SOVIET HISTORY LESSONS
John Lenczowski on the East - West divide:
the past, the present, and the lessons taught
by the Soviet dissident movement.
“The best team one could possibly have in America” was Vladimir Bukovsky’s laconic assessment of the Reagan administration proffered by the legendary dissident in one of his very first interviews to the Soviet press in April 1991.
Among the remarkable people on that team, John Lenczowski — President Reagan’s principal advisor on Soviet affairs — stood out as someone who not only understood Soviet realties in all of their complexity and their
“otherness,” but also developed and implemented some of the key steps which eventually brought down communism in the Eastern bloc.
Serving as the Director of European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council from 1983 to 1987, Dr. Lenczowski made a point of emphasizing the moral dimension of the struggle between the two systems and based his approach on the philosophical distinction between the Soviet “the-end-justifies-the-means” morality and what he defines as transcendent objective moral order.
He used this concept as a foundation throughout his career in government: to educate and inform American politicians; to strengthen the U.S. radio communications directed at the Eastern bloc; to counter Soviet disinformation campaigns as a participant of the Active Measures Working Group; and to give support to Soviet and Eastern European dissidents, including Vladimir Bukovsky.
“Volodya was a diamond of a man, with unimaginable strength, courage, and integrity,” Dr. Lenczowski wrote of Bukovsky in an e-mail to me earlier this month when I approached him introducing the Soviet History Lessons website.
It is perhaps his aptitude for giving encouragement to the young generations that had turned Dr. Lenczowski’s brainchild — The Institute of World Politics — into one of the most successful U.S. graduate schools of national security, intelligence, and international affairs.
Using the knowhow rendered to him by history as well as by his own acumen, Dr. Lenczowski established IWP in 1990 and staffed it with some of the best experts in the fields of diplomacy and international affairs. The school has since then expanded the scope of its academic programs and offers a unique curriculum for sharpening skills and capabilities of diplomatic and national security communities.
Apart from leading a major educational institution and teaching, Dr. Lenczowski also authored a number of important monographs and policy-defining articles. His treatise entitled "Political-Ideological Warfare in Integrated Strategy" published as a chapter in The Grand Strategy that Won the Cold War (edited by Douglas Streusand, Norman Bailey, and Frank Marlo) is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the nature of the Soviet system, as well as the logic and the moral impetus of the U.S. strategies that brought it down, including the role of the dissident movement.
The Soviet History Lessons website was privileged to have an opportunity to interview Dr. Lenczowski on May 25, 2021 and it is with special excitement that we now share this interview with our readers.
Alissa Ordabai: I have just finished reading and re-reading your essay entitled "Political-Ideological Warfare in Integrated Strategy" and it is the most comprehensive, clear-cut analysis of the Reagan administration approach to relations with the Soviet Union I have ever read.
John Lenczowski: Thank you. There was some early analysis of the Reagan policy that hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union, much of which dealt with covert action and economic warfare. Some of it was excellent. For example, Peter Schweizer’s book Victory, is a very good book but it doesn’t pay much attention to the political and ideological warfare dimension. Then there were all sorts of others who gave credit for the collapse of the CPSU to Gorbachev and to what they saw as the revival of the policy of détente during the last couple of years of the Reagan administration. They give no credit to the internal resistance inside of the Soviet empire.
AO: In your analysis of Soviet Russia, you emphasize the dichotomy between transcendent objective moral order and the communist approach to morality where the end justifies the means. Was it this shared understanding of the necessity of the transcendent morality that drew you to Bukovsky’s work and his life story?
JL: I would say that I got to know Bukovsky in a natural course of things as a dissident and as a truth seeker. And so I don’t know whether that very specific formulation that you have cited was a direct reason for me cultivating relations with him. But there is a clear-cut relationship philosophically between objective truth and objective moral standards. Similarly, there is a direct relationship between intellectual relativism (which is the denial of the existence of objective truth: "You have your truth, I have my truth, OK?") and moral relativism, which is, "You have your moral code, I have mine, so I’m OK, you’re OK, just don’t be judgmental, please."
