Watching civil unrest is an important intelligence function
With Russians taking to the streets in unprecedented numbers since the last days of the Soviet Union, it’s important to analyze civil unrest so that our national leaders can exploit opportunities and influence events to change the corrupt and aggressive regime dominated by Vladimir Putin.
There is excellent precedent for doing so. Monitoring civil unrest around the world can provide important intelligence. It’s especially useful to watch and analyze civil unrest in countries targeted for political warfare purposes – hard efforts to influence political change with hostile intent against the regime.
When President Reagan decided to pressure the Soviet Union to loosen up its totalitarian control system in the early 1980s, CIA analyst Jim Bruce wrote a top secret opportunities analysis titled “Dimensions of Civil Unrest in the Soviet Union.”
Oddly (or perhaps not so oddly), the CIA would not publish the memorandum for the consideration of government policymakers, so the report was published by the National Intelligence Council. (Download the report here: Dim of Civil Unrest in Sov Union 1983)
Take a look at this report, which was published in 1983, and then consider that Mikhail Gorbachev didn’t become leader of the Soviet Communist Party until two years later. When the report came out, KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov was Soviet Communist Party chief, followed by Konstantin Chernenko. Few sovietologists at the time predicted the rise of someone like Gorbachev.
But the intelligence professionals and policymakers supporting President Reagan’s strategy to force the USSR to open itself up and ultimately collapse did believe that, by studying social unrest, economic trends and other factors, the Soviet Communist Party would have to reform itself so dramatically that it would ultimately cease to exist. But that was unlikely to happen without an American strategy to accelerate and shape events.
Somehow, it was career Communist Party member and Andropov protege Mikhail Gorbachev who would get the credit for opening up the Soviet Union, with the Reagan strategy still getting very little attention. This declassified document on civil unrest in the Soviet Union shows that some people in the US intelligence community predicted trends accurately – and that policymakers relied heavily on such intelligence to design and shape their political warfare strategy.
I wonder if such a report exists on Russia or, say, Iran, today. And if so, whether anyone of importance in the government is developing a strategy to shape events there in ways that benefit the United States and its friends.