hamlets”) where they would be surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. This would “protect” these people from the guerrillas whom, we conceded, they were largely supporting.

The direct U.S. attack against South Vietnam followed our support for the French attempt to reconquer their former colony, our disruption of the 1954 “peace process,” and a terrorist war against the South Vietnamese population. This terror had already left some 75,000 dead while evoking domestic resistance, supported from the northern half of the country after 1959, that threatened to bring down the regime that the U.S. had established. In the following years, the U.S. continued to resist every attempt at peaceful settlement, and in 1964 began to plan the ground invasion of South Vietnam. The land assault took place in early 1965, accompanied by the bombing of North Vietnam and an intensification of the bombing of the south, at triple the level of the more publicized bombing of the north. The U.S. also extended the war to Laos and Cambodia.

The U.S. protested that it was invited in, but as the Economist recognized in the case of Afghanistan (never in the case of Vietnam), “an invader is an invader unless invited in by a government with some claim to legitimacy,” and outside the world of newspeak, the client regime established by the U.S. had no more legitimacy than the Afghan regime established by the USSR. Nor did the U.S. regard this government as having any legitimacy; in fact, it was regularly overthrown and replaced when its leaders appeared to be insufficiently enthusiastic about U.S. plans to escalate the terror. Throughout the war, the U.S. openly recognized that a political settlement was impossible, for the simple reason that the “enemy” would win handily in a political competition — which the U.S. therefore deemed unacceptable.

For the past 25 years I have been searching to find some reference in mainstream journalism or scholarship to a U.S. invasion of South Vietnam, or U.S. aggression in Indochina — without success. Instead I find a U.S. defense of South Vietnam against terrorists supported from outside (namely, from Vietnam), a defense that was unwise, the doves maintain.

In short, there are no Danchevs here. Within the mainstream, there is no one who can call an invasion “an invasion,” or even perceive the fact; it is unimaginable that any U.S. journalist would have publicly called upon the South Vietnamese to resist the U.S. invasion. Such a person would not have been sent to a psychiatric hospital, but it’s doubtful that he would have retained his professional position and standing.

Note that here it takes no courage to tell the truth, merely honesty. We cannot plead fear of state violence, as followers of the party line can in a totalitarian state.


(Preliminary talk)

INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much for being willing to do an interview. I'll start by asking about arms control: what were the Administration's arms control objectives when they came into office?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: It was essentially to limit, first of all, the arms race, and then, if possible, to scale it down. I remember vividly how committed the newly elected President was to the idea of a significant cut in the nuclear weapons on both sides. That was kind of a central goal of his.

INT: How were these ambitions received by the Soviets?

ZB: Hah, with some ambiguity. They, I suspect in retros...

INT: Can you say "the Soviets" in your answer, because you'll never hear my question?

ZB: All right. And the Soviets received these proposals with some ambiguity and indeed suspicion. I suspect myself that they felt that Carter was not sincere, that he was merely trying to put them on the defensive, and that he was trying to back out of the earlier Vladivostok agreement that had been concluded between President Ford and Mr. Brezhnev. This, incidentally, was not Carter's inten(tion) - he really was very sincere; if anything, he was over-ambitious.

INT: Can you describe Brezhnev's response to the proposals, the letter that he sent in February of 1977, what your own reaction was to that?

ZB: I thought Brezhnev's letter was excessively negative, close to hostile, somewhat patronizing.

INT: The next thing I want to ask you about is SS-20s, and how much of a threat to the security of Europe was the Soviet deployment of SS-20s.

ZB: The Soviet deployment of the SS-20s worried the Europeans - frankly, initially more than us. I remember being somewhat startled when Chancellor Schmidt started making a big issue out of the SS-20s, but then I came to realize that in a sense he was right: namely that the SS-20, while perhaps not a decisive military weapon, posed the risk of de-coupling Europe's security from America's; namely, of posing before us the dilemma that maybe Europe was threatened by nuclear devastation, but that we were not, and therefore, should we risk the devastation of our own people and our own cities in order to protect Europe? That was the element of potential de-coupling involved in the Soviet deployment, and in that sense it posed a serious challenge to NATO, to which we had to respond, and to which we did respond.

INT: How?