So his search for the truth, his bearing witness to the truth is directly related to his understanding that there is such a thing as objective evil and objective good. And if he didn’t articulate it the way I did, he certainly believed it and lived it. His very life bore witness to this reality.
AO: When did you first meet Vladimir Bukovsky?
JL: I think that I first met him when I was in the State Department. I worked for Lawrence Eagleburger who was first — when I first worked for him — Assistant Secretary of State of European Affairs, which included all of NATO and all of the Warsaw Pact. He later became Under Secretary of Political Affairs, the number three person in the State Department, the political director. I also worked for his Deputy, Mark Palmer. Mark eventually became Ambassador to Hungary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Mark and I worked closely on ideas that I shared with him on the necessity of conducting a political, ideological, and public diplomacy offensive in the Cold War. Mark was really inspired by these ideas. I had written an article which was called "A Foreign Policy for Reaganauts." It was published in 1981 in Policy Review, which at the time was a journal published by the Heritage Foundation. In there I called for a democratic capitalist revolution in the Soviet Union, and a revival of our capacity to conduct public diplomacy and connect with the peoples of the Soviet empire.
I had been working for a couple of years before that on Capitol Hill studying the weaknesses of our public diplomacy capabilities and how they needed to be strengthened. I came to the State Department with that agenda.
Palmer was most enthusiastic about these ideas as well as another idea, which I also shared with him, which is that we should fight communism not simply with anticommunism, but with a positive alternative. This was not my original idea, but I was inspired to pursue it by the late Congressman Jack Kemp of New York, who brought a huge change into the Republican Party. He said, "Republicans have got to stop simply saying 'no' to the Democrats' socialistic spending programs. They need to offer a positive alternative. You don’t fight Brand X on the grocery store shelf by badmouthing it. You fight Brand X by offering a better product that people will prefer to buy."
Kemp pursued this strategy in economic policy. He was the leader of the Copernican revolution in economics in the late 1970s – the supply-side revolution – which paid attention to incentives. I was very interested in these ideas, because I had been a student of Soviet communism and I could see that there was no incentive in communist countries to be productive. If you went into a store in the Soviet Union, the clerks there would look at you with boredom and irritation. They wouldn’t smile and offer to help you. It made no difference to them whether they sold anything to you or not.
And so there is nothing like a bad example to show the truth of the principle of incentives. The tragedy was that we had been neglecting incentives in American economic policy for close to half a century.
Anyway, I pushed a policy of promoting freedom, democratic republicanism, rule of law, representative government, checks and balances, and the importance of sharing this vision of the common good with the peoples of the Soviet empire.
Unfortunately, the State Department is very skeptical about public diplomacy. It is wary about going over the heads of governments to connect with ordinary people, because sometimes that rocks the boat when it comes to relations with the government. And the State Department puts its principal focus on stability and harmonious relationships with governments – even if they are tyrannies.
And so here I was suggesting something that many people in the State Department opposed for these reasons. But Mark Palmer liked them. Somewhere along the way I think that he had gotten to know some of the dissidents. So, it may have been through Mark that Bukovsky came into the State Department, where we all had a very harmonious get-together. Of course, I had read some works by Bukovsky, and I knew about him ever since he was received by President Carter.
Bukovsky was very, very sympathetic with many of my ideas. I told him the story of that article I wrote — "Foreign Policy for Reaganauts" — because I sent it originally to Foreign Affairs. Its editor-in-chief was clearly interested in it. And I thought, well, Foreign Affairs was the magazine of the détente-oriented Eastern foreign policy establishment and some of its key constituencies such as the big banks, and they, generally speaking, did not like people like me who questioned the policy of détente. They would have a few token skeptics of détente as members of its sponsoring organization, the Council on Foreign Relations, and they would have an occasional token article in their magazine. But in my case, the editor told me that I should eliminate certain passages from the article, those that contained the heart of my argument.
