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Soviet influence on the peace movement

During the Cold War (1947–1991), when the Soviet Union and the USA were engaged in an arms race, the Soviet Union promoted its foreign policy through the World Peace Council and other front organizations. It has been claimed that it also influenced non-aligned peace groups in the West.

The World Peace Council

For more details on this topic, see World Peace Council.

The World Peace Council (WPC) was set up by the Soviet Communist Party in 1948–50 to promote Soviet foreign policy and to campaign against nuclear weapons at a time when only the USA had them. The WPC was directed by the International Department of the Soviet Communist Party via the Soviet Peace Committee,[1] a WPC member. The WPC and its members took the line laid down by the Cominform that the world was divided between the peace-loving Soviet Union and the warmongering United States. From the 1950s until the late 1980s the Soviet Union used numerous organizations associated with the WPC to spread its view of peace. They included:

Other international peace organizations have been said to be associated with the WPC as well. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War is said to have had "overlapping membership and similar policies" to the WPC.[3] The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and the Dartmouth Conferences were said to have been used by Soviet delegates to promote Soviet propaganda.[2] Joseph Rotblat, one of the leaders of the Pugwash movement, said that there were a few participants in Pugwash conferences from the Soviet Union "who were obviously sent to push the party line, but the majority were genuine scientists and behaved as such".[5][6]

The WPC organized international peace conferences which condemned western armaments and weapons tests but refrained from criticizing Russian arms. For example, in 1956 it condemned the Suez war but not the Russian invasion of Hungary.[7] The former KGB officer Sergei Tretyakov said that the Soviet Peace Committee funded and organized demonstrations in Europe against US bases.[8]

U.S. plans to deploy Pershing missiles in Western Europe in response to the Soviet SS-20 missiles were contentious, prompting Paul Nitze, the American negotiator, to suggest a compromise plan for nuclear missiles in Europe in the celebrated "walk in the woods" with Soviet negotiator Yuli Kvitsinsky, but the Soviets never responded.[9] Kvitsinsky would later write that, despite his efforts, the Soviet side was not interested in compromise, calculating instead that peace movements in the West would force the Americans to capitulate.[10]

Because of the energetic propaganda of the WPC from the late 1940s onwards, with its large conferences and budget, some saw no difference between a peace activist and a Communist.[11] It was sometimes said that the peace movement in the West was influenced by or even led by the WPC. US President Ronald Reagan said that the peace demonstrations in Europe in 1981 were sponsored by the WPC[12][13] and Soviet defector Vladimir Bukovsky claimed that they were co-ordinated at the WPC's 1980 World Parliament of Peoples for Peace in Sofia.[14] The FBI reported to the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that the WPC-affiliated U.S. Peace Council was one of the organizers of a large 1982 peace protest in New York City, but said that the KGB had not manipulated the American movement "significantly."[15]

From the late 1940s to the early 1960s there was limited co-operation between western groups and the WPC but, as the non-aligned movement "was constantly under threat of being tarnished by association with avowedly pro-Soviet groups", many individuals and organizations "studiously avoided contact with Communists and fellow-travellers."[16] As early as 1949 the World Pacifist Meeting warned against active collaboration with Communists.[7] Western delegates at WPC conferences who tried to criticize the Soviet Union or the WPC's defence of Russian armaments were often shouted down[7] and they gradually dissociated themselves from the WPC. Finally, after confrontation between western and Soviet delegates at the 1962 World Congress for Peace and Disarmament, organised by the WPC in Moscow, forty non-aligned organizations decided to form a new international body, the International Confederation for Disarmament and Peace, to which Soviet delegates were not invited.[17]

Rainer Santi, in his history of the International Peace Bureau, writes that the WPC "always had difficulty in securing cooperation from West European and North American peace organisations because of its obvious affiliation with Socialist countries and the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. Especially difficult to digest, was that instead of criticising the Soviet Union's unilaterally resumed atmospheric nuclear testing in 1961, the WPC issued a statement rationalising it. In 1979 the World Peace Council explained the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as an act of solidarity in the face of Chinese and US aggression against Afghanistan."[11] It was suggested by a former secretary of the WPC that it simply failed to connect with the western peace movement. It was said to have used most of its funds on international travel and lavish conferences, to have poor intelligence on Western peace groups, and, even though its HQ was in Helsinki, to have no contact with Finnish peace organizations.[18]

Claims of wider Soviet influence

Conservative organizations and writers and some defectors from Soviet intelligence have claimed that the non-aligned peace movement was controlled by the Soviet Union.

In 1951 the House Committee on Un-American Activities published The Communist "Peace" Offensive, which detailed the activities of the WPC and of numerous affiliated organisations. It listed dozens of American organisations and hundreds of Americans who had been involved in peace meetings, conferences and petitions. It noted, "that some of the persons who are so described in either the text or the appendix withdrew their support and/or affiliation with these organizations when the Communist character of these organizations was discovered. There may also be persons whose names were used as sponsors or affiliates of these organizations without permission or knowledge of the individuals involved."[19]

In 1982 the Heritage Foundation published Moscow and the Peace Offensive, which said that non-aligned peace organizations advocated similar policies on defence and disarmament to the Soviet Union. It argued that "pacifists and concerned Christians had been drawn into the Communist campaign largely unaware if its real sponsorship."[20]

Russian GRU defector Stanislav Lunev said in his autobiography that "the GRU and the KGB helped to fund just about every antiwar movement and organization in America and abroad," and that during the Vietnam War the USSR gave $1 billion to American anti-war movements, more than it gave to the VietCong.[21] Lunev described this as a "hugely successful campaign and well worth the cost".[21] According to Time magazine, a US State Department official estimated that the KGB may have spent $600 million on the peace offensive up to 1983, channeling funds through national Communist parties or the World Peace Council "to a host of new antiwar organizations that would, in many cases, reject the financial help if they knew the source."[15] Richard Felix Staar in his book Foreign Policies of the Soviet Union says that non-communist peace movements without overt ties to the USSR were "virtually controlled" by it. Lord Chalfont claimed that the Soviet Union was giving the European peace movement £100 million a year. The Federation of Conservative Students (FCS) alleged Soviet funding of CND.

