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Political task game from the Cold War cookbook

When the submarines show up in Swedish waters, the media immediately points to Moscow. The misleading campaigns appear almost like a parodic copy of the 1980 century policy.


Why does the United States today use the same recipe in the fight against Moscow as it used in the 1980 century? There are differences, but the procedure is almost identical. Today we know the CIA's strategy from the 1980 century, and then the entire campaign was orchestrated by CIA commander William Casey.
In May this year, the German-French television channel ARTE showed the documentary Deception – The Reagan Method, where several of President Ronald Reagan's advisers were interviewed. The film presented his "victory strategy": You should not only force the Soviet to retreat, you should defeat Moscow as well. The idea behind the strategy came from CIA chief Bill Casey. Even before Reagan had made the presidency, he had made a decision to set up a "deception committee," a committee for guidance, and this was to be of decisive importance. The committee included Chairman Bill Casey, the president's national security adviser and the deputy ministers for the foreign and defense ministries. This "inter-agency committee" was described by President Reagan's Navy Minister John Lehman, first in a conversation I had with him in 2007, but later also in an interview for the ARTE television channel. Decisions on coup d'état, regime change and congressional campaigns should not be made by the president himself or by his defense and foreign ministers, because these decisions conflict with international law. The president and the senior ministers had to have "plausible deniability" – they had to be able to talk to leaders of other states without knowing (or more correctly, without having decided) these operations.

Guidance was central

That's what this is about the same type of "inter-agency committee" created by the then CIA commander Allan Dulles in 1955, which was then called the "Special Group". In 1964 it was replaced by "The 303 Committee" under national security adviser McGeorge Bundy, and in 1970 it was replaced by "The 40 Committee" under national security adviser Henry Kissinger.
But all these committees were also marked by their chairman, and for Bill Casey was deception – misleading – central to politics. He had learned that from World War II and his role during the Normandy operation, Lehman could tell. Casey wanted to fool the Soviet Union and the "neutral" Europeans.

Just like in the 1980s, the United States and the Saudis are now trying to starve Moscow to death.

Bill Casey's assistant Herb Meyer explained Casey's policy in ARTE's documentary as follows: One no longer had to focus on defense. Moscow was to be attacked. The United States supported Pakistan-backed Mujahideen (holy warriors) and Arab Islamists in Afghanistan to destabilize the Moscow-friendly regime in Kabul – in order to force Moscow to wage an impossible war that would economically weaken Russia. This was already the policy of President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. The United States entered the summer of 1979 to "give the Soviet its own Vietnam," Brzezinski said. The Islamists were supported to trick the Soviet into entering Afghanistan, and this policy was followed by Casey. The costs of the war should cause the Soviet system to collapse purely economically.
This was then the largest CIA operation ever. For every dollar the United States gave to the Afghan and Arab rebels (those who later became Al Qaeda), the Saudis gave one dollar. It was an American-Saudi campaign to overthrow the regime in Kabul, and to starve the regime in Moscow.

From 1984, Casey led the war into the Soviet Union itself, with US-Saudi-backed Islamists fighting in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and on to the Caucasus. At the same time, Casey persuaded the Saudi king to increase oil production in order to radically lower oil prices, which in turn would take most of the revenues from Moscow. Moscow financed its operations primarily with oil and gas. By lowering oil prices, Moscow lost significant revenues. Casey's idea was a starvation tactic.

Violent demonstrations

Exactly the same the policy is being pursued today. The United States joined forces with regime-critical forces in western Ukraine to destabilize the Moscow-friendly Yanukovych regime in Kiev. Violent demonstrations pushed President Viktor Yanukovych to flee. His regime was replaced by an equally corrupt regime from western Ukraine. The US backed a regime change in Kiev with significant costs for Moscow, which saw itself having to support the Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine. The sanctions aggravated the already weak economy. At the same time, the United States succeeded in bringing Saudi Arabia down the oil price, so that Moscow would lose its oil and gas revenues. Some OPEC states, such as Venezuela, would cut oil production to keep the price up, but the Saudis refused. The price was going down. Just as in the 1980s, the United States and the Saudis are now trying to starve Moscow to death, while targeting sophisticated misconduct campaigns against Moscow. It all appears almost like a parodic copy of the 1980s politics, which is also described in the aforementioned ARTE documentary.

