When Spying Is Not Enough: KGB Influencing Public Opinion

This is an Archive of a Past Event

The traditional function of collecting intelligence was never considered to be enough for its secret service by Soviet leaders – the services had to actively take part in influencing the outcome of current political affairs.

Based on literature, memoirs of Soviet defectors and now available KGB documents the scope and machinery of Soviet influence activities abroad can be mapped. These varied from ‘active measures’, i.e. influence operations carried out by the KGB (State Security Committee) to white propaganda having in-between a wide range of other non-kinetic activities. All of them had the same task: to influence foreign countries’ decision making process and/or public opinion. Domestically the modus operandi differed, KGB was active in the fields of publishing and film industry.

Are there any lessons to learn from history? Indeed, the light schemes used for influencing during the Cold War one can acquire a necessary analytic ‘toolbox’ to read and understand current Russian Federation (RF) doctrines. The paper analyses coverage of influence activities in four three doctrines in force at the moment: Conception of Foreign Policy of RF (2013), Military Doctrine of RF (2014), National Security Strategy of RF until 2020 (2009). These documents use rather straight-forward language.