ZB: By deploying the Pershings and the ground-launch cruise missiles, which put the Soviets very much on the defensive, and the Pershings particularly gave us the capacity to devastate the Soviet command and control centers in the very first few minutes of any conflict.

INT: What was your response to Chancellor Schmidt when he accused the Americans of not taking sufficient account of the Europeans' fears?

ZB: I think it's an exaggeration to say he accused us. I think he posed the dilemma, the possibility of a de-coupling of American and European security. And as I said earlier, after initially thinking that perhaps this was not a real issue, we came to the conclusion that indeed it was and that we should respond to it seriously. So we did. The President sent me to Europe; I talked to Chancellor Schmidt at length, and we came up with a formula: namely, that we would deploy the Pershings, which were theatre missiles, shorter range but very fast, very accurate, and the ground-launch cruise missiles - slower, but extraordinarily accurate: we could put one right through a window in the Kremlin, and if it had a nuclear tip on it, it would make a bit of a bang.
(Request in b/g re: next question)

INT: Yes. Could you reflect on the dual-track policy of NATO for us?

ZB: Well, essentially our position was that if the Russians want to discuss it, we will discuss; if not, we'll deploy.

INT: The neutron bomb - why did President Carter decide to cancel the project of the neutron bomb?

ZB: The President decided to cancel the neutron bomb, I think for two reasons, though one was emphasized. First, there wasn't sufficient support in Europe for it, and there was a great deal of reluctance in Europe to it. But secondly, I think the President personally found it morally abhorrent.

INT: SALT II - there was a lot of opposition to SALT II. Can you explain why opposition built up to SALT II?

ZB: The opposition in the United States to SALT II was the result both of serious concerns over some of the technicalities, specifics of the agreement - it was a very complicated agreement - and therefore some feeling that perhaps we weren't getting as good a bargain as we should; and maybe also of a more pervasive suspicion within some quarters that President Carter wasn't tough enough with the Russians. So these two things kind of coalesced and built up a degree of opposition to SALT II that shouldn't have been there. Now, in addition to that, before too long there was a third factor at play: namely, the Soviets started acting in a way that made movement forward on SALT II very difficult, culminating eventually in the occupation, invasion of Afghanistan.

INT: That leads on to the Soviet expansionism. How far did you believe the Soviets were becoming an expansionist threat and were undermining American influence, really from '77 onwards?

ZB: The Soviets at that time were proclaiming over and over again that the scales of history were tipping in the favor of the Soviet Union: the Soviet Union would outstrip us in economic performance, the Soviet Union was getting a strategic edge, the Soviet Union was riding the crest of the so-called national liberation struggles. The Soviet Union was moving into Africa, it had a foothold in Latin America; it was using that foothold, and particularly Castro himself, to see if something couldn't be done on the mainland of [the] Southern hemisphere. So all of that made it quite essential, in my view, to demonstrably show that these analyses were false: that the scales of history were not tipping, that Soviet assertiveness will not pay, that we can compete effectively, eventually put the Soviets on the defensive, if necessary.

INT: What was your view, particularly in Africa...? I'm thinking of the arc of crisis and your response to that.

ZB: My view of Soviet activities in the arc of crisis in Africa, so to speak, was that it was incompatible with the notion of détente to which we were subscribing, to which we thought the Soviets had subscribed in the course of their negotiations with Presidents Nixon and Ford; that you can't have your cake and eat it too. And that if that's what they were going to be doing, then clearly we are entitled to play the same game, wherever we can, to their disadvantage. But then we'll not have détente: we'll have competition across the board. So there is a real choice: either détente across the board, or competition across the board, but not détente in some areas and competition in those areas in which we were vulnerable.

INT: Moving on to Poland, what support you could give to Solidarity from 1980 onwards?

ZB: We gave them a great deal of political support. We encouraged Solidarity as much as we could. We made it very clear as to where our sympathies are. We of course had certain instruments for reaching Poland, such as Radio Free Europe; we had a very comprehensive publication program; we had other means also of encouraging and supporting dissent. And when the critical moment came in December of 1980, when the Soviets were poised to intervene in Poland, we did everything we could to mobilize international opinion, to galvanize maximum international pressure on the Soviets, to convince the Soviets that we will not be passive. And by then we had some credibility, because the Soviets knew that already for a year we were doing something that we had never before been done in the entire history of the Cold War: we were actively and directly supporting the resistance movement in Afghanistan, the purpose of which was to fight the Soviet army. So the notion that we wouldn't be passive, I think had somcredibility by then.

