Advice for a New Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, Part 2

The goal of “linkage”,  as implemented by Henry Kissinger,  was to disincentivize Soviet subversion of third world countries, by linking improvement in behavior to things the Soviets wanted in other areas. (Galegroup) Linkage is an excellent summary. Quoting a little,

Linkage was an active instrument of policy used by Nixon and Kissinger to exploit the Soviet desire for Western credits and technology in order to moderate their conduct in foreign policy and curb their military buildup. Critics of linkage argued that Nixon and Kissinger did not have the degree of control over positive inducements (such as economic aid to the Soviets) or negative sanctions (such as intervening economically or militarily in regions contested by the Soviets) to make the policy work.

The July sanctions of Russia, which (NBC) passed in Congress by a near-unanimous vote, have remarkable analogy to the 1974 Jackson Vanik Amendment and the 1975 Clark Amendment, which deprived linkage-the-tool with meaningful issues to link with.

The Russia sanctions may have been justified, but they were not adroit. Subversion in the United States by a foreign power has come alive again, with a reality not evident since the middle of the 20th century.  It is soon to be recognized as a chronic problem that, defying elimination, requires management. In Havana Sonic Attack Weapon — Let’s Build It! Part 6, I wrote,

If an adversary concluded that frying the brains of Havana diplomats would be a profitable thing to do, we have only ourselves to blame. In what intelligent manner, devoid of emotional considerations, beneficial to us, our values, and our allies, should this influence foreign policy?

Now for a digression. It might look like I’m abandoning advice for Rex Tillerson for discussion of Russian subversion. But down the line,  one of the most  effective tools of defense, avoiding damage to our civil liberties, is  linkage, to disincentivize subversion.

During the Cold War, subversion was almost entirely confined to the intelligence agencies, penetrated by operatives known as “moles” for their burrowing character. Outside of attacks on the intelligence agencies themselves, there was very little a mole-member of the political structure of government could do to benefit the Soviet Union. The ideology barrier was too great. This is why Harry Dexter White, who shared economic data, is not recognized as a spy. If he had instead given the Soviets military secrets, there would be no doubt.

The new subversion has no ideology; it is motivated by Russia’s nationalist, geopolitical goals. The purpose is to weaken the political consensus of the adversary by clandestine purchase of influence and, if available, control. The methods include extensions of the Russian domestic business environment.

The barrier of ideologies is gone. The”good guys/bad guys” divide has faded in the public mind. Vladimir Putin is an ambiguous figure, defying the stereotypical appearance of authoritarianism for something much more subtle. He presents a genial face to Russians, and, in historical perspective, may be the best ruler Russia has ever had. He is an internationally popular figure, regarded sympathetically even by many Americans. He projects none of the qualities we associate with egocentric dictatorship. Caricatures of Putin are notably rare.

But Russian subversion as a tool of foreign policy, of which Putin is a significant author, is a malign influence to  democracies that aspire to the highest Western standard, including the U.S. Russia seeks something which would have been unimaginable in the Cold War, to actually influence U.S. policy in the many areas where the U.S. could relax what remains of containment to permit expansion of Russia’s sphere of influence into areas now occupied by young democracies. While Russian military posturing gets the attention, economic integration is more dangerous. Because Russian business practices are an active instrument of Kremlin control, economic integration with Russia threatens political freedom.

An ex Soviet KGB officer, whose name I can’t recall, has said that the priority of the secret  is obsolete. There are very few secrets of significance. What is now recognized as important, according to this veteran, is what the other side is thinking. To this, I add my own extension, which comes many years later: And if you know what they are thinking, to change it.

To change the thinking of what was formerly known as the “main enemy” would be an unimaginably powerful tool. During the Cold War, we had something analogous to the “species barrier” of infectious diseases.  Radio Moscow was a joke, except to the diehards still peddling the Daily Worker on the streets of NY. As a strategy, deception was not practical.

Deception was touted early by the Bolsheviks, but massive deception first shows up in the annals of intelligence in the imagination of defector Anatoliy Golitysn, who claimed that the KGB had launched a massive strategy of deception, to completely change the foreign appearance of the Soviet Union to  a completely benign entity. Most analysts recognized this as an idiotic flight of imagination. But although Golitsyn was on balance immensely damaging to the Western intelligence community, what he mistook as an operational strategy, massive deception, probably did exist as a think-tank exercise.

Since 2000, ex-KGB officers have been ascendant in Russian government. The old papers and exercises have doubtless been reviewed. Some, like the deception exercise-study, doubtless inspired some aspects of current Russian policy, which works  too well for the Russians to give up. It is highly corrosive, and it may have mole-like characteristics that go beyond hacking and fake news production.

The recent sanctions bill resembles going after a swarm of bugs with a claw hammer. It is a one-shot response that does not disincentivize the activity. A bug zapper, fly paper, and repellent work better. Particularly, repellent.

Homework:  Google Of Moles and Molehunters: A Review of Counterintelligence Literature, 1977-92, by Cleveland Cram. download the pdf, and read. (I can’t provide a functional direct link.)

Next: How to apply DEET.

To be continued shortly: