Analysis on the Soviet Union

18-20 November 1999 Conference

For a quick, readable "summary" of conference proceedings, see Hayden B. Peake, "US Intelligence and the End of the Cold War," Intelligencer 10, no. 3 (Dec. 1999): 8-10. For "highlights of speeches and panel presentations," see Henry R. Appelbaum and John H. Hedley, "US Intelligence and the End of the Cold War," Studies in Intelligence 44, no. 3 (Summer 2000): 11-18.

Materials presented chronologically.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Ed., Benjamin B. Fischer. At Cold War's End: US Intelligence on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, 1989-1991. Washington, DC: History Staff, Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 1999.

Clark comment: This volume was released for the18-20 November 1999 conference at Texas A&M University's Bush School of Government and Public Service. Also listed as Fischer, Benjamin B., ed. At Cold War's End (1999). Jonkers, AFIO WIN 2-00 (14 Jan. 2000), says that Fischer has written "a masterly Foreword that is worth the price of admission. It is an outstanding summary[,] capturing a set of momentous and convoluted -- almost unexplainable -- events. This is a basic source document -- a contribution to knowledge.... Highly recommended."

For Mapother, IJI&C 14.4, this collection "presents insight as to how the intelligence community kept the White House and upper levels of the national security bureaucracy on notice that strategic changes were coming, and offered reasonable predictions about what directions they would take." Crome, JIH 1.1, comments that Fischer's "preface is an utmost helpful guide through the documents and at the same time a well written and concise account of U.S. policy toward the the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe."

Loeb, Vernon. "Foreseeing the Fall." Washington Post, 19 Nov. 1999, A43. [http://www.]

At the conference on "U.S. Intelligence and the End of the Cold War," which began on 18 November 1999 at Texas A&M University's Bush School of Government and Public Service, the CIA is releasing "a 378-page volume of 24 intelligence estimates on the Soviet Union from 1988 to 1991." The documents purport to show that assertions that the CIA failed to foresee the fall of the Soviet Union are wrong.

Risen, James. "Documents Show the C.I.A. Saw Trouble Coming for Gorbachev." New York Times, 19 Nov. 1999. []

Intelligence estimates declassified by the CIA for a conference being held at Texas A&M University on the role that U.S. intelligence played in the final days of the Cold War show that CIA analysts "were deeply pessimistic about the chances of success for President Mikhail Gorbachev's efforts to reform the Soviet Union's Communist system."

Clark comment: Risen carefully does not verify the thrust of the documents, merely noting that the estimates "provide insight into an enduring debate over whether the C.I.A. really 'missed' the collapse of the Soviet Union, as critics charge." Having had access to many of the estimates on the Soviet Union in the late 1980s (up to June 1990), I have remained convinced that much of the chest pounding (including that by Senator Moynihan) about the CIA's analysis was either misplaced, malicious, or uninformed. Were the analysts cautious? Absolutely! To have been otherwise would have been the height of folly.

Risen, James. "C.I.A. Counters Critics of Its Cold War Work." New York Times, 25 Nov. 1999. []

"At the conference it co-sponsored at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, the CIA declassified 24 intelligence reports from the years 1988 to 1991 as proof that its assessments were more accurate than the critics have said. Still, the conference could not ignore the harsh truth that ... its forecasts in the late '70s and early '80s were sometimes far off....

"Douglas MacEachin, who headed the office of Soviet analysis in the '80s, acknowledged that the agency had moved too slowly to adjust its projections of military and strategic forces to reflect the worsening economic conditions.... The C.I.A. did report accurately the growing signs of an economic slowdown in the late '70s and early '80s.... By the late '80s, the C.I.A. did accurately portray the growing instability in the Soviet Union, and it did so earlier and more clearly than the critics have suggested, a review of the newly declassified intelligence reports shows."

Goodman, Melvin A. "Who Is the CIA Fooling? Only Itself." Washington Post, 19 Dec. 1999, B1. [] "Who Is the CIA Fooling?" Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 3 Jan. 2000, 22.

The former CIA analyst takes issue with the positive tone given the CIA's Soviet estimates at the Texas A&M University conference. He reiterates criticisms of previous occasions, pointing specifically to what he perceives as the politicization of intelligence under DCI Casey and DDI Gates (against whose appointment as DCI he testified in 1991) in the early to mid-1980s.

In an Op-Ed piece, President Bush's national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, "Intelligence Is Not a Crystal Ball," Washington Post, 12 Jan. 2000, 18, says that "[f]rom the perspective of the policymaker,... [Goodman] got it wrong." Scowcroft comments: "A principal policy goal of the Bush administration in the last days of the Cold War was to encourage liberalization in the Soviet Union, and especially in Eastern Europe, but at a rate that would not result in a crackdown by Soviet security forces. Our problem was, we did not know what rate of movement was sustainable. The CIA's analysis of the situation helped to keep our policy within sustainable bounds. Had there been an 'intelligence failure' in this case, we might still have a hostile Soviet Union facing us."

Steele, Robert David. "Smart People, Stupid Bureaucracies: A Tough Love Look at U.S. Spies, Satellites, and Scholars." 21 Dec. 1999.[]

"In a complex world where billions of people live on $1 a day and yet have access to radios and televisions that depict the USA as 'the enemy'... we need to be seriously concerned about both the lack of public understanding of national intel, and the relatively pedestrian level of discussion that is found in major media and 'think tank' outlets. This article ... seeks to outline several common misunderstandings, to summarize the findings of the [18-20 November 1999] conference led by President Bush, and to outline fourteen areas where substantial improvements are required if our national intelligence community is to be effective in protecting America in the 21st Century. I would emphasize my belief that a renaissance of our secret national intelligence is necessary, while also stressing that a revitalization of this essential national capability cannot take place in a vacuum -- we must do better at scholarship and must be much more effective and honest in our corporate communications pertaining to real world issues. More fundamentally, our people -- our public and our press -- must understand the great importance of our classified national intelligence community to national security, and must also understand the larger context within which this intelligence community contributes to the intelligence qua 'smarts' of the nation as a whole."

Peake, Hayden B. "US Intelligence and the End of the Cold War." Intelligencer 10, no. 3 (Dec. 1999): 8-10.

This is a quick and readable "summary" of the conference's proceedings.

Appelbaum, Henry R., and John H. Hedley. "US Intelligence and the End of the Cold War." Studies in Intelligence 44, no. 3 (Summer 2000): 11-18.

"This article presents the highlights of speeches and panel presentations ... [from] a three-day conference..., held jointly with the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, 18-20 November 1999."

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