Created: 8/1/1986

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The Soviet Bloc Role

in International Terrorism

and Revolutionary Violence

Key Judgments


Nit II/1MW

this estimate is issued by the director of central intelligence.

the national foreign intelligence board concurs, except as noted in the text.

The following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation of the Estimate:

The Centre* Intelligence Agency, theIntcll^fenee Agency, the Notional Security Agency, ond theotgoniiotkm ol the Department of State.

Also Participating;

The Asuttcmt Chief of Staff for lotetliowe. Deportment of the Army the Director of Novol (ntefigenec. Deportment of the Navy The Atilitont Chief of SlofT, hteBigenee, Deportment of the Air Force The Director of IntelUgerKe, Heodquorlcn. Marine Corpi




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This Esiiinate supersedes, Soviet Support toTerrorism and Revolutionary Violence. In this Estimate, ferrortsm means premeditated, politically motivated violence directed against noncombatant Urgcts by nongovernment groups or clandestine state agents, generally toargetnternational terrorism involves citizens or territory of more than one country. Transnationalind of international terrorism, means attacks by terrorists outside their own homelands. Revolutionaryis aimed at changing the fundamental political orientation of aby force.

Since the SNIE presented an adequate historical treatment of the issue, in preparing this Estimate, we have concentrated on theof the past few years. At the same time, we have expanded the scope of the study to include related activities on the part of:

The rest of the Warsaw Pact countries. In this Estimate the term "Soviet Bloc" means the Warsaw Pact countries.

Other Soviet allies such as Cuba! Angola. Vietnam,the extent their activities may have been undertaken in conjunction with theand Syria.

We have also deemphasized the categorization of groups that engage in terrorism.1 SNIE distinguished rather firmly between revolutionary insurgent groups and strictly terrorist groups, while acknowledging that many insurgent groups use terrorist tactics, and many terrorist groups have revolutionary goals. In this Estimate we focus on the nature of the support rather than on the nature of the groups per se. Our approach is lo divide the world's non-Communist countries Into clusters according to their predominant forms of political extremism:

Middle East. Most of the political violence originating In this region is an outgrowth of threetransnational phenomena: the Palestinianradical Islamic fundamentalism, and the growing use of terrorism by states such as Syria, Libya, and Iran. Many of the

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extremist groups of tbe region routinely attack foreigner and operate outside (heir own countries, especially in Western Europe; thus they are often labeled international orterrorist groups.

The Rest of the Third World. Most of the political violence originating in other Third Worldssociated in some way with rebellion against national governments. The violent opposition groups operate almost exclusively in their own countries, although some have bases in sympathetic neighboring countries, and some attack foreign as weJI as domestic targets. Rebel groups in these countries arc often able to establish control over regions orin ruralbeyond the reach of central government authority, thereby acquiring the status of insurgent groups.

The Developed Countries. In general, tbe democratic Western countries have strong, stable political systems that, though governments may fall, are highly resistant to violent change-Nevertheless. Icftwing extremist groups are activeumber of West European countries and in Japan. In some Western countries, violent separatist and irredentist groups areroblem. Many of the rebels in developed countries are ideologically indistinguishable fromThird World insurgents and would be insurgents themselves if thev could, but since it is not feasible for them to take and hold territory, they do not qualify as insurgents and ate usually called terrorists.

key judgments

The Soviei leaders' approach to terrorism derives from (heir broader view that violenceasic, legitimate tool of poutical struggle to be applied or sponsored in those settings where its use will benefit the USSR.esult, the Soviets have no moral compunctions about supporting foreign insurgent and terrorist groups; the rMmaryis whether the activities of these groups further Soviet interests

The Soviets support some groups openly and directly, mainly those with some claim to inlexnalional political legihoiacy, such as the PLO or the South-West African People's Organization (SWAPOX In dealing with many foreign political extremist groups, though, the Soviets camouflage much of their involvement by working with and through allies and radical states. To the extent that some of these states engage in terrorism or support extremist groups on their own accounts, the precise Soviet role is further obscured.

Though Moscow's dealings with foreign political extremist groups are highly differentiated, in general they.follow these basic patterns;

The Soviets support Palestinian and other radical anti-Israeli and anti-US groups based in the Middle East; most of them use terrorismeans of seeking political objectives.

The Soviets back insurrectionary movements in susceptible Third World states. Moscow refers to these crgaxiizarioro as national liberation movements; many of them engage inactivities.

