Cuban missile crisis
- U.S. Intelligence won a critical victory over the Soviet services in the Cuban Missile Crisis by its ability to collect, analyze, and use intelligence information. Using maskirovka tactics, the Soviet military and the KGB deceived the West in the movement of 40,000 troops and nuclear-tipped missiles to Fidel Castro’s Cuba in the summer of 1962. Moreover, through the use of Georgi Bolshakov, an intelligence officer under journalist cover, Moscow deceived the Kennedy administration as to Soviet intentions. Moscow used Bolshakov as a back channel to President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to provide assurances that the Soviet government was not going to deploy nuclear missiles to the island nation.The Soviet’s international position was undone through findings picked up by U-2 aircraft and information provided by Colonel Oleg Penkovskiy, a GRU officer who volunteered to work for British and American intelligence. Penkovskiy provided detailed information from top secret publications on Soviet missiles, while the U-2 flights gave the Kennedy administration detailed evidence of the Soviet buildup in Cuba. The information from technical and human intelligence sources showed that the Soviets had not married nuclear weapons to the missiles and thus were not immediately prepared to launch a nuclear strike; it also showed that the Soviets were far behind the United States in missile technology. Using the intelligence information, President Kennedy was able to call Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s bluff and demand the pullout of the missiles.Moscow used its KGB rezident Aleksandr Feklisov as a back channel to end the crisis. Feklisov, who had served in Washington as a case officer during the 1940s, presented Soviet policy options to ABC correspondent John Scali, who had connections to the Kennedy administration. Feklisov, operating in Washington under the name “Fomin,” probably did more to confuse the Kennedy administration, which was by then wary of any new channels.The Cuban crisis taught Soviet intelligence officers and diplomats a number of lessons. Soviet Ambassador Andrei Dobrynin, who would go on to serve another 24 years in Washington, insisted that he would henceforth control all back channels to American policy makers, explaining that the actions of Bolshakov and Feklisov had badly compromised the embassy. The Soviet army and the intelligence services presumably learned a great deal about American technical collection and analysis, which prompted the creation of a massive deception program.
Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. Robert W. Pringle. 2014.
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