Cold War International History Project (CWIHP)
Office of the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records (BStU)
New translations featuring meetings between the highest levels of the Stasi and the KGB, including discussions on:
- Soviet Dissidents Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov (DOCUMENT 2) – 1969, KGB officials bemoan the inadequate efforts to deal with “ideological subversion” in the Soviet Union.
- Ronald Reagan (DOCUMENT 5) – 1981, KGB chief Yuri Andropov candidly reflects on the challenges and economic burdens posed by the new Reagan administration on the Soviet Union.
- The Polish Solidarity Crisis (DOCUMENT 5) – 1981, Andropov bluntly discusses Soviet attempts to keep Poland in Moscow’s camp through political and economic micro-management.
The Shootdown of Korean Airlines Flight 00
7 (DOCUMENT 6
) – 1983, Deputy KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov describes Soviet “evidence” that the flight looked like a “reconnaissance mission”: “If we would have known this was a passenger plane, we would not have shot it down.”
- Soviet Nuclear First-Strike Detection (DOCUMENT 8) – 1984, extensive Soviet preparations for an alleged potential nuclear first-strike by the United States.
Cooperation between the East German Ministry for State Security (Stasi) and
the Soviet Committee for State Security (KGB):
A Documentary Overview
Walter Süß and Douglas Selvage
Office of the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records (BStU)
The East German Ministry for State Security (MfS or Stasi) was established and developed under the strict control of the Soviet secret services (the NKVD, the MGB, and finally the KGB). Up until the very end of its existence, the MfS worked closely together with the KGB.
The current collection of translated documents marks the result of an agreement between the History and Public Policy Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the office of the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic (BStU) in Berlin. The translated documents have been published in the German original on the website of the BStU as part of a larger collection of documents on MfS-KGB cooperation. The documents provide an overview of the close working relationship between the MfS and KGB as reflected in cooperation agreements, the exchange of key intelligence obtained through foreign espionage, and the ongoing joint struggle of the two agencies against “political-ideological subversion,” especially from the West. As witnessed by the high-level talks between East German Minister for State Security Erich Mielke (1957-1989) and his KGB interlocutors, the documents also provide key insights into Soviet and Warsaw Pact foreign policy, intra-bloc relations, and the communist struggle for victory in the Cold War.
* * *
Established in February 1950, the East German Ministry for State Security (MfS) never overcame its subordination to the Soviet secret service. Mielke himself characterized the Stasi as “a fighting division of the renowned Soviet Cheka” – a general term for the Soviet secret police. The subordination of the MfS loosened somewhat in the mid-1950s, as the CPSU and the East German communist party, the SED, sought to upgrade the status of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in international law. In 1957, the Soviet “advisers” attached to the MfS were officially renamed “liaison officers,” and on October 30, 1959, an official agreement was signed that regulated relations between the KGB and the MfS.
The “Agreement on Cooperation” between the KGB and the MfS that was signed by Mielke and KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov on December 6, 1973 (Document 3) extended the agreement from 1959, but it went into more detail. It cited specific goals: fighting “ideological subversion,” “uncovering and thwarting the hostile plans of the enemy,” and uncovering “the immediate preparations of the enemy for military attack.” Both secret services would also exchange the results of their “political, military, economic, and scientific and technical” espionage, as well as the “guidelines” of their respective intelligence services. They both wanted to provide mutual support in infiltrating agents into “important enemy targets,” in conducting “active measures,” in defending against terrorist attacks, and in securing their respective telephone and radio connections. Of particular mutual interest was espionage against the Federal Republic of Germany and West Berlin. To this end, the KGB was permitted to recruit East German citizens, and the MfS would secure their ongoing contacts. The Minister for State Security and the Chairman of the KGB coordinated directly on the fundamental issues of cooperation, while the KGB’s liaison office to the MfS managed ongoing operational activities.
