A central factor in how Ronald Reagan won the Cold War, and did so with greater support along the way than the current president, was his ability to find means to undermine the enemy without losing thousands of American lives. An intriguing example, one that has eluded history, is the Farewell Dossier.
This top-secret effort was part of the devastating strategy of economic warfare pursued by Reagan and a handful of intimate advisers—a strategy so sensitive that those involved publicly denied that a campaign was underway. A central architect of that effort, National Security Adviser Bill Clark, was confronted on the covert strategy by Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, who whispered to him at a diplomatic function, “You have declared war on us, economic war.” Clark could only answer Dobrynin two decades later, once the Soviet Union imploded: “Yes, we had.”
The Farewell Dossier became part of this campaign.
This super-secret initiative was entrusted to an enigmatic NSC staffer named Gus Weiss, who I interviewed several times before he died in November 2003. Nearing the end of his life, Weiss wanted to discuss this effort “that no one knows about.” Here is how it unfolded:
The Reagan administration suspected that Soviet intelligence was stealing critical technology from the West. Not until 1981, however, was an organized Soviet program discovered, when French intelligence obtained the services of a 53-year-old defector named Colonel Vladimir Vetrov. Vetrov became known as “Farewell.”
Farewell photographed 4,000 KGB documents, fully revealing the Soviet espionage program. In July 1981, Francois Mitterand—in a rare example of French cooperation in Reagan’s economic war—told Reagan about Vetrov and offered the intelligence to the United States. Reagan gratefully accepted.
Reagan then asked CIA director Bill Casey to consider how to best use Farewell’s material. That fall, Gus Weiss was cleared to read it.
Weiss learned that the KGB had created a unit called Directorate T, tasked to plumb the R&D of Western nations. Directorate T’s operating arm was named Line X. Through this apparatus, said Weiss, “a master plan” was developed to acquire American high-tech products and know-how.
The material Weiss read confirmed his worst nightmares: Line X had been so successful, said Weiss, “that the Soviet military and civil sectors were in large measure running their research on that of the West, particularly the United States.” Radar, machine tools, semiconductors—much of which went into Soviet defense.
Colonel Vetrov spilled the beans on Directorate T, divulging the names of over 200 Line X officers stationed throughout the West and more than 100 leads on Line X activities.
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of the book, “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.” His other books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."