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Symposium: Secrets of Communism’s “Collapse”
Posted By Jamie Glazov On September 23, 2010 @ 12:10 am In FrontPage | 24 Comments
The mystery of the 1989 revolution in Eastern Europe remains unsolved even 20 years later, buried in the secret communist archives. Was it a genuine triumph of democracy or a clever plot orchestrated from the Kremlin to avoid a real triumph of democracy?
The events in Romania were the most dramatic of all: the street battles which left over a thousand dead, the hastily arranged trial and execution of the communist tyrant Nicolae Caeusescu, and a National Salvation Committee emerging as the new democratic government. However, the top secret archival documents from the Soviet Bloc suggest that the National Salvation Committee and its leader, Ion Iliescu, were secretly backed by the Soviet Union and even requested a Soviet military intervention during the revolution.
What does this mean?
Our guests today are:
Adam Burakowski, the author of Carpathian Genius. The Dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu 1965-1989 and co-author of 1989 – Autumn of Nations (a book that compares the process of communism’s fall in different states of Central and Eastern Europe. He received a Ph.D. from the Warsaw-based Institute of Political Studies of Polish Academy of Sciences.
Vladimir Bukovsky, a former leading Soviet dissident, author of To Build a Castle and Judgment in Moscow.
Pavel Stroilov, a historian who smuggled a vast secret archive of the Gorbachev era out of Russia.
Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest official ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc. His first book, Red Horizons, was republished in 27 languages. In March 2010, The Washington Post recommended it to be included on the list of books that should be read in schools. A commemorative edition of Red Horizons was just issued in Romania to mark 20 years since Ceausescu was executed at the end of a trial where most of the accusations came out of this book. In April 2010, Pacepa’s latest book, Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination, was prominently displayed at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians held in Washington D.C., as a “superb new paradigmatic work” and a “must read” for “everyone interested in the assassination of President Kennedy.”
Robert Buchar, an associate professor and author of the Cinematography Program at Columbia College in Chicago. A political refugee from former Czechoslovakia, he is the producer of the documentary, Velvet Hangover, which is about Czech New Wave filmmakers, how they survived the period of “normalization” and their reflections on the so-called Velvet Revolution of 1989. He is the author of the new book, And Reality be Damned… Undoing America: What The Media Didn’t Tell You About the End of the Cold War and Fall of Communism in Europe. The book is based on a documentary feature he is currently working on, The Collapse of Communism: The Untold Story.
FP: Adam Burakowski, let me begin with you.
What can you tell us about the events in Romania in the 1989 revolution?
Burakowski: The fall of Ceauşescu was unavoidable once Gorbachev came to power in 1985 and new political trends appeared in Moscow, and then all over the Soviet empire. The style of leadership of the Romanian dictator – his omnipresent megalomania, government-fueled personality cult, manifested at numerous state celebrations with fake enthusiasm of the masses – all that was incompatible with the just emerged idea of the face-lifting of communism in the so-called perestroika. Ceauşescu had significantly contributed to damaging the image of communism, and at that moment of time, his rule in Romania really did not pay off for Kremlin.
The Soviets made many attempts to get rid of him in a peaceful way. As early as in 1985, Bucharest speculated as to who could be nominated to replace Ceauşescu. Even in the highest echelons of power, names were mentioned of Ceauşescu’s son Nicu, prime-minister Constantin Dăscălescu and others, including the then not too prominent director of one of the publishing houses in the Romanian capital, Ion Iliescu. In May 1987, during his visit to Bucharest, Gorbachev himself tried to incite the reformist sentiments among apparatchiks, but he failed.
The 14th Party Congress in November 1989 marked the last unsuccessful attempt at removing Ceauşescu from power in a legal and peaceful way. The leader was reelected with a unanimous vote and it became clear, that he would not retire without a heavy fight. When the revolution began in Timişoara, Ceauşescu was not surprised. He was awaiting it and thought he was prepared to face it. But then a part of his closest collaborators betrayed him, misleading him about the real situation in the country – a fact that could suggest some secret agreements made before.
The document that I published in “Revista 22” and then in “Adevărul” does not prove Iliescu’s ties to the Kremlin before December 1989. It seems that the request for military intervention was his own, a spontaneous idea. Unlike other apparently similar situations from history, when a request for Russia’s military help came from another country, it was in fact planned and orchestrated by the Russians themselves – suffice it to mention Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and also Poland in 1972 (the Targowica Confederation). It doesn’t seem to have been the case with Iliescu. He seems to have just felt insecure and turned to a power, which he considered friendly and willing to help. It does not exclude, however, his possible earlier contacts with Soviet officials.
Just imagine what could have happened, if the Soviets had not rejected Iliescu’s plea. A total disaster, not only for Romania, but for other communist countries as well.
FP: How would it have been a disaster for Romania and other communist countries? What do you mean? Any why do you think the Soviets rejected Iliesu’s plea?
Burakowski: A possible Soviet military intervention would have demolished the “peaceful” image of the Soviet Union and perestroika. Please have in mind that the Brezhnev Doctrine was officially denied and a new trend was launched. It was the so-called Sinatra Doctrine which excluded any military intervention in any country of the Soviet Bloc and it was published in late October 1989, i.e. two months before Iliescu’s plea. It does not really matter if the Soviets had intervened in favor of the “good” National Salvation Front or “bad” Ceauşescu – it would have significantly damaged the image of all the changes in Central and Eastern Europe.