I responded, "No, this is the gist; and the value of you publishing this article is that your readers should understand where people associated with Ronald Reagan are coming from and the way we think." Well, Bukovsky read my article and when I told him this story, he said [emulates a Russian accent], "John, this is censorship! This is Soviet-style censorship!" And it was true. And it was one of the first things that he said that became etched clearly in my mind. [Laughs].
AO: What was your first impression of him?
JL: Defiant moral courage. Defiant. He was tenacious. He would fight. When he was in prison and in the GULAG, he would use the laws and the regulations to make legal appeals and would get the Soviet bureaucracy wound up into all sorts of tangles. It was amazing how he fought, and fought, and fought, using every instrument at his disposal. I was just delighted to see this. And it's the kind of thing that could only ultimately have contagious consequences. Because if somebody has the courage to stand up and tell the truth, and then somebody else, and then somebody else, then ever larger numbers of people will refuse to "live by lies"… Of course, that’s an expression of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and I was a huge fan of his as well. Both of these men understood this fundamental moral struggle profoundly.
AO: Have you met Solzhenitsyn?
JL: I never met him. But I tried to assist him by helping support the Russian Social Fund, the fund that he had established with the profits of this books, in order to help the families of the people who had been sent to the GULAG.
I tried to get Solzhenitsyn to come and visit with President Reagan. But at the time, the people whom some of us called "the White House mice" opposed it. We gave them that moniker because these were people who had hearts not of lions, but of mice. They had no courage, and people like Bukovsky and Solzhenitsyn were irritants to them. So they delayed. They said, "Now is not a good time." Of course, if you want to kill something — bureaucratically — you delay it. And that’s basically what they did.
Later on, when I left the government, I joined the Ethics and the Public Policy Center and invited Solzhenitsyn to speak at a major public event that it sponsored. He wrote me a beautiful letter saying that he was never going to give another public speech again. But he thanked me. He wrote me, he said, "I thank you for everything that you have done for suffering Russia." It was really a wonderful letter. I have friends who have met him and who know his son, Ignat, but I never did meet him.
AO: Bukovsky used to tell a story how he had a meeting with President Carter and almost immediately after that he had a telephone conversation with Solzhenitsyn, where Solzhenitsyn asked, "How long did the meeting last?", and Bukovsky said, "Well, in total about 40 minutes." And Solzhenitsyn said, "Forty minutes? This is not enough. You should have spoken for at least five hours! Why did you agree to this meeting?". He really berated Volodya. [Laughs].
JL: [Laughs]. That’s a wonderful story.
AO: Were there — do you think — any ideas in particular that Bukovsky helped to clarify or to reinforce to the Reagan administration?
JL: He didn’t need to do much reinforcing with me because I was so much on his wavelength. But I think with others he reinforced the idea to support human rights, to support dissidents, to help people inside the system communicate with one another, to stand up for the truth whether it is the truth about the case of a given dissident, or anything. All of these actions were the right thing to do and ultimately the way that one could bring about the necessary change inside the system.
Stanislav Levchenko, for example, the KGB defector, was one of the top East Asia specialists in the Soviet Union who eventually become the head of the Soviet active measures operations in Tokyo. He had recruited a dozen working journalists in the Japanese media to be Soviet agents of influence. He also recruited the editor-in-chief of the largest conservative newspaper in Japan, the right-hand man of the publisher of the largest newspaper in Japan, and several members of the Japanese Parliament, the Diet. He eventually came to our side. When he was brought to the State Department, he bore witness to the reality of Soviet active measures — aktivnye meropriyatiya — this represents disinformation, forgeries, covert political influence operations, provokatsiya, and all sorts of other methods of strategic influence.
The State Department people were babes in the woods about these matters. They hadn’t studied them, they didn’t understand them, they couldn’t quite believe that the Soviets were doing these things. It took somebody like a witness directly from the Soviet Union to say these things.