INT: How important was the Iran hostage crisis to Carter's prestige?

ZB: I think it was devastating. I think the Iran hostage crisis was one of the two central regions for Carter's political defeat in 1980, the other reason being domestic inflation. Iran and inflation - both were politically devastating.

INT: The downfall of the Shah and the Iranian hostage crisis - how much did they influence Americans' reaction to Soviet policy in Afghanistan?

ZB: I think the crisis in Iran heightened our sense of vulnerability in so far as that part of the world is concerned. After all, Iran was one of the two pillars on which both stability and our political preeminence in the Persian Gulf rested. Once the Iranian pillar had collapsed, we were faced with the possibility that one way or another, before too long, we may have either a hostile Iran on the northern shore of the Persian Gulf facing us, or we might even have the Soviets there; and that possibility arose very sharply when the Soviets marched into Afghanistan. If they succeed in occupying it, Iran would be even more vulnerable to the Soviet Union, and in any case, the Persian Gulf would be accessible even to Soviet tactical air force from bases in Afghanistan. Therefore, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was viewed by us as of serious strategic consequence, irrespective of whatever may have been the Soviet motives for it. Our view was the objective consequences would be very serious, irrespective of what may or may not have been the subjective motives for the Soviet action.

INT: Before the actual invasion, how much do you think the exit of the Shah affected Soviet plans for that area of the world?

ZB: The collapse of the American position in Iran had to have a rather strikingly reinforcing impact on Soviet expectations. This was a major setback for the United States. There's no doubt that from the standpoint of the Soviet analysis of the situation, the collapse of the regime in Iran meant that the position of the United States north of the Persian Gulf was disintegrating.

INT: How did you interpret Soviet behavior in Afghanistan, such as the April revolution, the rise of... I mean, what did you think their long-term plans were, and what did you think should be done about it?

ZB: I told the President, about six months before the Soviets entered Afghanistan, that in my judgment I thought they would be going into Afghanistan. And I decided then, and I recommended to the President, that we shouldn't be passive.

INT: What happened?

ZB: We weren't passive.

INT: But at the time...


INT: Right, describe your reaction when you heard that your suspicions had been fully justified: an invasion had happened.

ZB: We immediately launched a twofold process when we heard that the Soviets had entered Afghanistan. The first involved direct reactions and sanctions focused on the Soviet Union, and both the State Department and the National Security Council prepared long lists of sanctions to be adopted, of steps to be taken to increase the international costs to the Soviet Union of their actions. And the second course of action led to my going to Pakistan a month or so after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, for the purpose of coordinating with the Pakistanis a joint response, the purpose of which would be to make the Soviets bleed for as much and as long as is possible; and we engaged in that effort in a collaborative sense with the Saudis, the Egyptians, the British, the Chinese, and we started providing weapons to the Mujaheddin, from various sources again - for example, some Soviet arms from the Egyptians and the Chinese. We even got Soviet arms from the Czechoslovak communist government, since it was obviously susceptible to material incentives; and at some point we started buying arms for the Mujaheddin from the Soviet army in Afghanistan, because that army was increasingly corrupt.

INT: How united or divergent were the views in the Carter Administration, responding to the invasion of Afghanistan?

ZB: They were surprisingly uniform. That is to say, I remember that the State Department, which earlier had opposed taking a very tough stand on Afghanistan, and certainly didn't want us to be issuing any public warnings directed to the Soviet Union, came in with a long list of something like 26 or 28 proposed sanctions against Soviet Union, including the most severe ones that subsequently were adopted by the United States. So once the Soviets had acted, some of the hesitations and reticence regarding how we should respond to the Soviet challenge, dissipated almost instantly.

INT: But you managed to increase the powers of the National Security Council?