In addition to that, it could have created a “martyr” legend of the Romanian dictator, which could have caused enormous confusion all over the Soviet Bloc, including among the inhabitants, who would have then understood the political transformation even less than they understood at that time. Disinformation would have flourished even more than it did.
Despite all of the mentioned above, we could not even imagine how many people would have lost their lives if the Soviets had fulfilled what Iliescu wanted and intervened in Romania with the troops.
On the other hand, Iliescu and his people managed to survive and keep the power in their hands without any military help. On December 25, the Ceauşescu couple was executed and the shootings in all the cities ceased. There was no need of military intervention and it seems that the Soviets were conscious of that fact. That is why they rejected the plea.
FP: Pavel Stroilov, what do you bring to the table about all of this and what is your take on Adam Burakowski’s comments and interpretations?
Stroilov: The document Adam refers to is a real eye-opener in many respects. Yes, it certainly ruins whatever reputation Iliescu once had as a democrat and a patriot; but there is more to it.
Amid all that turmoil in Romania, on December 24, 1989, State Secretary Baker suddenly announced on television that the United States would have no objections if the Soviet troops enter Romania to help the rebels. Until recently, I thought this was just another of those Baker’s blunders – after all, he was famous for many irresponsible, foolish and pompous statements. Today, however, we can see what was behind it. Undoubtedly, the conspirators realized the Soviets would not intervene to help them without a green light being given by the West. So they talked both to the Soviets and to the Americans, trying to present the potential Soviet invasion as an internationally endorsed peace-making mission. Amazingly, Moscow did not buy it, but Washington did.
Why did the Soviets refuse? I don’t think they were particularly worried about the Western reaction, or faithful to their ‘Sinatra doctrine’. The latter was all in Gorbachev’s propaganda department. In other places, in other circumstances, Gorby’s troops had no problem killing people in the name of socialism: Georgia in 1989, Azerbaidjan in 1990, Lithuania in 1991, etc. But this particular operation – the ‘velvet revolution’ in Eastern Europe – was a different matter.
The whole idea was to keep the hand of Moscow hidden. In the documents I have copied from Soviet archives, you can see how that plan was worked out. One records the speech made by Gorbachev at the Politburo meeting on October 6, 1988, where he said that socialism is in a profound crisis, so all the communist regimes had to introduce Perestroika-style reforms in order to survive. Then he says:
A number of countries have followed our example, or even preceded us on the road of deep reforms. Others, such as the GDR, Romania or North Korea, still fail to recognize the need for such reforms – but the reasons for that are rather political, since the present leadership is unwilling to change anything. In reality, all those countries need change. We don’t say this publicly, lest we are accused of an attempt to impose Perestroika on the friends, but the fact is: there are clear signs of a forthcoming crisis, so radical reforms are required all over the socialist world. In this sense, the factor of personalities becomes of huge significance. [...] Those who stubbornly refuse to follow the call of the times only push the illness deep inside and greatly aggravate its future course.
That concerns us very directly. We may have abandoned the rights of the ‘Big Brother’ of the socialist world, but we cannot abandon our role of its leader. Objectively, it shall always belong to the Soviet Union, as the strongest country of socialism and the birthplace of the October Revolution.
While ruling out any military solutions, Gorbachev wanted the Politburo to work out a clear strategy in case of a serious crisis, so as to keep East Europe under control without a military intervention. This task was given to a special commission chaired by Alexander Yakovlev. Several other documents indicate that the commission kept working in the early months of 1989, but alas – its final recommendations and the subsequent Politburo decision are shrouded in secrecy. Yet, the subsequent events speak for themselves.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the coup against Caeusescu in 1989 was secretly directed from Moscow. It is known that at least some of the key figures in the National Salvation Committee (such as Gen. Militaru or Silviu Brucan) had been secretly in touch with the Soviets for years. After the revolution, the new government took a very pro-Soviet line, especially in confidential negotiations with Moscow (in public, they pretended to be more independent).
For instance, there was the question of Moldova – the part of Romania annexed by the USSR under the Soviet-German pact of 1939. Iliescu confidentially assured Moscow that he would not do anything that could undermine the position of Moldova as an integral part of the USSR, but asked Gorbachev to excuse him if his public statements suggest a more independent approach. Another document suggests that Iliescu’s government wanted to establish new ‘strategic’ links between the USSR and Eastern Europe to replace the collapsed Warsaw Pact.
According to the transcript, in May 1990 Gorbachev said to the Bulgarian communist leader Lilov: ‘[Iliescu] takes balanced, reasonable positions, he is prepared for constructive collaboration. However, I think we should not make the closeness of our approaches too public.’
It is also revealing that both Iliescu and Gorbachev are still in complete denial about all these matters. They even deny that they knew each other before 1989, although they were at university together in the 1950s. After Adam’s document was published, Gorbachev specifically came to Romania, on Iliescu’s request, to deny he was asked to send troops in 1989. Likewise, late Alexander Yakovlev always maintained that the Politburo had no discussions or decisions concerning Eastern Europe in 1989 – none whatsoever (it was not then known that Yakovlev himself was in charge of working out those decisions).