Bukovsky did exactly this kind of thing. He wasn’t as widely received in the government as I think in retrospect he should have been. And maybe I should have done more to try to introduce him into other parts of the government so that he could have this larger educational role. But he did excellent things, like writing his book To Build A Castle. He wrote brilliant essays "The Peace Movement and The Soviet Union" and "The Soul of Man Under Socialism." I often quote a passage that I believe comes from the first article about how Soviet foreign policy served the requirements of the internal security system of the Soviet state. Bukovsky argued that Soviet foreign policy was designed to demonstrate the regime’s and the Communist Party’s power in the world. In so doing, it was designed to send a message to the peoples within the Soviet empire: "Look, not even Uncle Sam can stop us. And Uncle Sam has nuclear weapons and big Blue-water navy. And he cannot stop the inexorable forces of history. So how can you, people, resist us? Resistance is futile!"
That is an incredibly important lesson. Because he was urging us to understand that the internal security system of the regime depended upon putting the Soviet peoples in a state of despair, of hopelessness, and of what the psychologists call "futile resignation," where people simply think that trying to stand up against the Party-state is futile. That was one of Bukovsky’s most important lessons. He articulated it in just a few sentences, and I quote him on this all the time because it continues to be a lesson that applies to China today, and to Cuba, and to any kind of totalitarian tyranny.
Look at Kim Jong-un in North Korea. He builds nuclear weapons; he builds ballistic missiles; he fires them over Japan, and then President Trump comes and has a summit meeting with him. And what’s the message? The message is, "Look, people of North Korea, I’ve got these weapons of mass destruction, I have these missiles. I am so powerful that I can compel the President of the United States to come to the negotiating table and treat me as a peer." This is Bukovsky’s lesson. And it applies to the things that we are witnessing in the world today.
AO: President Biden is about to meet Putin in a few weeks. How would you assess this decision by the Biden administration to have this type of dialogue with Russia?
JL: Well, I happen to think that there is a great danger in summit diplomacy. I was always very skeptical about any American President having summit meetings with the head of the Soviet Union. Or the head of any major adversary country. Because there is a great temptation to cut through what they believe to be the bureaucratic thicket and make a new grand bargain, which may not necessarily be in the interest of the United States.
For example, there was a danger when Ronald Reagan went to Reykjavik to explore the possibility of reaching a deal with Gorbachev to eliminate all nuclear weapons. This attempt was made in spite of the fact that China and others possessed nuclear weapons. At that summit, in anticipation of such an agreement, the President’s staff began the process of the complete rewriting of the NATO strategic doctrine without consultation with any of our allies or with officials in Washington who enjoyed the benefit of a good night’s sleep. It’s very difficult to stop this kind of thing if it’s the President who makes the deal.
It happens that President Reagan didn’t agree to what Gorbachev wanted, which was to eliminate our strategic defenses, but this is why it's better to have the Secretary of State conduct this type of diplomacy because if he makes a bad deal, the President can always stop it. And other cabinet members like the Secretary of Defense can step in and say, "Mr. President, this is a bad deal for us."
Yes, you could say that if the President signed a treaty, the Senate may not ratify it, and that is what happened with SALT II in 1979. But it’s a very rare thing and, frankly, I think that President Biden is not well-positioned to go into a summit with Putin from a position of strength. He's called Putin a "killer," so he is speaking loudly, but carrying a little stick, where he should be speaking more softly and carrying a big stick. And so I am very skeptical about how the President is positioned to go into this. That’s all I can say right now because it hasn't happened yet.
AO: What do ordinary people in the United States need to be aware of when it comes to the Russian government and the Chinese government? Is there anything they can do as ordinary citizens — such as not to buy Chinese goods? But what else can people do?
JL: I think that it is the first goal of our government to tell the American people the truth. The truth is the most powerful weapon we possess, especially in a democratic republic.
Look at all the companies that do business with China. A lot of this is really contrary to the national interest of our country. Do I blame the businesses? Well, some of them — that know better — I do blame. But many of them are simply trying to make some money and are engaged in normal trade relationships and they don’t necessarily see the big picture. That big picture is something that needs to be explained to them by the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, and other senior officials.