ZB: Well, I didn't increase the powers of the National Security Council, but obviously what the Soviets did confirmed what we were arguing for some time: namely, that if we don't draw the line clearly enough, we're going to get an escalation in Soviet misconduct, that simply acquiescence was not good enough. And in that sense, yes, I suppose one could say the political scales within the US Government were somewhat tipped in the favor of the NSC.
(B/g talk)

INT: How tough was President Carter's approach to the Cold War?

ZB: I think, on balance, it was much tougher than most people realize. Not only did he take some historic decisions which no other president had before - such as the decision to aid directly the Mujaheddin against the Soviet army - but he took a very tough position in December 1980, when the Soviet Union was poised to invade Poland. He took that decision, and it was a very tough decision, and we did all sorts of things to convince the Soviets that we wouldn't be passive. In addition to it, he took the decision to engage in a strategic relationship with the Chinese, and it was again directed at Soviet expansionism. But what is even less known is that even in the early years, when he was generally perceived as being soft and overly accommodationist, he took some very tough-minded decisions which were simply not known publicly. Robert Gates, the subsequently director of the CIA, and at that time a member of my staff, reveals in his book that as early as 1978, President Carter approved proposals prepared by my staff to undertake, for example, a comprehensive, covert action program designed to help the non-Russian nations in the Soviet Union pursue more actively their desire for independence - a program in effect to destabilize the Soviet Union. We called it, more delicately, a program for the "delegitimization of the Soviet Union". But that was a rather unusual decision. He took some others along these lines, too. So his public image to some extent was the product of his great emphasis on arms reductions and a desire to reach an agreement on that score with the Russians. But it didn't quite correspond to the reality, and it certainly didn't correspond even to the public reality in the second half of the Carter Administration.

INT: Could you summarize the reasons for the shift that seems apparent from the 1977 détente and co-operation, inordinate fear of communism, through to the Carter doctrine in 1980?

ZB: Well, that question was prepared before my answer to the previous question. (Laughs)

INT: Can you give me a summary?

The reasons for it.
ZB: I don't think there was a shift. As I said, I think even prior to the public realization that he was much tougher than most people had assumed, he was taking some decisions privately in the first two years of his presidency which were quite tough-minded. The reason he was perceived by a lot of people as not being tough enough, was rooted largely in his passion for arms control, for arms reductions, and that I think created an image that was somewhat one-dimensional and not entirely accurate.

INT: Well, following on that, how successful was Carter at laying the foundations for increased defense and security which the next administration inherited?

ZB: Any answer by me in that respect is inevitably self-serving. But I think you would find a good answer tothat question in the book written by the Republican head of the CIA, Robert Gates, who says that Carter deserves enormous credit in responding assertively, energetically and in an historically significant fashion, to the kind ochallenge that the Soviets -erroneously - thought they were ready to pose before us, when they assumed in the mid-Seventies that the scales of history were really tipping in their favor and they could now act assertively in keeping with that shift. It was our response in those years which provided the basis for what subsequently was done by Reagan, and this is what is being said by Robert Gates and not by me.

INT: But in your own book, you do stress that Carter laid good foundations for strengthening ...

ZB: Well, as I think is evident from my answer, I don't disagree with Robert Gates, but I think...

INT: Tell me (Overlap) from your own point of view...

ZB: ... but I think Robert Gates may be a better judge and more dispassionate judge of that than I, because obviously I would be accused of engaging in a self-serving diagnosis.


(Request in b/g re: next question)

INT: Why was the Horn of Africa so important to America?

ZB: The Horn of Africa was not important to America as of itself, but it was important as a measure and a test of how the Soviets were interpreting détente; and it seemed to us, given the strategic location of the Horn of Africa, that the Soviets were engaged in activities which they should know would be a sensitive concern to us. And if they were, notwithstanding that, doing precisely that, then obviously they were exploiting détente to try to attain some significant geopolitical gains, and that we simply could not tolerate.

INT: Did America underreact to start with to the activities of the Soviets in Africa?

ZB: Absolutely, I think we underreacted, and that's why they gradually escalated, and eventually, as I have said earlier, SALT was buried in the sands of Ogaden, the sands that divide Somalia from Ethiopia, and eventually led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which then precipitated a very strong, overtly so, American response. I would have preferred us to draw the line sooner, and perhaps some of the things that subsequently happened wouldn't have happened.

INT: Just to follow on to that, is how events in Afghanistan affected the US relationship with Pakistan.