So, we are not talking about different interpretations of events – the evidence is overwhelming, while all the main participants are in total denial. After all, about a thousand people were killed is those events – so it would take a lot of courage for Gorbachev, or Iliescu, or Baker to tell the whole truth and accept their share of responsibility.
FP: Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa, what is your reading of what Adam Burakowski and Pavel Stroilov are telling us here in our discussion?
Pacepa: First, I want to congratulate Dr. Jamie Glazov for organizing this symposium on Communist Romania’s move to democracy, which was a unique event and contains important lessons. The 1989 fall of the Kremlin’s viceroys in Eastern Europe was generally so peaceful that it enriched our political vocabulary with the expression “velvet” revolution. The only exception was in my native Romania, where the change was bloody: 1,104 dead and 3,352 wounded.
I also want to express my respect for Mr. Stroilov’s commitment to exposing the unseen face of the Kremlin. I have strong evidence to agree with his conclusion that Moscow had a hidden hand in overthrowing Ceausescu as well.
The so-called Romanian revolution of 1989 was in reality a popular rebellion stolen by a handful of Communists educated in Moscow, who tried to preserve Romania in the Soviet fold. In the 1970s, when I was Ceausescu’s national security adviser, I supervised a super-secret intelligence unit, the U.M.0920/A, tasked with counterespionage against the Soviet Union. It was unique in the Soviet bloc. The fear that the Kremlin wanted his scalp was Ceausescu’s Achilles heal. U.M.0920/A had somewhat over 1,000 officers. It was housed in a large building located on Rabat Street, near Ceausescu’s residence, and was listed as the “Institute for Marketing,” a cover organization created and run by the DIE for that specific purpose. After I broke with Communism I publicly exposed U.M 920/A, which was renamed UM0110 and got a new boss, Gen. Victor Necolicioiu.
According to information obtained by U.M. 0920/A, in August 1969, two years after Ceausescu had condemned the invasion of Czechoslovakia, and a few days after he had invited President Richard Nixon to visit Romania against Moscow’s wish, the Kremlin launched operation Dnestr. Its task was to replace Ceausescu with a Communist more loyal to Moscow. The Kremlin was afraid that Ceausescu’s trumpeted independence from Moscow might exacerbate popular demand in the Soviet Republic of Moldavia for reunification with Romania, and start an uncontrollable wave of nationalist fervor in the other Soviet republics. The Kremlin also feared that the Romanians’ hatred of Ceausescu might turn their minds toward hating Communism itself. The launching of Dnestr was preceded by the extraordinary cancellation of a widely publicized visit that General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Aleksey Kosygin had been scheduled to make to Romania.
In my second book, The Kremlin’s Legacy, published in 1993, I detailed operation Dnestr. In an updated Romanian edition of Red Horizons, published in June 2010 to celebrate 20 years since Ceausescu was executed, I dedicated some 60 pages to Dnestr. Here is a very short synopsis of what I knew about that operation until 1978, when I broke with Communism.
As part of Dnestr, the KGB and the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) persuaded three ranking party activists and seven officers in the Romanian Securitate and the army to join a palace coup against Ceausescu when the time was ripe. The most important party activist was Ion Iliescu, a Politburo member who had matured politically in Moscow and bore the middle name Ilich, given to him by his father, who had placed his whole life in the service of the Comintern and who had idolized Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. (Iliescu’s 1972 recruitment was recorded on tape, as described in The Kremlin’s Legacy.) The most important of the seven generals was Nicolae Militaru, deputy minister of defense. (His 1978 recruitment, recorded on tape, was described in Red Horizons, published in 1988).
None of the persons discovered by U.M. 0920/A as having been recruited by Moscow under its Dnestr operation was ever tried for espionage. Concerned not to anger the Kremlin, Ceausescu ordered that each case be individually “neutralized” without incurring Moscow’s wrath. Ion Ilich Iliescu was released from his position at the top of the Communist Party and moved to a regional post. General Militaru was forced to retire. All, however, remained under constant surveillance by U.M.920/A.
In 1978 I broke with Communism, and I do not know what happened with Dnestr. But the similarities between its provisions and the December 1989 events were remarkable. Only a few hours after the Romanian uprising forced Ceausescu to flee in his helicopter, retired general Nicolae Militaru showed up at the Bucharest television station, now in the hands of the rebels, and appointed himself chief of the country’s armed and security forces. During the night of December 22, Ion Ilich Iliescu created the National Salvation Front stipulated in Dnestr, and appointed himself to head it. At 2:00 p.m. on December 23, Romanian television announced that the National Salvation Front had asked the Soviet Union for military help, invoking the pretext that “unidentified foreign terrorists” in Romania were trying to reinstate Ceausescu. That was exactly what Dnestr had called for: to find a pretext for Soviet military intervention, which would occur, should the coup not succeed on its own.
