KGB: Soviet state's most powerful arm
The New KBG: Engine of Soviet Power, by William R. Corson and Robert T. Crowley. New York: Wiliam Morrow & Company. 582 pp. $10.95. It was a ``bitter gray Thursday'' in December 1917 when Lenin established the Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counterrevolution, Speculation and Sabotage, or Cheka, whose ``raison d'^etre was and is to establish and maintain rigid control over the entire Russian populace.''
Seventy years later, little has changed except the name. Now it is known as the KGB (Committee for State Security), and ``nothing starts or stops in the USSR without the KGB retaining the power to intervene.'' That is the conclusion of authors William R. Corson and Robert T. Crowley, former highly placed United States intelligence officers. Their book, ``The New KGB: Engine of Soviet Power,'' describes, explains, and analyzes this most powerful arm of the Soviet state.
From its beginning as Lenin's avenging death squad, the KGB has been responsible for securing the USSR's borders, controlling its population, upholding loyalty in the Red Army, running the gulag, directing international spying, stealing and buying Western high-technology, controlling the ``press,'' exterminating ``counterrevolutionaries,'' and more recently, managing the Soviet nuclear arsenal. It has terrorized the masses, ``creating an atmosphere in which all persons, especially friends and close relatives, became suspect provocateurs.''
Stalin's OGPU (State Political Administration), which succeeded the Cheka in 1922, was ``the most feared of Soviet agencies.'' Its members, called ``guardians of the state,'' did what they were told without revulsion or pause.
Corson and Crowley accurately guage Stalin's reign of terror: ``The GPU's unequaled capacity for contriving the death of millions was fully functional 10 years before Hitler came to power. At no subsequent time did the Nazi death squads under Himmler exceed the Soviet organs in the systematic destruction of humans.''
In fact, the authors report that extrapolations of reliable census data say that the Soviet Union's population should be 400 million, not the 262.4 million reported in 1979. They conclude that the organs are responsible for the disparity. (At one time, they exterminated 60 to 70 percent of the Red Army's most gifted leadership and reduced its ranks by 30 percent.)
Not only did the organs terrorize Soviets at home, but they also took the Bolshevik revolution abroad. Thus began the Bykovo spy training school, designed to prepare agents to infiltrate the United States. In a location resembling the set of an Andy Hardy movie, agents learned the ``necessary social skills'' - how to jitterbug, roller skate, and play football and softball. They listened to recordings of American radio and learned batting averages of baseball heroes, all on a diet of hot dogs and apple pie.
The Bykovo school was run by the NKVD (Soviet People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) the OGPU's successor. It eventually evolved into NKGB, the MGB, and finally the KGB.
Perhaps, the authors suggest, the KGB's most successful ongoing project has been the acquisition of US high-technology. Using foreign business concerns such as the American Trading Organization, ``a fully-integrated Soviet foreign intelligence station,'' the KGB has stolen or purchased America's most valued technological secrets. Not only has American technology been used in 150 of the Soviets' main weapons systems, but data stolen from TRW by Christopher Boyce and Andrew Dalton Lee (the Falcon and the Snowman) have been used by the Soviets to blind US surveillance satellites.
The most salient points in ``The New KGB'' are those about US-Soviet diplomatic and commercial relations and how they are used by the Soviets to deceive the West. Otherwise intelligent men still play the ``confidence game'' of trading with the Soviet Union, concluding ``that commercial relationships are the most effective means of taming Soviet aggressive attitudes.'' If there were only more consumer goods available in the USSR,'' many believe, ``perhaps the contentment that comes with owning a toaster would begin to subdue the urge to destroy Afghanistan.''
Official American indulgence of Soviet aggression, usually answered with an American plea for reinvigorated arms control talks, belies complete ignorance of Bolshevik history. The philosophy of the American government, Corson and Crowley write, seems to be a ``repetition of the guiding motto of Father Flanagan's Boys Town - `there is no such thing as a bad boy.'''
Such naivet'e led to the provision of no less than $5 million by US taxpayers to refurbish Soviet prison ships headed for the gulag under the Lend-Lease program during World War II. More recently, ex-KGB chairman Yuri Andropov was described by the Washington Post as a ``closet liberal'' when he was ``elected'' Soviet leader.
While the Western press was reporting that Andropov drank scotch, read Jacqueline Susann, and listened to Glen Miller, this old Chekist was busy grabbing power for the KGB. ``Andropov's men are clearly in charge and control of the Soviet State,'' the authors write, and none have been purged by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Authors Corson and Crowley weave world events and thrilling spy stories into a highly interesting profile of the ``sword and shield'' of the Communist Party.
Their fundamental concern is that the American government has no ``clearly defined Soviet policy'' or ``coherent strategy'' for dealing with the Soviets.
Although ``The New KGB'' will earn the wild applause of anticommunist hardliners of the I-told-you-so variety everywhere, it doesn't grind a rhetorical ax. It is literate, grade-A scholarship - a compelling study of reality. The KGB is the ``engine of Soviet power.''