ZB: There was a certain coolness and distance in the American-Pakistan relationship prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. After that invasion, we collaborated very closely. And I have to pay tribute to the guts of the Pakistanis: they acted with remarkable courage, and they just weren't intimidated and they did things which one would have thought a vulnerable country might not have the courage to undertake. We, I am pleased to say, supported them very actively and they had our backing, but they were there, they were the ones who were endangered, not we.

INT: Reflecting on that whole situation in Afghanistan, do you think it was worth all the suffering that was involved?

ZB: I think the Soviets made a tragic mistake, and therefore it wasn't worth their while to go in. I think it would have been a tragedy if we had allowed them to overrun the Afghans.

INT: Well, I would like to ask about détente. ... By 1980, the principle of détente was dead. Can you explain why détente died, how it died, and for what reasons?

ZB: Détente of the kind that existed in the mid-Seventies was really undermined by the Soviets, who thought that they could have détente and a fundamental shift in the balance of power at the same time. Instead of accepting détente as a relationship designed to stabilize the relationship between the two major countries, they viewed détente essentially as an umbrella under which a fundamental shift in the correlationship of power could be effected, and they thought they could do so both on the strategic level and on the geopolitical level, via their activities in the Third World. This is what contributed to the collapse of détente. I fail to see how anyone can argue that it was up to us to maintain détente at a time when the Soviets were very reluctant to accept any reductions in strategic arms, and felt themselves free to engage in military activities in the Third World, ranging from Africa through to Central America, and eventually culminating in Afghanistan. That is not the definition of détente in my book.

INT: The Vance mission in March 1977 - was that a turning point in any way on that route that you've just been describing?

ZB: The Vance mission in 1977, the March mission to the Soviet Union in order to conclude an arms control agreement, was a big disappointment to us, and it's not well understood, because most people assume that Vance went to Moscow all of a sudden confronting the Russians with a proposal for deep cuts in the strategic arms relationship, and that the Russians, annoyed by this sudden development, turned him down. The fact of the matter is, he went there with that proposal, but also with another one: namely, "If you're not prepared to have deep cuts, then let's have essentially the kind of deeps cuts - but less deep, much less deep - that were agreed to in Vladivostok," with two issues yet to be resolved, which in our view had not been resolved: the question of the cruise missiles and of the long-range new Soviet bomber called the Backfire, and these two issues we had to resolve. And the Russians took the position: "We don't accept deep cuts, but we also don't accept your fall-back position, unless you accept our definition of what the agreement ought to be regarding the cruise missiles and the Backfire." And of course, we couldn't do that, because that would have placed in jeopardy our own strategic position, and I doubt very much that Congress would have approved any such agreement. So the Russians adopted a very intransigent attitude, and that was a disappointment to those who thought that perhaps we could start a new administration, the Carter Administration, with some wide-ranging agreement with the Russians. It became clear that this would be much more difficult, and that in fact perhaps the Russians have a very one-sided, distorted, self-serving definition of what détente really ought to be.

INT: One side only.

(A bit of discussion)

INT: Why did President Carter take up the issue of human rights, especially on the Soviet Union, and what effect did this have on Soviet-American relations?

ZB: The President should really speak for himself on that, but President Carter, in my view, was deeply committed to human rights as a matter of principle, as a matter of moral conviction, and he was committed to human rights across the board. I mean, he felt very strongly about human rights in Argentina, as well as in the Soviet Union. I was deeply committed to human rights; I felt this was important, but I will not hide the fact that I also thought that there was some instrumental utility in our pursuit of human rights vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, because at the time the Soviet Union was putting us ideologically on the defensive. They saw themselves as representing the progressive forces of mankind, marching toward some ideologically defined future; and raising the issue of human rights pointed to one of the fundamental weaknesses of the Soviet system: namely, that it was a system based on oppression, on mass terror, on extraordinary killings of one's own people. Focusing on human rights was in a way focusing on a major Soviet vulnerability. So, while I was committed to human rights - and I am committed to human rights - I do not deny that in pushing it vis-à-vis the Soviets, I saw in this also an opportunity to put them ideologically on the defensive at a time when they saw themselves rightfully on the offensive.

INT: Thank you very much.


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