The Soviet Embassy promptly entered the picture, publicly stating that the lives of its personnel were endangered. In Moscow, a few hours later, the Soviet television newscast “Vremya” confirmed that Ceausescu was being supported by “foreign mercenaries,” and that the Kremlin had already told Iliescu that it would provide the military help he had requested. Misinformed and uninspired, as it has been during all those years when it praised Ceausescu to the sky, the United States Department of State immediately avowed that Washington would take a sympathetic view of Soviet military intervention in Romania.
In the end the Kremlin was spared both the political and the financial cost of a military adventure in Romania. On that same December 23, Iliescu announced that Ceausescu had been arrested the previous day, and a spokesman for the National Salvation Front promised that he would be given a public trial. Nevertheless two days later, on Christmas Day, 1989, Romanian television came on the air with the news that the Ceausescu couple had been already tried, sentenced to death and executed by a military firing squad that same day. The Western media speculated that Ceausescu was immediately killed to prevent him from exposing Moscow’s hand in the December events. I can only confirm that, before 1978, when I broke with Ceausescu, I reported to him all the details of the Dnestr operation. So did my boss of those days, Gen. Nicolae Doicaru, who was found dead soon after Ceausescu was killed. Doicaru’s family got his body back in a sealed coffin.
On March 1, 1990, three months after Ceausescu’s show-trial, Romania’s new government announced that the officer who presided at it, Gen. Gica Popa, had committed suicide. The government ruled out an autopsy, and did not release the general’s body to his family. Popa’s wife, who saw her husband only at his funeral, asserted that his body showed violet marks at both wrists. According to her, after the trial of Ceausescu her husband had qualms of conscience, and intended to contact the U.S. Embassy.
There is quite enough circumstantial evidence showing that the liquidation of Ceausescu was carefully prepared. Ten other generals involved in the events of December 1989 died under conditions not yet determined.
In real life, it often happens that a person may go out to find wool and come home shorn, as they say in Romania. Neither Gorbachev nor his intelligence services were able to predict that their efforts to hold Romania within the confines of glasnost and perestroika would in the end—to use a Marxist image—dig their own graves. The Romanians, freed from Ceausescu’s boot, began demolishing the barriers the Communists had spent over 40 years erecting between themselves and the rest of the world, as well as between individual Russians. Now Romania is member of NATO, and a new generation of intellectuals is struggling to give her a new national identity.
Buchar: First let me say it’s an honor for me to be invited here together with such distinguished people. The information they are bringing into the open is fascinating, but not surprising. One has to keep in mind that all of this was carefully planned for a long period of time. The name of Anatoly Golitsyn is such a taboo till today, yet he brought to the West information about the Soviets planning these changes back in 1962. Then another defector, Gen.Jan Sejna in 1968, said the same thing. But nobody in the West listened or wanted to hear it.
It looks like this mind-blowing operation was carefully planed for some thirty years. The Soviets used Ceausescu as a guinea pig to test how to create the communist leader likeable to the West. At the same time, they created a little monster, because Ceausescu’s ego became so big it crossed the point of no return. However, Moscow’s plans had contingency for all alternatives. After all, the swift execution of Ceausescu and his wife broadcasted on TV in vivid colors sent the chilling message to all “hard-line” communists across Eastern Europe that any resistance to change was futile. The situation in Romania was quite unique because Ceausescu was running the country with an iron fist as a ruthless dictator. That type of environment didn’t give much opportunity to develop any dissent like the Soviets did in some other countries – like in Czechoslovakia, for instance, where the KGB used the so-called ‘Prague Spring’ to build the echelon of new leaders for the future.
FP: Vladimir Bukovsky, what do you bring to the end of this first round?
Bukovsky: Thank you Jamie.
Let me start with a fresh Polish joke about a conversation between two pigs in a barn:
Pig #1: “You know, I cannot believe that they are feeding us and looking after us just because they are kind. They must have some ulterior motive. In the end, they will probably kill and eat us.”
Pig #2: “Oh, stop this. To hell with your conspiracy theories!”
The debate about the 1989 revolutions over the past 20 years has been developing along more or less the same lines.
A few years ago, when Iliescu was still the president, I mentioned in an interview to a Romanian newspaper that he and his ‘National Salvation Committee’ were secretly backed by Moscow. Even at that stage, the evidence was already overwhelming, so I felt free to refer to that as an established fact and did not expect any controversy. But suddenly, Iliescu went out and threatened to sue me for libel in a Romanian court. I replied I would be happy to have the evidence tested in court, but invited him to sue me in Britain – after all, we have the most draconian libel laws in the world. Iliescu calmed down and soon lost the election.
Indeed, the known facts and documents leave me in no doubt that the whole so-called 1989 revolution was simply a Soviet operation. However, even I did not suspect that Iliescu was so close to Moscow that he actually asked for a Soviet invasion. In this sense, Adam’s discovery opens a whole new dimension to the history of those events. There are, in particular, a lot of questions to be asked about the role of the West: how much did State Secretary Baker know about the Soviet backing for the revolution? Why did he join that invitation for a Soviet invasion? But one thing is now abundantly clear: Iliescu and his committee were little more than just Soviet puppets. Throughout history, it was typical for Soviet-sponsored subversives in any country to request a Soviet invasion when they lost control of events.