The subsequent “Protocol Regulating Cooperation” between the MfS and the KGB from March 29, 1978 (Document 4) shored up the agreement from 1973 with more specifics, especially with regard to the work of KGB liaison officers to the MfS. It specified the units of the Stasi in which the KGB’s thirty liaison officers (the number had remained constant since 1959) could be placed – namely, the most important Main Divisions and Directorates and all 15 District Administrations. They were provided with MfS employee badges and had the right to enter administrative buildings. This was also the case for other KGB employees who were entrusted with relevant tasks. The KGB was conceded the right to enlist GDR citizens for secret cooperation. Conversely, the MfS was permitted to recruit only Soviet citizens with permanent residency in the GDR. The KGB’s East German agents were to be used for intelligence and counterintelligence tasks in “capitalist countries,” for operations related to employees of the allied military missions, and for the protection of Soviet military facilities in the GDR. They were implicitly subordinated to controllers at the KGB’s residency in Berlin-Karlshorst, which had several hundred employees. The residency itself was only marginally mentioned in the two bilateral agreements.
* * *
One key area of joint struggle for the MfS and KGB was against “political-ideological subversion” (politisch-ideologische Diversion, PiD) emanating especially from the West. The term itself was coined by East German leader Walter Ulbricht in 1956-1957 as he fought against supporters of reform within the SED in the wake of Nikita S. Khrushchev’s “secret speech.” The term referred both to the alleged ideological influences of the West upon communist societies and the resulting deviations in political and ideological thinking. If not effectively combatted, PiD – at least for the MfS – could lead to “political underground activity” (PuT) and the potential collapse of communist control. The MfS popularized the term “PiD” among the other East European security services, and the KGB, despite its reservations about the Stasi’s wide-ranging definition of the term, eventually began to use it as its own.
During a working visit to Moscow in November 1969, Mielke met with Andropov’s First Deputy – and Brezhnev’s brother-in-law – Semyon Zvigun, who was responsible for fighting ideological subversion (Document 2). Also present was Filip Bobkov, head of the KGB’s Fifth Main Directorate, established in 1967 to combat ideological subversion. Zvigun provided an overview of his activities and declared nationalism, Zionism, and Maoism to be the greatest dangers. In the West, there were allegedly “400 ideological centers and organizations”; among these, emigrant organizations and radio stations such as Radio Liberty constituted the greatest threat. Some of these organizations, such as the Union of Russian Solidarists (Narodnoi Trudovoi Soyuz, NTS), were active in West Germany and the MfS had been providing valuable assistance in combating them. The “most important manifestation” of ideological subversion had been the 1968 “events in the ČSSR.” According to Zvigun, the “Zionists” had played an especially pernicious role. The struggle against ideological subversion, Zvigun said, had been neglected under Andropov’s predecessors; the KGB would now catch up on matters. Zvigun singled out as a target of observation – among others – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who – although he was an “enemy” – had not been subjected to prosecution, “in order not to make him into a martyr.” In contrast, Andrei Sakharov was not an “enemy,” but he had “clearly lost his orientation.” Mielke responded only briefly; he warned against tendencies of liberalization and the Western “policy of contacts” with the socialist world. He then gave a somewhat strange assessment with regard to the West: “The enemy has already begun an ideological Third World War in the fourth dimension.”
* * *
The MfS and KGB cooperated not only in combating PiD, but also in collecting and sharing foreign intelligence. The current document collection provides two examples of this cooperation. The first is an information telegram from Deputy KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov to Mielke from March 31, 1984, regarding “new elements in US policy toward the European socialist countries” (Document 7). The telegram contains information about a high-level review of US policy toward Eastern Europe by the Department of State. The subsequent revised policy, the State Department hoped, would replace or supplement the policy outlined in National Security Council Decision Directive 54 from September 2, 1982, about which the KGB apparently also had detailed knowledge. The foreign-intelligence division of the MfS, Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (HVA), headed by Deputy Minister for State Security Markus Wolf, was more than able to reciprocate with high-level information. The HVA served in effect as an intelligence service not only for the GDR but also for the KGB. A large percentage of its incoming intelligence went directly to the KGB, as did almost all of its finished intelligence.