In 1985 Time magazine noted "the suspicions of some Western scientists that the nuclear winter hypothesis was promoted by Moscow to give antinuclear groups in the U.S. and Europe some fresh ammunition against America's arms buildup."[22] Sergei Tretyakov claimed that the data behind the nuclear winter scenario was faked by the KGB and spread in the west as part of a campaign against Pershing missiles.[23] He said that the first peer-reviewed paper in the development of the nuclear winter hypothesis, "Twilight at Noon" by Paul Crutzen and John Birks (1982),[24] was published as a result of this KGB influence.

Western intelligence assessments

In 1967, a CIA report on the US peace movement observed that "the Communist Party of the USA benefits from anti-US activity by Peace groups but does not appear to be inspiring them or directing them."[25] After demonstrations against NATO missiles in West Germany in 1981, an official investigation turned up circumstantial evidence but no absolute proof of KGB involvement. Western intelligence experts concluded that the movement in Europe at that time was probably not Soviet-inspired.[15]

According to the Danish Ministry of Justice, in the early 1980s the KGB promised to help finance advertisements signed by prominent Danish artists who wanted Scandinavia to be declared a nuclear-free zone. In November 1981, Norway expelled a suspected KGB agent who had offered bribes to Norwegians to get them to write letters to newspapers denouncing the deployment of new NATO missiles.[15]

In 1983, MI5 and MI6 reported to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on Soviet contacts with the peace movement, based on the testimony of KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky. According to Christopher Andrew's official history of MI5, Gordievsky's evidence indicated that there was little effective contact between either the KGB or the Soviet embassy and the peace movement.[26]

See also

Soviet activity:


  1. ^ Burns, J.F., "Soviet peace charade is less than convincing", New York Times, May 16, 1982
  2. ^ a b c d Richard Felix Staar, Foreign policies of the Soviet Union, Hoover Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8179-9102-6, pp.79–88
  3. ^ a b c d U.S. Congress. House. Select Committee on Intelligence, Soviet Covert Action: The Forgery Offensive, 6 and 19 Feb. 1980, 96th Cong., 2d sess., 1963. Washington, DC: GPO, 1980
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h CIA, Effect of Invasion of Czechoslovakia on Soviet Fronts
  5. ^ Rotblat, Joseph, "Russell and the Pugwash Movement", The 1998 Bertrand Russell Peace Lectures
  6. ^ See also Abrams, I., The Nobel Peace Prize and the Laureates
  7. ^ a b c Lawrence S. Wittner, Resisting the Bomb, Stanford University Press, 1997
  8. ^ Pete Earley, Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War, Penguin Books, 2007, ISBN 978-0-399-15439-3, pp.169–177
  9. ^ Matlock, Jack F., Jr. (2005). Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended. New York: Random House. pp. 41–46. ISBN 0-8129-7489-1. 
  10. ^ Kwizinskij, Julij A. (1993). Vor dem Sturm: Erinnerungen eines Diplomaten. Berlin: Siedler Verlag. ISBN 978-3-88680-464-1. 
  11. ^ a b Santi, Rainer, 100 years of peace making: A history of the International Peace Bureau and other international peace movement organisations and networks, Pax förlag, International Peace Bureau, January 1991
  12. ^ E.P.Thompson, "Resurgence in Europe and the rôle of END", in J.Minnion and P.Bolsover (eds.), The CND Story, Alison and Busby, London, 1983
  13. ^
  14. ^ Vladimir Bukovsky, "The Peace Movements and the Soviet Union", Commentary, May 1982, pp.25–41
  15. ^ a b c d John Kohan, "The KGB: Eyes of the Kremlin", Time, 14 February 1983
  16. ^ Russell, B and Bone, A.G, Man's peril, 1954–55, Routledge, 2003
  17. ^ Oxford Conference of Non-aligned Peace Organizations
  18. ^ Prince, R., "The Ghost Ship of Lönnrotinkatu" Peace Magazine, May–June 1992
  19. ^ House Committee on Un-American Activities, The Communist "Peace" Offensive, 1951
  20. ^ Barlow, J.G., Moscow and the Peace Offensive, Heritage Foundation, 1982
  21. ^ a b Stanislav Lunev, Through the Eyes of the Enemy: The Autobiography of Stanislav Lunev, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89526-390-4
  22. ^ Jacob V. Lamar Jr., David Aikman and Erik Amfitheatrof, "Another Return from the Cold", Time, Monday, Oct. 7, 1985
  23. ^ Pete Earley, Comrade J (New York, Berkley Books, 2009)
  24. ^ Paul J. Crutzen and John W. Birks, "The Atmosphere after a Nuclear War: Twilight at Noon", in Nuclear War - The Aftermath, Pergamon Press, 1983, pp.73-96
  25. ^ Central Intelligence Agency, "International Connection of US Peace Groups
  26. ^ Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5, Allen Lane, 2009 ISBN 0-7139-9885-7

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