Yet, even being caught with smoking guns, our opponents are still in denial. I remember how I met late Alexander Yakovlev – who, as Pavel tells us, was the architect of the 1989 revolutions – at one conference some fifteen years ago. By that time, he was supposed to have become a great democrat and a high authority on matters of Soviet history. Without knowing anything about his personal role except that he was a Politburo member, I asked him about the 1989 revolutions: what was the original Soviet plan? How did it get out of control? Did the Politburo take any advance decision on what should be done in East Europe?
“There was no decision,” Yakovlev replied.
“Look,” I said, “I have seen the Politburo documents about the withdrawal from Afghanistan. That decision was worked out very carefully in order to preserve the pro-Soviet regime, because, as you, comrades, noted, that regime “was associated with us in the eyes of the world.” Surely East Europe could not be seen as less important, and left to its own devices? You must have had at least some plan about it?”
But Yakovlev was adamant: there had been no plan, no decision, no discussion of that issue by the Politburo. All happened by itself.
At that point, we were approached by Radek Sikorski (at that time, he was not the Foreign Minister of Poland yet), who also had a question for Yakovlev:
“Alexander Nikovayevich, I wanted to ask you for a very long time: when exactly have you stopped believing in communism?”
“Do you think I am an idiot?” Yakovlev asked. “I never believed in communism in my life.”
Amazed, Radek turned to me and said in English:
“It looks like the whole f…ng Soviet Union was governed by anti-communists!”
Now we learn, from Pavel’s documents, that not only did the Politburo have a plan, but Yakovlev personally was in charge of its preparation.
After Adam’s document was published, Gorbachev specifically came to Romania on Iliescu’s request, two of them staged a press conference and denied everything. It was reported in the Romanian media that the cost of Gorbachev’s visit was about a million dollars, but the communists always have enough money for propaganda (from whatever sources).
I guess Romania is the main reason why Gorbachev and Yakovlev denied their responsibility for the 1989 revolutions. After all, over a thousand people were killed there. Still, our opponents have hardly anything to say on the substance of the matter – you cannot argue against the documents. All they can do is dismiss all the evidence as a “conspiracy theory.” Sadly, though, when multiplied by all the power and money of the neo-communist Establishment, even this cheap propaganda trick works.
Nowadays, the “conspiracy theorist” label is being used in the same manner as “enemy of the people” under Stalin. Nobody ever gave a clear definition of a conspiracy theory, and yet, it is a perfect way to silence dissenting voices without any debate on the substance of the matter. We seem to admit that conspiracies do happen and sometimes succeed, so much so that we even recognize them in criminal law. It is quite respectable, for example, to blame the 9/11 tragedy on an al-Qaeda conspiracy. This is not a conspiracy theory – but any alternative theory is. So, a conspiracy theory is simply a view which does not fit into the margins of what is acceptable to the Establishment, simply a deviation from their propaganda line.
It is time to admit that, because conspiracies sometimes occur, a conspiracy theory may happen to be accurate, just like any other theory. In the case of the Romanian revolution, the “conspiracy theory” is simply the only possible explanation of the known facts. The only alternative theory, aggressively advanced in several academic works and a documentary movie, attempts to explain everything with a conspiracy of Western secret services. Their “evidence” is limited to some empty claims by two or three people, supposedly former French secret agents; and the whole theory is so inconsistent that it hardly merits a serious consideration. Yet, nobody calls it a conspiracy theory.
So, gentlemen, 20 years after the Soviet empire collapsed, we are still in a position when the truth about our history is being jammed by communist propaganda. Even if, as Gen Pacepa says, the communist regime has dug its own grave, it will continue to haunt our countries until we nail a wooden stake through its heart. One would expect that Adam’s discovery would cause a political storm in Romania; instead, we only saw the panic reaction from Iliecu and Gorbachev amidst the general indifference. Meanwhile, during the same few weeks, the communists had an immensely important victory of blocking a long-awaited lustration law in the Romania’s Constitutional Court.
Alas, as I said many times before, we did not win the Cold War. No war is over until the minefields and unexploded bombs are cleared away, unless gangs of marauders and surviving enemies are disarmed. Above all, no war is over until its crimes are investigated and condemned, and the truth about its history is revealed and accepted. So far, in the world in general and Romania in particular, we only see communists writing history and dictating the conditions of peace. The most optimistic comment I can make about this is that there is still a long way to go.
FP: Adam Burakowski, what are your thoughts for this second and final round?
Burakowski: As Pavel rightly pointed out, Iliescu and his people did indeed go to great lengths in order to hide their ties to Moscow. Still, they did not fully succeed in doing so. Some of their actions were just too obvious, like the Romanian-Soviet friendship pact signed in April 1991 – just months prior to the collapse of the USSR. The pact met with strong criticism in Bucharest, among other things, for its recognition of the existing northern border of Romania.
The pro-Russian policy was abandoned later by Iliescu himself. In 2000, when the postcommunist party regained power in Romania, many political analysts feared that it would reverse the pro-Western trend established by Emil Constantinescu and consequent governments of the coalition around the Romanian Democratic Convention. This, however, did not happen. Iliescu realized that the integration with Western structures – NATO and European Union – should continue.