In terms of foreign-intelligence coordination, the collection contains a second document, a memorandum from August 1984 that summarized the conclusions from consultations between the HVA and its KGB interlocutors over RYAN (Raketno-Yadernoe Napadenie, or “nuclear weapon attack”), an intelligence program initiated by the KGB to collect indicators of a potential nuclear first-strike by the US (Document 8). The heads of the KGB first voiced a fear that the US could be planning a nuclear “decapitation strike” against Soviet political and military command centers in May 1981. In order to defend against this, the KGB developed a new system for the early detection of war preparations, which should provide evidence of such preparations on the basis of “objective” indicators that would be hard to manipulate. In May 1982, Moscow informed its allies about the program. They were expected to make their contribution to the collection of intelligence. However, the GDR’s state security service took its time, partly undoubtedly because HVA chief Wolf was skeptical regarding the whole scenario. It was against this backdrop that the Deputy Director of the First Main Directorate of the KGB, Major General Schapkin, visited East Berlin in August 1984. He informed Heinz Geyer, Deputy Director and Chief of Staff of the HVA, about the state of the work in Moscow on RYAN. Schapkin said that in his Chief Directorate a new division with fifty employees had been established to coordinate the collection and evaluation of relevant intelligence. In a short conversation with Schapkin, Mielke demonstrated a certain skepticism regarding such objective indicators; he considered work with agents to be more important. Indeed, he had placed a top agent in NATO headquarters in Brussels, Rainer Rupp, alias “Topas.” Nevertheless, this visit seems to have led the MfS to become more active. A half-year later, the relevant order was given to “prevent a surprise nuclear-weapon attack against the states of the socialist commonwealth.”
* * *
Perhaps the most important documents in the current collection regarding larger Cold War issues are the records from Mielke’s meetings with leading KGB officials. They provide key insights into Soviet and Warsaw Pact foreign policy, intra-bloc relations, and the communist struggle for victory in the Cold War. The five transcripts from such meetings in the current collection provide a snapshot of such larger developments. In addition to Mielke’s meeting with Zvigun, discussed above, the collection includes a transcript of a meeting of Mielke and his top staff with KGB chief Vladimir Semichastny from December 2, 1964 (Document 1).
Semichastny provided a tour d’horizon of the international situation shortly after the power shift in the Kremlin from General Secretary Nikita S. Khrushchev to Leonid Brezhnev. The KGB chief dismissed any hopes that Sino-Soviet relations would soon improve as a result of Khrushchev’s removal. He strongly criticized the Chinese role in Vietnam, where Moscow sought a solution based on the neutralization of South Vietnam. Semichastny stated: “Characteristic for the attitude of the Chinese regarding Vietnam are their constant exhortations to others to fight without exposing themselves. […] The main Chinese demand leveled against the Soviet Union is to provide evidence for a decisive struggle against US imperialism. They basically demand this conflict.” Semichastny seemed unfazed by China’s first successful test of an atomic bomb in October 1964. “It is impossible to assess,” he said, “whether this was a real bomb or a propagandistic one (laboratory experiment). One can hardly talk at the moment about a serious military production.”
From the perspective of the Stasi chiefs, the KGB delegation’s most important remarks were undoubtedly those regarding the visit to Bonn of Alexei Adzhubei, former editor-in-chief of Izvestiya and son-in-law of former Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev. During the visit, Adzhubei had made private comments that startled the communist leaders in Warsaw and East Berlin – for example, that Moscow was not so concerned about potential West German access to nuclear weapons; that Ulbricht had cancer and thus would soon leave the political scene; that the Berlin Wall could someday be removed; and that potential changes could be made in the Polish-German border, the Oder-Neisse Line. The transcript from the MfS-KGB summit notes: “Regarding our statement that Adzhubei’s visit to West Germany resulted in an increase in political subversion [i.e., PiD against the GDR], the Soviet comrades responded: When the information to this regard arrived [in Moscow], the Chairman of the KGB went personally to the Presidium of the [Soviet] Central Committee. This question played a crucial role.” The “crucial role” that the information had played was at the CPSU Central Committee Plenum in October 1964, where CPSU ideology chief Mikhail Suslov had justified Khrushchev’s removal in part by citing Adzhubei’s behavior in West Germany. Semichastny thus implied that the Stasi’s information played a role in Khrushchev’s removal.