I think that after several decades of self-censorship about the nature of the Chinese regime, the last administration — not necessarily President Trump himself, although he was responsible for the people working for him — but Vice President Pence, the national security advisors, Secretary of State Pompeo, and a couple of Secretaries of Defense were telling truths about China. And I think a lot of people have awakened to the nature of that regime, its systematic human rights violations, its Laogai — its GULAG system — and its intellectual property theft, its military buildup, its strategic influence operations in this country, massive espionage, cyber espionage, and so forth.
So, people are gradually waking up to this — very late in the game. Very, very late in the game – because the Chinese Communists have an advantage that the Soviets didn’t have, and that is that they can own Americans. The Soviets would have loved to own Americans, but the Chinese, with all of their money, their joint ventures, their venture capital investments in American companies, and their giving us the opportunity to manufacture goods in their country using their cheap labor, are able to own a lot of Americans.They own a lot of elder statesmen: former Secretaries of State, Secretaries of Defense, Directors of Central Intelligence, who are directly or indirectly on Beijing’s payroll and who don’t speak the truth about the communist Chinese threat. This is a huge problem, and American people need to hear the truth.
When it comes to Russia, it’s a more complex situation. Russia is not a completely communist-style totalitarian regime, even though it is run by the chekists. It has become more and more of an authoritarian dictatorship, and is using increasingly totalitarian methods like the suppression of media and the assassination of journalists. Before that, it was the assassination of uncooperative bankers so that Putin and his oligarchs would control the allocation of capital.
I happen to believe that the biggest objective threat to Russia — aside from its own internal malaise and the fact that it is suffering a terrible demographic contraction — comes from China. And I think that Putin and his confederates should wake up and smell the coffee, and collaborate with the United States and the West in order to contain China.
But Russia is going to have to stop its own neo-imperial ambitions — whether in Ukraine or trying to exercise influence in some of their other neighboring countries. I think that Putin has wanted to restore the old Soviet political space, but I don’t think that he is particularly able to do this very easily. He and his agents have been active in many of the countries of the so-called "near abroad" and it’s not confidence-inspiring to see what Putin has done with Ukraine.
It may have been that Russians living in Eastern Ukraine particularly may be having second thoughts about Moscow’s support for Ukrainian independence in 1992. But the fact is that they all voted to be part of an independent Ukraine. Fortunately, the new Ukrainian government did not make Ukrainian ethnicity and Ukrainian language a requirement for being a Ukrainian citizen, and I think that was very wise on their part to do this because it was a policy designed to unite the country. But I don’t know — maybe a couple of Eastern parts of Ukraine should have stayed with Russia. Who knows? But the way Putin and his people are handling this is not the right way of operating in this world according to international law. This is hybrid warfare that they are conducting today and it is causing a lot of human suffering.
AO: Where do you think this current Russian government’s instinct for expansionism comes from? Now that the communist ideology is no longer operational?
JL: I think that they hated having lost superpower status. They grew up in a Soviet Union that was feared and respected in the world. When the Soviet empire collapsed, they grew to resent the fact that this ceased to be the case. And rather than trying to build great Russia, rather than trying to build a shining city on the hill, rather than trying to give the Russian people hope for a future where they would want to bring children into this world and enjoy that future, they have — in my view, very perversely — decided that they were going to try to build up the power of the Russian state in the world, try to regain as much of the old Soviet space as they could.
They started their subversion of Ukraine almost immediately after Ukraine got its independence. I remember in 1994 Ukrainians publicly protesting Russian active measures in their country. Nobody in Washington paid any attention to this, but the Ukrainians know what active measures are, and they started protesting them. Putin and company were engaged in active measures for 20 years before they sent in their little green men.
The desire to build up the military and restore Russian superpower status required ever greater control over the economy and the allocation of resources. That’s the way it was done in the Soviet Union. And so under Putin you have seen a reduction in the variegation of the types of businesses and industries in Russia. They are ever more dependent upon the old staples: oil, gas, guns, and gold. And this is like a restoration of sovietism rather than a varied, good economy. This is very short-sighted. It is as if Putin is saying: "I’ll be a great world leader while I’m alive, I’ll be a tsar while I’m alive, and then, 'Après moi le déluge,' and Russia can go to hell after me."