Submarines in the Swedish archipelago

Just as in the 1980s, submarines began to appear in Swedish archipelago. These submarines were completely irrationally operated. They showed periscopes or towers in densely populated areas – not a submarine. Nevertheless, the newspapers immediately wrote that this had to be Russian submarines, because who else would be behind it?
In the 1980s, many Swedes believed in an immediate threat from Moscow. At that time, these submarines appeared almost everywhere, also in Swedish naval bases and in the harbor of Stockholm. In 1980, fewer than 10 per cent of Swedes believed that Moscow was a direct threat, while the corresponding figure had risen to 42 per cent in 1983. In 1980, fewer than 30 per cent of Swedes believed that Moscow was a threat or hostile to Sweden, while this figure had risen to 83 percent in 1983. After three years of submarines in Swedish waters, Sweden had become another country.

The Soviet the leader Juri Andropov said in 1983 that the Swedes should lower these submarines, so that they could see for themselves who was really offending them. After this, Olof Palme and Ingvar Carlsson never pointed to Moscow again, despite the newspaper claims. Only in the year 2000 did the US Secretary of Defense in the 1980s, Caspar Weinberger, and Britain's former Secretary of the Navy, Keith Speed, state that they had frequently and regularly operated submarines in Swedish waters to test the preparedness of the Swedish defense. Some officers on the Swedish side were informed, while the media and the Swedish government thought it was Russian submarines. From 2001, downgraded, strictly secret documents could show that Swedish intelligence had no evidence of Soviet submarines. It turned out that there may have been two different types of small, western vessels transported to Swedish waters. US Secretary of State John Lehman mentioned that the decision was made by CIA commander Bill Casey and his committee, while top executives from the CIA and from politics have told me that the planning was done by the National Underwater Reconnaissance Office (NURO) under John Lehman.

Palme lost credibility

Then submarines and small vessels were exposed in the Swedish archipelago, Sweden's Prime Minister Olof Palme lost all credibility. He had sought a dialogue with Moscow, and had tried to achieve a European relaxation – but when the Swedes thought it was Soviet submarines that violated Sweden's territorial integrity in a war-like state, this policy no longer existed.

The crisis in Ukraine, as well as the submarines in Swedish waters, became a confirmation that "the Russians are coming".

There was no longer any room for relaxation policy – and the same happened in 2014. Swedish media wrote about "Russian submarines" that violated Swedish territory, without anyone in the Swedish government pointing to Russia. The "Russian submarines" of the media were confirmed by British and American voices, all of whom spoke of "Russians". The crisis in Ukraine, as well as the submarines in Swedish waters, became a confirmation that "the Russians are coming". We all became part of the "Great Western We" (read: "The Anglo-American We"). A national, Swedish policy became difficult to operate.

But already in the 1980s, the United States Navy was superior to the Russians. Marine Minister Lehman told ARTE that on both the US and Russian side, the US expected to eliminate the Russian Northern Fleet in a week – and the Baltic Sea Fleet was only a little brother with about 40 submarines. Today, the Baltic Sea Fleet has only two submarines, and where the submarines in the Swedish archipelago should come from is a mystery. The Russian threat described today is pathetic. In 2010, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the United States Navy "has greater capacity than the navies of the following 13 states combined, and of these states we are allies or partners with 11". According to the Swedish Peace Research Institute SIPRI, the United States accounts for more than 33 percent of the world's defense budget, while Russia accounts for about 5 percent. When you read the newspapers you can get the impression that these figures are the opposite.
One has to ask: Why is British-American media talking about a Russian threat?
When the submarines appeared in Swedish waters, the media immediately pointed to Moscow. Why do you mean to know something you do not know? Is it the question of "the ruling discourse" that makes the designation of course? Or are there individuals in the system who consciously act to establish these ideas, just like in the 1980s? Perhaps some believe that the disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have made it necessary to find a new enemy – one that we can direct our forces to, and that can help us forget over ten years of failed wars. But why use the exact same recipe as the 1980s?

The idea behind this policy was in the 1980s to crush the Soviet system. It was part of President Ronald Reagan's "victory strategy" at the time and was presented by CIA commander William Casey. But what kind of thoughts are behind the same policy today? The CIA seems to have run out of ideas, and only reads in the old strategic cookbook from the Cold War. Or maybe they think there is some humorous value in doing exactly the same thing, and fooling people in Europe around again.

Tunander is a research professor at the Department of Peace Research (PRIO).

Ola Tunander
Ola Tunander
Tunander is Professor Emeritus of PRIO. See also wikipedia, at PRIO: , as well as a bibliography on Waterstone

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