Just like the record of the MfS-KGB summit from December 1964, the record of the meeting between Mielke and Semichastny’s successor, KGB Chief Yuri Andropov, from July 1981 (Document 5) provides a snapshot of Soviet thinking on international affairs in a time of transition. The transition, however, was not in the Soviet Union, but in the United States, where Ronald Reagan had been inaugurated president six months before. Moscow clearly felt challenged, if not threatened, by the new US administration. Despite Andropov’s own efforts to paint the international situation as positive for Moscow – given “imperialism’s” losses in Angola, Ethiopia, Afghanistan (!), and Central America – pessimism pervaded his comments. Andropov told Mielke: “Perhaps this is [only] my subjective opinion: The USA is preparing for war, but it is not willing to start a war. They are not building the enterprises and palaces in order to destroy them. They want military superiority in order to ‘check’ us and to declare ‘mate’ against us without starting a war. Maybe I am wrong.” The US arms buildup, Andropov noted, was putting Moscow under increasing economic pressure. “The most complicated problem,” he said, “is that we cannot avoid the burden of military expenditures for us and the other socialist countries. Reagan obtained approval for 220 billion dollars in military expenditures. Therefore, we must do everything possible in order to provide the corresponding funds for the defense industry. […] The Americans know that parity exists. We cannot permit them to overtake us. If we did not have to make these expenditures, we could solve all the other problems in two or three years. Over and beyond this, there is the assistance for Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea, Angola, Cuba, Afghanistan, etc. The People’s Republic of Poland recently received four billion dollars in order to remain creditworthy.” Reagan’s economic warfare against Moscow was also having an impact. Andropov said, “The banks have suddenly stopped giving us loans (USA, FRG). We are currently conducting negotiations with the FRG and France over the natural-gas pipeline. This is useful for us and also for them. But the USA is putting pressure on other countries, saying that they are allegedly making themselves dependent upon us.” Nevertheless, Andropov was “optimistic” that the “business people” would prevail over the “rulers” with regard to the pipeline.
Andropov’s comments to Mielke at their 1981 meeting regarding Poland reflected Moscow’s growing frustration with the failure of the ruling Polish United Workers’ Party (PUWP) to institute martial law. After declaring point-blank, “Poland never had a real communist party,” he listed off the Polish communists’ ideological and political transgressions since 1945. With regard to Soviet military intervention, Andropov told Mielke that he did not “want to discuss this question right now”; instead, he suggested that Moscow might cut off credits and raw-material exports to Poland. He concluded: “We will fight for Poland. Poland must remain a member of the Warsaw Pact.” However, Andropov suggested that the “fight,” at least initially, would be carried out by non-military means: “I have outlined the possible ways we can go about it. It is clear that in determining economic measures we will keep in mind the transit routes into the GDR. We will take care of that.” The USSR, Andropov implied, was anticipating that Solidarity or the Polish government could react to Soviet economic sanctions by curtailing rail traffic between the USSR and the GDR. At the meeting of the Soviet Politburo on December 12, 1981, on the eve of martial law, Andropov – justifying Moscow’s decision not to intervene militarily in Poland – reiterated once again that “even if Poland comes under the authority of Solidarity,” the USSR would not intervene. However, it would “do something and undertake [the] protection” of the lines of communication between the USSR and the GDR. That is, the non-intervention of Soviet armed forces in Poland could necessitate special measures to secure the lines of communication through it. The Soviet desire to protect the lines of communication did not necessarily constitute a willingness to intervene militarily to save Poland’s communist government from Solidarity. Protection of the lines of communication might have been possible without military force – e.g., through Soviet agreement with the Polish government, or it might have taken the form of limited military action by Soviet forces in Poland – an operation that could have nevertheless led to armed conflict. In the end, General Wojciech Jaruzelski’s successful implementation of martial law in December 1981 made Andropov’s concerns about the lines of communication to the GDR moot.