Our knowledge of the Romanian December is now deeper than it was in the 1990′s, when first books on the topic were published. Some theories from that time have since been confirmed by new evidence, others discarded. Recently the bodies of the Ceauşescu couple have been exhumed. I personally doubt whether this particular examination will reveal any new clues, but most certainly, any investigation efforts around the December events should be encouraged and supported. Because there remains a lot to be cleared up.
I agree with Vladimir, that we constantly face attempts to hide the truth. Many of these attempts are primitive and easy to see through, but when they are boosted by media propaganda, they begin to gain undue credibility, significantly harming the public awareness of what happened 20 years ago and what is happening now.
Democracy should be built on the truth. People, not just in Romania, deserve to know the real circumstances of the 1989 events. Why was there more bloodshed after the overthrow of Ceausescu than before it? How did it happen that following so much bloodshed, hard headed postcommunists took over the power (quite unlike in the bordering Hungary, where not a single shot had been fired)? Why was the pro-western policy, as the only possible way to cut the ties with the country’s totalitarian past, introduced in Romania so late? These are only some of the questions that need to be asked repeatedly. I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Jamie Glazov for organizing this discussion. It’s been a privilege to me and, I hope it will be an encouragement to researchers out there to explore and solve the mysteries of the past, so we can all draw a lesson.
Stroilov: I am very grateful to Gen. Pacepa for the kind words. May I, in turn, express my admiration for everything he has done to reveal the truth about the communist regime in Romania and its role in the Cold War. I regard his ‘Red Horizons’ as the single most important source on those matters. What he has told us in this discussion about the 1989 revolution and the parallels with the plan ‘Dnestr’ is also very revealing.
Paradoxically, having spent years and years trying to uncover the truth about the final stage of the Cold War, we on this panel still seem to underestimate the importance of our own work. It cannot be the case that, while the history of communism is being distorted and falsified, at present the recovery is going on just fine. I agree with Vladimir: recovery is simply not possible without revealing the whole truth about the past. While the Iliescus of this world are lying about their communist past, I shall never believe a word of what they say about their ostensibly democratic present.
With respect, I cannot agree with Adam that the fears of communist restoration after Iliescu’s return to power in 2000 turned out to be wrong. The EU membership or even NATO membership do not guarantee democracy. On the contrary, today’s European Union is a notoriously anti-democratic, socialist structure. It is a direct continuation of the Soviet plan for a ‘Common European Home,’ where Eastern Europe would be sandwiched between a Soviet Russia on one hand and a socialist United Europe on the other. According to the documents (Vladimir and I published many of them in ‘EUSSR. The Soviet Roots of European integration’), this plan was extensively discussed between Gorbachev and the Western Left (especially the French) in the late 1980s. The architects of the European Union, such as Mitterrand or Delors, were very careful to make the design compatible with Gorbachev’s plans. The guarantee of control over the rebellious Central Europe – from United Germany to Romania to Yugoslavia – was a very important consideration in those discussions.
So, if Iliescu was pro-Soviet and then suddenly turned pro-EU, it tells us more about the EU than about Iliescu. If he is pro-Western now, this only means something is very wrong with the West. The EU we know is simply a clever device for the Iliescus of the East and the West to preserve their unearned position of power.
After all, what is the meaning of ‘pro-Western’ after the US State Secretary joined Iliescu’s treacherous request for a Soviet invasion of Romania? Was that a ‘pro-Russian’ idea or a ‘pro-Western’ idea? And what is the meaning of ‘pro-Western’ today, when the United States is fighting a losing battle against Marxist reforms by its own government? Can we still seriously say that the free world has won the Cold War?
The problem is by no means purely Romanian; it is global, and has always been so. Even after the end of the Cold War, the communists have suffered some losses but survived as an international Mafia. The real question is: how much has survived of the free world?
We have sown ‘post-communism’; now we harvest neo-communism, which has turned out to be a very serious threat. The Second Cold War has already started. The question is: do we – in the East and the West – have the strength to resist?
And of course, if we are to fight, we should start from opening our eyes. Like 20 years ago, no recovery is possible until we face the truth about the past. The instincts of the neo-communist Establishment are still Orwellian: whoever controls the past controls the future. So, indeed, the greatest rebellion in today’s world is to put two and two together. That is what we have tried to do in this symposium and in our work over years; hopefully, with some success.
Thank you Jamie. Thank you gentlemen.
Pacepa: I fully agree with Mr. Bukovksy: “It looks like the whole f…ing Soviet Union was governed by anti-Communists.” Of course, there were no Nazi admirers to be found in Germany after World War II, either. And what about Communists in Romania? A lie! There were none. If things go wrong in Moscow and Bucharest these days, it is because of people like Bukovsky, Preobrazheskiy and Pacepa. They betrayed their motherland. They are the evil. They are “traitors” and “absolute loafers,” as President Putin called former KGB general Oleg Kalugin, a director of the International Spy Museum in Washingotn D.C., who was sentenced to fifteen years in jail by Moscow during the same year of 2002, when NATO welcomed Putin’s Russia as an honorary member in that alliance.
A few months ago, when the world celebrated 20 years since the Soviet empire collapsed, Romania’s government refused to cancel a 1974 death sentence given by Ceausescu’s “justice” to a respected American citizen, Constantin Răuţă. The Supreme Court, whose masters are now chauffeured around in American limousines, continue to preach that Mr. Răuţă should be executed because he committed the “crime” of cooperating with Romania’s main enemy, the United States.