This is not good for the Russian people or for Russia’s long-term status as a great power in the world. If he wants to build a future for Russia, he’s got to do something that is good for the Russian people and not simply for himself and his fellow chekists and the oligarchs that keep him afloat. Does that make sense?
AO: Oh, absolutely. I would just like to back up a bit and find out your opinion on President Bush Senior and his reluctance to support political competition in the early 1990s in Russia. Some recent authors are claiming that he thought the dissidents were too impatient and preferred to support the products of the communist party as opposed to people like Lech Wałęsa, Vladimir Bukovsky, or other dissidents. What do you think was behind that attitude or what shaped that attitude?
JL: This was very frustrating for me to watch. But it was a reflection of the rule of the foreign policy establishment – which is to reach stable relations with existing governments. And so when the Soviet Union was breaking up, and Yeltsin was coming to the fore in the Russian republic, Bush went to Kiev and he delivered that famous "Chicken Kiev" speech in which he said that the Ukrainian people's desire for independence is due to a "suicidal nationalism."
Well, you know, one of our first professors at IWP, Paul Goble, was the U.S. government’s number one expert on the non-Russian nationalities of the Soviet Union. An amazing scholar who had every important job in these fields in the U.S. government and then became the Special Advisor on the non-Russian nationalities to the Secretary of State James Baker. This was the time when we were beginning to see the emergence of independence movements in the various Soviet Union republics that the Soviet regime was attempting to foil.
The KGB was provoking pogroms by the Azeris against the Armenians, in order to create an excuse for the armed forces to invade Baku. The Soviet Defense Minister, Gen. Dmitri Yazov, who was in charge of this, admitted that this invasion was not to restore peace, but rather to prevent Azerbaijan from "spinning outside of the Soviet orbit" – preventing independence. So the Kremlin attempted to channel Armenian and the Azeri political passions away from these independence movements into ethnic hatred and violence. This was a deliberate policy by the Soviet government.
The CPSU was engaged in this type of activity in some of the other Union republics. And then you hear the President of the United States arguing against the breakup of the Soviet Union. Why? Because they were afraid that there would be now three nuclear powers: Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. They thought the world would be a much more dangerous place if there was this distribution of nuclear forces among three different nations.
I remember Bukovsky commenting on this. He said that this policy by Secretary of State Baker and — ultimately — by Bush the Elder was the apogee of political stupidity. He said that the measurement of political stupidity should now be done in terms of "bakers": "One baker, five bakers, centibakers, megabakers…" He was so angry at how completely counterproductive it would be to the creation of free societies in the lands of the former Soviet empire.
AO: Are there any stories or recollections you would like to share with our readers about Bukovsky? Something that stands out, something funny or profound that he said or did?
JL: Maybe one thing you could mention is a not very well-known story. It is about the attempt to get a referendum measure placed on the ballot in the Los Angeles county. This is a remarkable episode that showed how Bukovsky had the imagination to come up with an idea in the realm of political warfare.
Americans commit acts of political warfare in our domestic political competitions, but we don’t particularly think imaginatively about political warfare on an international scale. This story involved an attack on the Soviet-influenced peace movement in this country.
The idea was to split the peace movement between those of its leaders who were active collaborators with Soviet front organizations and those who were innocent, naive do-gooders who were afraid of the nuclear war and wanted to have peace. Working with a lawyer in Los Angeles named Bill Pearl, Bukovsky, Pearl, and I worked on putting together this measure. I only had a tangential role — mostly to get some U.S. government support for this plan. So it was really Bukovsky's and Pearl’s work.
Los Angeles county has a huge population — bigger than that of half of the states of the Union in the United States. So it is a very politically meaningful unit. The referendum measure would say something to this effect: "We, the people of the Los Angeles county, ask our Supervisors to send a message to President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev asking both leaders to reduce the number of weapons of mass destruction in their respective arsenals and to support the freedom of speech of people in both countries to criticize the nuclear weapons acquisition policies of both governments."