Moscow, Andropov told Mielke in 1981, was also hoping to split the West at the ongoing follow-up meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Madrid. Moscow had already made concessions to Western Europe on human contacts (“Basket III”), but it had rejected any concessions to the US on human rights (Principle VII of the CSCE Final Act). Mielke had apparently voiced concern about planned Soviet concessions at Madrid in Basket III. In the end, Moscow’s gambit at Madrid failed. Its top priority at Madrid was to attain the convocation of what became the Conference on Security- and Confidence-Building Measures in Europe; such a conference would serve Moscow’s ongoing “peace offensive” aimed at preventing the stationing of new US intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe. To this end, Andropov, who succeeded Brezhnev in November 1982, made not only the concessions in Basket III to Western Europe that Mielke opposed but also individual concessions to the US on human rights. Nevertheless, KGB Deputy Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov declared the meeting at Madrid “a great success” when he later met with Mielke in September 1983 (Document 6). He reassured Mielke regarding the Soviet-bloc concessions in the concluding document from Madrid: “Basket III is dependent upon our interpretation and how we fill it with life. These will be practical steps of the party and the organs of state security. Basket III gives no one the possibility of intervening in the internal affairs of another state. There are many references there to domestic legislation.” At this point, Mielke voiced his disappointment with the Soviet concessions: “To Madrid, I am of a somewhat different opinion. Not with regard to the overall assessment, to the issues of disarmament and peace. But with regard to Basket III. Moscow lies 1,600 km away from Berlin. From a distance of 1 km, the situation looks somewhat different (GDR-FRG, Germans-Germans). We are no Chinese, who are in favor of the stationing [of US LRTNF]. We will speak again over Madrid, after Cde. A.V. Kryuchkov has rested. Today, I spoke about it with unusual severity before the party aktiv [of the Stasi].”
While Andropov’s concessions at Madrid raised concerns for Mielke, the situation grew only worse from his perspective after Mikhail Gorbachev’s accession to power and his promulgation of the policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). After Gorbachev proclaimed the extension of the reform process to the political system at the CPSU CC Plenum in January 1987, the mobilization of society grew more dynamic. The head of the KGB’s Fifth Chief Directorate, Major General Abramov, reported on the changes in a conversation with Mielke in September 1987 (Document 9). Abramov was in East Berlin for a working visit with his colleague, Major General Kienberg, the Director of Main Division XX of the Stasi. The two had been speaking about joint operations between their respective divisions – mainly, the infiltration of spies along the “church line.” Abramov reported with regard to the situation in the Soviet Union that “currently, organizations, groups, and associations and certain circles of individuals are developing that were created at ‘their own initiative.’” The KGB was attempting to contain it through counter-propaganda, intimidation, and, occasionally, also arrests. There were problems with the cultural intelligentsia and several journalists, who “were attempting to slander the entire history of the Soviet Union.” Mielke, it seemed, was quite bewildered. Gorbachev and his foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, wanted to fight for “peace.” However, Mielke declared, “the enemy is also fighting under the banner of the struggle for human rights.” Without directly attacking the new head of the Soviet party, Mielke reminded Abramov of his knowledge since 1950 “that ideological subversion is the enemy’s most dangerous weapon.” The Stasi-chief, it seems, flew into a rage. His tirade culminated in the words: “It is a question of ‘who – whom.’?! It is a question of whether our social order has a future or not!”
The question itself was decided during the peaceful revolution of 1989, with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the dissolution of the Stasi, and the eventual unification of Germany.
Documents from the Office of the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records (BStU)
Translated for CWIHP by Bernd Schaefer
30 November – 1 December 1964
BStU, MfS, SdM 576, p. 1-30. German Original [PDF] available from BStU.
