Back channel

   Moscow frequently used intelligence officers and journalists working with the intelligence services as a back channel of communication with other governments. An alternative channel of communications allowed Moscow to speak candidly with politicians and address issues that were off-limits to diplomats. This tactic probably developed out of the 1920s and 1930s, when the Soviet government had diplomatic relations with only a few Western governments. In the 1970s, the KGB maintained separate channels of communications with West German politicians as the Socialist Democratic administration of Willy Brandt developed its policy of Ostpolitik. An American historian of the KGB noted: “The KGB back channel combined the secrecy of 19th century cabinet diplomacy with the speed of 20th century transportation and communications to transform Soviet–West German relations.”
   Senior KGB officers, including Yuri Andropov, were strong supporters of back channel diplomacy, arguing that the intelligence service was less corrupt and more competent than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Andropov, according to a subordinate, believed that he could solve the Soviet Union’s international problems with enough back channels to the major powers.
   While back channels were undoubtedly useful in many cases, they could also create unintended confusion about Moscow’s intentions. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Moscow used Georgi Bolshakov, an intelligence officer under journalist cover, as a back channel between Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Bolshakov relayed assurances that the Soviet government was not considering placing nuclear weapons in Cuba just as missile units were arriving on the island. Revelations of this deception badly damaged Soviet credibility, and it reduced the effectiveness of Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and the ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Dobrynin.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • back channel — UK US adjective [before noun] ► using a different or unofficial method of communication: »There have been reports about informal back channel peace talks between the two governments. »back channel negotiations/communication back channel noun [C]… …   Financial and business terms

  • back-channel — UK US adjective [before noun] ► using a different or unofficial method of communication: »There have been reports about informal back channel peace talks between the two governments. »back channel negotiations/communication back channel noun [C]… …   Financial and business terms

  • back channel — n. an unofficial, often secret, means of communication * * * …   Universalium

  • back channel — n. an unofficial, often secret, means of communication …   English World dictionary

  • Back-channel — TOC In telecommunicationsA back channel (also reverse channel or return channel) is typically a low speed, or less than optimal, transmission channel in the opposite direction to the main channel. See: Return channel In diplomacyA back channel in …   Wikipedia

  • back-channel — adjective via a back channel the failure of back channel negotiations • Pertains to noun: ↑back channel * * * adjective see back channel …   Useful english dictionary

  • back channel — noun an alternative to the regular channels of communication that is used when agreements must be made secretly (especially in diplomacy or government) they negotiated via a back channel • Hypernyms: ↑channel, ↑communication channel, ↑line …   Useful english dictionary

  • back channel — noun a) The smaller of two channels in a river that diverge to form an island b) An unofficial communications channel used to make informal or subversive negotiations See Also: backchannel, back channel …   Wiktionary

  • back channel — noun Date: 1975 a secret, unofficial, or irregular means of communication • back channel adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • back-channel — adjective see back channel …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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