So, all the do-gooders would, of course, support this request and vote for the referendum measure. But the collaborators with the front organizations associated with the peace movement didn't like this idea because it meant that they were, in fact, calling upon the Soviet Union to have freedom of speech, and exposing the fact that there is no freedom of speech there. And so the naïve do-gooders would wonder, "What's wrong with you, leaders? What's wrong with you?" And, of course, this was a way of splitting such a movement and rendering it much less effective. It's the kind of thing that one should be able to do in other circumstances, but it takes some imagination, which Bukovsky precisely possessed.
Another activity with which he was involved was a private sector effort to send communications equipment to dissidents behind the Iron Curtain. Volodya worked with the late Robert Krieble who was a Ph.D. chemist and CEO of the Loctite Corporation, the manufacturer of adhesives. Bob Krieble was one of the great freedom fighters in our private sector. He wanted to send fax machines, printers, paper, and mimeograph machines — i.e., copying machines that are not a photocopiers. These are machines with an ink roll. You type up your text on a piece of paper, insert that page, and then the typescript is reflected on that roller as you manually turn it. You can make many copies using this method. When I was growing up in the 1950s, mimeograph machines were used to make copies for all the children in the class.
It happens that President Reagan's Director of Central Intelligence, Bill Casey, once called his son-in-law, Owen Smith (and Owen is a personal friend and was the Chairman of the Board for many years of The Institute of World Politics, our graduate school), and said:
"Owen, you know those Gestetner mimeograph machines?"
"Go buy 50 of them."
"OK… And what do you want me to do with them?"
"Send them to the Vatican."
And so, one day, Lech Wałęsa came to IWP to do a lecture, and Owen went up to him and said, "Mr. President, do you know anything about some mimeograph machines?" And he said, "Oh yes, we picked them at St. Brigida's Church!"
This was one of many actions taken by Bill Casey to help the dissident forces inside the Soviet empire. This one may have been "off the books." But, for all I know, it could have been his own money he spent.
Similarly, Bob Krieble was sending this type of equipment with Bukovsky's help through underground channels to get them to the right people inside the Soviet Union. But Krieble did not want to work with the U.S. government. He didn’t trust it. He wanted to do it with his own human resources. And that’s why he got Bukovsky intimately involved. This was fantastic.
And, of course, Volodya was with Resistance International — "L'Internationale de la Resistance." When I was working in official capacities, I tried to do what I could to have the U.S. government support that organization. I believe that our government did support it, although I have no proof and no details.
AO: Wikipedia says that Bukovsky received 6 million dollars from the Congress for Resistance International activities in Afghanistan. But this information is form Wikipedia, so there is no way of verifying it, I suppose.
JL: That could be true. I didn't know that at the time.
AO: Bukovsky was appealing for funds to bring radio stations into Afghanistan to enable communications between the resistance fighters.
JL: Well, I I happened to work on a parallel track, helping establish Radio Free Afghanistan with Senator Gordon Humphrey, who drafted the legislation to establish it. But that kind of communication was absolutely vital not only in Afghanistan, but inside the Soviet empire. Those communications allowed the people inside the Soviet state to learn the truth. And the biggest amount of truth filtered into the Soviet state came from the Voice of America, Free Europe, and Radio Liberty. Solzhenitsyn called these "the most powerful weapons" that the Unites States and the West had in the Cold War. And I agree with that. They combatted the atomization of society, they gave people information that they could share with others, which was the truth. This is not something that causes a revolution overnight, but over time it sets a standard of truth that people can compare with the steady diet of lies from the regime.
AO: Thank you so much for such a long interview. What you've shared is incredible. Some of the things you've mentioned I had never realized. Our readers will be absolutely in awe.
JL: Thank you very much, Alissa, and I am delighted that you are doing this, because supporting the memory of a man like Volodya is to support the larger cause which he represented. And this is a timeless cause. This is the "long twilight struggle" for the defense of freedom, of conscience, and of civilization. And there are so many forces in the world today that are arrayed against these good things, and that treat human beings as objects rather than as persons, as "cogs in the wheel," as Mikhail Heller described. This is the war between those who believe there is an objective moral order and those who don’t. It is reflected in the domestic struggles that are going on within the West. It’s a huge element of the cultural war in the West, and it is the part of the Cold War with China. And there is a Cold War. The example that Volodya set is an amazing one, and the fact that you are keeping this example alive is a great service to this larger cause.