13 November 1969
BStU, MfS, SdM 577, p. 88-110. German Original [PDF] available from BStU.
6 December 1973
BStU, MfS, ZAIG 13730, p. 1-15. German Original [PDF] available from BStU.
29 March 1978
BStU, MfS, BdL/Dok. Nr. 001862. German Original [PDF] available from BStU.
11 July 1981
BStU, MfS, ZAIG 5382, p. 1-19. German Original [PDF] available from BStU.
19 September 1983
BStU, MfS, ZAIG 5306, p. 1-19. German Original [PDF] available from BStU.
31 March 1984
BStU, MfS, ZAIG 7168, p. 1-11. German Original [PDF] available from BStU.
14-18 August 1984
BStU, MfS, ZAIG 5384, p. 1-16. German Original [PDF] available from BStU.
26 September 1987
BStU, MfS, ZAIG 5387, p. 1-22. German Original [PDF] available from BStU.
 Roger Engelmann, “Diversion, politisch-ideologische,” in Engelmann et al., eds., Das MfS-Lexikon (Berlin: Ch. Links Verlag, 2011), p. 67.
 Helmut Müller-Enbergs, “Was Wissen wir über die DDR-Spionage?” in Georg Herbstritt und Helmut Müller-Enbergs, eds., Das Gesicht dem Westen zu …: DDR-Spionage gegen die Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 2nd corrected version (Bremen: Edition Temmen, 2003), p. 37.
 HV A, Bericht über die Entwicklung und den erreichten Stand der Arbeit zur Früherkennung gegne-rischer Angriffs- und Überraschungsabsichten (Komplex RJAN) v. 23.4.1986; BStU, MfS, AGM 1021, p. 32–44; here, p. 32.
 Helmut Müller-Enbergs, ed., Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter des Ministeriums für Staatssicherheit. Teil 2: Anleitungen für die Arbeit mit Agenten, Kundschaftern und Spionen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Berlin: Ch. Links, 1998), p. 45.
 Befehl 1/85 vom 15.2.1985, BStU, MfS, BdL/Dok. Nr. 004817.
 Selvage, Warsaw Pact, p. 12.
 Transcript of CPSU CC Politburo Meeting, 10.12.1981, in Andrzej Paczkowski/Malcolm Byrne (eds.), From Solidarity to Martial Law. The Polish Crisis of 1980-1981 (Budapest/New York: 2007), p. 450. Also available in the CWIHP Digital Archive.
 For a slightly different assessment of Andropov’s comments regarding the lines of communication – namely, that Andropov’s desire to protect them necessarily meant military intervention and a willingness to save the Brezhnev Doctrine – see Mark Kramer, “Das Verhalten der UdSSR und des Warschauer Paktes in der Polnischen Krise 1980/81,” in Torsten Diedrich and Walter Süß, eds., Militär und Staatssicherheit im Sicherheitskonzept der Warschauer-Pakt-Staaten (Berlin: Ch. Links Verlag, 2010), p. 200.
 See Douglas Selvage, “The Superpowers and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 1977-1983: Human Rights, Nuclear Weapons, and Western Europe,” in Matthias Peter and Hermann Wentker, eds., Die KSZE im Ost-West-Konflikt: Internationale Politik und gesellschaftliche Transformation 1975-1990 (München: Oldenbourg, 2012), p. 15-58; here, p. 29-34.
 Mielke’s preparatory materials for the meeting with Andropov included a question about draft Soviet concessions at Madrid: “How should [we] conduct [ourselves] if – for the sake of achieving compromises – proposals are introduced (even if they are termed ‘unofficial,’ without consultation), that would offer the enemy the possibility of substantially broadening its influence in the socialist countries?” BStU, MfS, ZAIG 5169, Hinweise für Gespräche in Moskau (Juli 1981), p. 1-35, here p. 25.
 Selvage, “Superpowers,” passim.