Mr. Răuţă is a respected American scientist, who over the past thirty years worked on major U.S. aero-spatial projects such as HUBBLE, KOBE, EOS and LANDSAT. He was also involved in the development of various space defense systems, making a substantial contribution to the defense of the United States and her NATO allies. But he is still a “traitor” for the Romanian government.
Mr. Răuţă is not an isolated case in Romania. Rather, he seems to be the rule. In the past five years, 6,284 people sentenced by the Communists for fighting Communism have asked to have their sentences canceled, but only three have succeeded —because of Western media pressure.
How is it possible for Communists still to be calling the shots in a NATO country twenty years after Communism collapsed there?
Professor Tom Gallagher, one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary Romania, who teaches the evolution of post-Communist states at Bradford University in the U.K., concluded that Romania had moved from rigid [Communist] egalitarianism to super-inegalitarianism run by corrupt ex-Communists who merely pay lip-service to democracy. This “new predatory elite” has “widened the gap between a parasitic state and a demoralized society.” In Prof. Gallagher’s view Romania is not yet a democracy, because “a functional democracy cannot be based on lies, denial and amnesia.” This is also the subject of his book Romania since Communism: The Denial of Democracy (Hurst, 2004), which concludes that “a Romania under the control of corrupt ex-communists threatens to be a dangerous force for regional instability.”
Let me put it my own way. Today we know how a democracy could be changed into a Communist tyranny, but we are still learning how to reverse that nightmare. Post-Ceausescu Romania has been transformed in staggering and unprecedented ways, but it remains a Soviet-style police state.
In 1978, when I broke with Communism, Romania had one major intelligence service, the Securitate, staffed with ca. 16,000 operations officers. Now it has six (SRI, SIE, UM 0962, STS, SPP, DGIA), which have absorbed most of the former Securitate officers and its modus operandi. According to the Romanian media, these six ghosts of Communism are bloated with over 30,000 officers. The SRI (domestic counterintelligence) alone, covering a population of 22 million, has ca. 12,000 officers. Its French equivalent, the DCRI (Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur), covering a population three times as large, has 6,000. Its German counterpart, the BfV (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz), which covers 82 million people, has only 2,448 officers. If the United States were to apply the Romanian ratio, the FBI would have ca. 190,000 agents, not the 12,156 agents it has today.
Hangmen do not incriminate themselves. Over 500,000 Romanian patriots who were killed or terrorized by the Communist Securitate are still not rehabilitated. At the same time, thousands of former Securitate officers and hundreds of thousands of its informants and collaborators, who wrote the bloodiest era in Romania’s history, are still shielded by a veil of secrecy–quite a few of them are the nouveaux riches, now running the country.
This is the legacy of the Kremlin’s “Dnestr” operation, during which Communists loyal to Moscow (Ion Ilych Iliescu, Nicolae Militaru, Sergiu Celac, Silviu Brucan,) initiated the killing of Ceausescu, and took control of Romania. The Kremlin had a similar “Dnestr” plan for every bloc country. In 1990, I found a Stasi extension of the “Dnestr” plan for East Germany in the newly-opened Stasi archives.
The Stasi extension was called Plan OibE (Offiziere im besonderen Einsatz—officers on special assignment), and it defined the Stasi’s ultra-secret tasks in the event that “the [Communist] Socialist Unity Party of Germany were to loose its power.” Known to a few insiders as the “order for survival,” Plan OibE was signed by State Security minister Erich Mielke on March 17, 1986 and registered as Top Secret Document 0008-6/86. The plan provided that 2,587 undercover Stasi officers, whose identity was extremely tightly held, would on signal move into high-level positions in the German Democratic Republic (2,000) and its embassies (587). The speed with which the East German government collapsed evidently did not allow for Plan OibE to become fully operational. But it is noteworthy that most of the new politicians who rose to prominence in Germany after Communism’s collapse were secretly affiliated with the Stasi. Among them: Lothar de Maziere, the first democratically elected East German prime minister; Ibrahim Böhme, a founder of the eastern Social Democratic Party; Wolfgang Schnur, the founding leader of the Democratic Awakening, a once burgeoning political party, which collapsed after Schnur’s exposure as a Stasi asset.
In 1996, West German chancellor Helmuth Kohl described the whole German version of the “Dnestr” plan in his book Ich wollte Deutschlands Einheit (I Wanted German Unity). It is worth reading. I also strongly recommend And Reality Be Damned by Robert Buchar, a distinguished participant in this Symposium. His book offers a bird’s eye view of the 1989 collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and of its consequences, as seen by former CIA chief, now defense secretary Robert Gates, by national security expert Joseph D. Douglas and by many other experts on Communism and Soviet Russia.
I also want to suggest to Dr. Glazov to hold a similar Symposium on today’s Russia. The success of the “Dnestr” plan in Romania may make life miserable for that country’s population, but it can scarcely be said to threaten world peace. The spectacular success of the “Dnestr” plan in Russia might, however. Today over 6,000 former officers of the KGB, which killed tens of millions during the Soviet years and terrorized a third of the World’s population, are running the country’s federal and local governments, and nearly half of all top governmental positions are now held by former officers of the KGB. The Soviet Union had one KGB officer for every 428 citizens. Putin’s Russia has one FSB officer for every 297 citizens. We are facing the first intelligence dictatorship in history, and Dr. Glazov’s Frontpage could make history by focusing on it.
