× The Arctic Ocean Was Invaded by Its Neighbor Earlier Than Anyone Thought
By Mark Davis
In the early 1980s, the Soviet Union was confronted with the challenge of widespread censorship. There was no New York Times, the Pentagon Papers were protected as state secrets, and controlled news coverage of the once-powerful Communist government led to a serious clampdown.
“They tried to start a new form of propaganda from New York and Washington,” James Tobin said about his work as a former CIA senior manager who helped build the agency’s network of journalists.
Unable to counter a propaganda battle on many fronts, the agency hit on the plan to inundate the press with unadulterated news about Soviet human rights and economic progress.
It worked, but failed.
Reporters were not the only targets.
The agency also began pumping the press with pictures of green fields, orards on frozen rivers and beautiful lighthouses. This propaganda reached far beyond the Soviet Union, into America’s own media as well as politics.
“Because of the embargo, America was somehow left isolated from the Soviet Union,” said Tobin, who now teaches at Georgetown University.
The trouble with this approach was that the Soviet Union had chosen a separate strategy, one that increasingly put it into direct confrontation with its neighbors.
Moscow was anxious to protect its nascent nuclear arsenal, but on land and in the sea, where so many American allies stood.
This was likely to be a particularly costly move for the Soviets.
“And the reason for that was that if they invaded Canada or if they invaded Greenland or if they invaded Norway, it would only be a matter of days because they had an awful lot of power. You couldn’t take any land in Europe without great expense,” Tobin said.
It didn’t take long for their strategy to create similar problems in America. The Soviets spent decades creating a vast shadow empire with the goal of covering up any aggressions with its media and gaining a growing foothold in America’s own media.
The Nazis had pioneered this strategy to great effect during World War II.
But it was Communism that became a chief enemy.
“Because of the Cold War and all the different adversarial campaigns that they launched, they had greatly enhanced the ability to attack the United States at home and also outside the United States,” Tobin said.
The Soviets did not try to hide the hostile intentions in order to win friends and influence neighbors. But they were less interested in trying to win converts at home, Tobin explained.