AO: Thank you for your kind words. They mean a lot to me and to our team. If you don't mind, may I ask one last question?
AO: For the young people who are interested in going into the field of foreign policy and international affairs, how does one go about developing the depth of understanding of a country or a region of your caliber? Where does one start?
JL: It's a long march. Thank you for being so generous in your words, but I think that one has to start with the study of history. It is also really important to understand basic political and moral philosophy. Different countries and regimes have their own DNA. And I like to say to my students that there are two types of animals in the forest: there are carnivores and there are herbivores. The carnivores like to eat the herbivores. It is in their nature to do so. You cannot teach them to be something other than what they are. Understanding that DNA is a process that requires understanding certain political and moral philosophical questions.
One of them concerns understanding human nature. Is there a human nature? Bukovsky used to talk about this. He said, "For years in Western civilization, people understood that there was such a thing as human nature. But then came along the Enlightenment — the so-called Enlightenment — where some philosophers wanted to get away from Biblical morality and create heaven on earth. So, they came up with the idea that man is an empty vessel whose character is determined entirely by external influences. It was thus assumed that human nature is malleable and perfectible. Indeed, they asserted that human nature has to be perfectible on this earth! And it has to be done by some kind of social, political, or economic engineering. So the big trick is to find an engineering solution. So, Marxism came up with its own version — the "New Man," the "new Soviet man," and the Nazis came up with theirs — through eugenics, to create the "Master Race."
Well, both eugenics and the Marxist concept of the "New Man" are very much alive in the world today.
The next question is the one with which we started this interview: is there an objective moral order or not? If you believe there is, you are going to get a regime like the American system, or some of the traditional monarchical systems of old Europe. But if you don’t think there is an objective moral order, and you think that all moral standards are a matter of personal preference, this means that the aggregate of moral standards of society become a matter of power struggle, and therefore of "might-makes-right." If you think that there is no objective moral order, then you are in the same intellectual sandbox as the fascists, the Nazis, the communists, and the oligarchic criminal dictatorships.
If you understand these two basic questions: human nature and moral order, then you've got some kind of a framework on which to understand different kinds of political systems. And then you can study history with a certain eye to that. Once you study history, you can go into that part of the world in which you are interested, and read biographies, ideological works, and other literature that reveals the DNA of the cultures in question.
And ultimately, if you want to get into foreign policy, then you have to come to The Institute of World Politics and get yourself a Master’s degree. [Smiles]. We not only teach a lot of the history and political philosophy, we teach other foundational subjects such as geography and economics. Then we teach the various instruments we must use to deal with the various challenges the world presents us. We call them the "arts of statecraft." They include: the art of diplomacy, public diplomacy (i.e., relations with people, and not just governments), strategic influence, political warfare, ideological warfare, psychological strategy, intelligence, counterintelligence, military strategy, economic strategy, law enforcement, etc. All of these are like instruments in an orchestra, and you must learn to play your instrument, but you also have to learn to be a part of the orchestra and how to be an integrative strategic thinker. This is what we specialize in teaching.
There is a lot to know in our businesses. But it's a very fascinating set of issues. It's a very interesting life. And the entire struggle — The Long Twilight Struggle — is happening before our eyes. Which side are you on? If you are on the side of those who want to support civilization and the inalienable rights of individual human beings, recognizing the dignity of the individual human person, which is what Bukovsky epitomized, then you have got a mission in life. There is nothing like pursuing such a mission to have a happy life, a satisfying life where you can have some self-respect.
AO: These are amazing words. Thank you so much.
JL: It’s my pleasure.
AO: Our readers will have something to think about. A lot of issues to think about. Thank you.
JL: Alissa, great to meet you. Thank you for interviewing me. I very much appreciate your having me over to share some thoughts, and I wish you and your colleagues a lot of success with this.
AO: Thank you.