FP: Well I have my next symposium to put together.
Robert Buchar, your final comments?
Buchar: Very interesting discussion indeed. It is so important to bring as much information to the public as possible. Not just about Romania or today’s Russia as Mr. Pacepa suggests, but about all former Eastern Block countries one by one to connect the dots and point out the similarities. Every country had its own scenario but when we look at it site by site then the big picture becomes obvious.
The biggest problem we are all facing is the total blackout of media on this issue, globally. No media outlet is willing to challenge the official version of the story regardless of the evidence presented. Why is that? This bothers me deeply for long time now since I am trying for years to finish the documentary film on this topic. Then, recently, I was reading Jamie’s interview with Michael Ledeen about Iran and here it was loud and clear: “We deny it because when we admit it, we have to do something about it. Better do nothing.”
Mr. Ledeen’s definition, even he was talking about slightly different problem, is right on the mark. It’s politically incorrect to question already established history. Too much is at stake. As a result the worldwide neo-communist movement is spreading like a cancer with the goal to destroy Western civilization and nobody is willing to mention it. Besides, it would be bad for business. And meanwhile, the “first intelligence dictatorship,” as Mr. Pacepa put it, is working in overdrive—just look at the Russians’ activities in former Eastern Europe countries and in the EU, not to mention in the US and in other parts of the world.
This symposium Jamie is doing is extremely valuable. After all, there are just very few places where this topic is seriously discussed. Besides Jamie Glazov here at FrontPage Magazine, there is Jeff Nyquist at strategiccrisis.com and that’s about it.
While the consequences of the fall of communism are accelerating and spreading around the globe at an exponential rate, the big question that comes to my mind is if people really want to know what happened twenty years ago. Do they really want to learn the truth? I am not so sure they do. It really doesn’t matter if they are in Eastern Europe or America. How does one open the eyes of people in a consumer society today? The problem seems to be so distant, almost abstract. Their perception of reality was already shaped and massaged by the media. After all, people prefer to believe what they want to believe. They want to go shopping, be entertained and have a good time. Maybe they will awaken one day but it may be too little too late. As Vladimir Bukovsky said, we have a long way to go. My concern is if we have enough time left to reach the end of the road.
Thanks to Dr. Jamie Glazov and all participants of this symposium for making this discussion possible. Let’s hope we will meet again soon.
FP: Thank you Robert.
Vladimir Bukovsky, last word goes to you sir.
Bukovsky: If you come to Romania nowadays, the first thing you notice are the Lukoil petrol stations on every corner, Lukoil being one of those Russian huge oil corporations controlled by the Siloviki mafia. If you start making enquiries, you will discover that a big part of Romania’s oil industry – and many other industries as well – is controlled by Moscow either directly or through more complicated schemes involving third parties and countries. Mind you, Romania’s oil is no small matter: for example, it used to be the key to victory in the Second World War. So, what kind of national independence is this if Romania is strategically dependent on Russia? How can Romania have a genuine democracy if the country is, to a high extent, owned by a foreign authoritarian regime?
Before the latest presidential elections in Romania, the socialist candidate, Mircea Geoana, was caught secretly talking to Moscow about financing his campaign, in exchange for the further lucrative opportunities he would open for Russian businesses after becoming president, and an improvement of relations ‘reset‘-style. If the media reports were accurate, this means that Geoana simply offered himself for sale to the Kremlin. Even after this scandal was exposed, the election was still very closely fought, and the fate of Romania hung in the balance. What kind of democracy is this, where at least one of the major parties is little more than a Russian fifth column, and every election presents a very real threat to the country’s independence and freedom?
Finally, what kind of national independence is this if the country remains divided, just as it was divided by Comrades Stalin and Hitler? Romania’s eastern border, drawn by the Soviet invaders, is still considered sacred. The fate of Moldova was decided by Gorbachev and Iliescu behind closed doors just after their fake revolution; but even twenty years later, nobody dares to suggest reconsidering those decisions. Throughout those years, Moldova lives under a constant threat of a Russian takeover, while Romania is under enormous pressure – from the east and from the west – to do nothing. Just a few weeks ago, Russia expelled a Romanian diplomat, absurdly accused of implementing a covert plan for a takeover of Moldova.
The success of the Operation Dnestr has deprived Romanians of a chance to restore their own sovereign democracy and, symbolically, to reclaim their lawful eastern border on the Dnestr.
All of these realities are the links of the same chain: Russia’s subversion of Moldova, Russia’s fifth column in Romanian politics, the enormous political influence of communists in both parts of the divided country, the lustration laws being blocked, the truth about history being suppressed, and, indeed, the Sovietization of the EU and the West.
All of these are direct consequences of our failure to secure a decisive victory in the Cold War twenty years ago, but even more so of our reluctance to face the truth about what happened.
FP: Adam Burakowski, Vladimir Bukovsky, Pavel Stroilov, Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa and Robert Buchar, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.
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