The Soviets are not idcntifiably involved with terrorist groups in Western Europe and other developed areas where, more often than not, leftwing political violence interferes with Moscow's broad regional aims Such violence does, however, createthat damages Western interests. Another view holds that the Soviets believe that, in most cases, terrorism in Western Europe furthers their aims Moscow expects it toestabilizing effect on Western Europe and to undermine the US military posture there'

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ast European allies generally follow ihe Soviet lead in iheir own dealings with foreign insurgent and terrorist groups. In some cases they act as Soviet surrogates; in other cases they appear to be acting on llieir own. Other Marxist states in the Soviet orbit, particularly Cuba, also cooperate with the USSR in helping favored extremists groups around the world, but they tend to be more indcpetxleot than the East Europeans.

In the Middle East, the Soviets and their associates providefj

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^Available evidence, however, suggests:

That the Soviets disapprove of terrorist attacks in Western Europe by Middle Eastern groups they support and have tried to discourage these groups from conducting such attacks.

That the Soviets have avoided direct contact with Middle Eastern transnational terroristas the Abu Nidal Croup, theCommand, and the Carlos Apparat.

That, conversely, several East EuropeanGermany. Hungary, Romania,had direct ties to such groups. Their reasons appear to have been mainly defensive, but in some cases they may also have anticipated using the groups for their own or for Soviet purposes. Moscow certainly knew of some of these arrangements and presumablyAnother view holds that arrangements made by East European Communist regimes wilh transnational terrorist groups, in particular those arrangements between Hungary and Romania and the Carlos Apparat.seful, political purpose and further broad Communist objectives, but stresses that they are not mainly for defensive reasons.*

In the Third World, the USSR and itsCuba. East Germany, and

^]to numerous Marxist insurgent and terrorist groups. Chief among the target countries are Chile, Colombia. El Salvador, Guatemala, and Sudan. In general, the Soviets and East Europeans advocate revolutionary violence mainly when that appears to be the most promising option; the Cubans and Nicaraguans are more optimistic, viewing violenceay lo create new and promising options.

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Most of the radical Middle Easternthat usea foreign policy tool-are fundamentally dependent on thelist includes Syria. South Ye-

men, and Libya, along with elements in Lebanon; Iranotable exception. The Soviets have supplied these states withf Joften without enforcing controls!

. jused by

terrorist and insurgent

withoutfromUnion, states sucfias Syria and Libya would probablyforeign political extremist groups, but beingto retaliation they would have to be

the USSR probably does not iristigate the terrorist acts of these states and their surrogatesy not approve of all of them, neither does it risk straining relations with them by trying to make them desist. It undoubtedly recognizes that such acts are usually more damaging to Western interests than to Soviet


In Western Europe, as well as in other areas where democratic institutions are strong, the Soviets regard leftwing terrorism as generally notoftentheir regional objectives. Hence the Soviet Bloc keeps its distance from Indigenous West European groups such as the Red Army Faction of West Germany and Action Dir-ecte of France. By criticizing and ostracizing such "criminal terroristoreover, Moscow attempts to indicate that, like the Western countries, the USSR opposes and is trying to Bght terrorism.

To date, however, the Soviet Bloc has generally opposed and obstructed Western efforts to establish effective international counter-terrorism programs, in part because such programs might impede the activities of extremist regimes and groups the Soviets back:

of the turmoil around the world is rooted in regional and local disputesolitical, social, or religious nature and has nothing to do with Communism. Many non-Communisthowever, have emulated the revolutionarysometimes the terroristby so many of the groups that receive Soviet Bloc assistance

the longstanding Soviet support for political extremism in the Communistalso in the Palestiniancontributed to the development of an international climate in

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which alienated or frustrated activists of all political stripes tend to turn to violence readily, rather thanast resort, and to use terrorist tactics to magnify their impact.

Declining Trend. The terrorist implosion in Lebanon and the growth in terrorism of Middle Eastern origin in Western Europe during the past few years haveradual drop in the amount and seriousness of terrorist and insurgent activity in many other parts of the world. Although international terrorist incidents have beenin frequency In recent years, spurred by state-sponsored Palestinian and Shi'ite extremists, indigenous terroristthat associated with the extremebeen in decline not only in Western Europe but also fn Latin America and other parts of the Third World.arge number of importantItaly, Brazil, Argentina, to name Just aterrorists ofre few and feckless, compared with their prexlecessors of previous decades.


While there is no indication that any massive or global upswing in terrorist activity is in the offing, we believe that various stimuli willthe level of political violence around the world from declining much further. The pattern of recent years has been that, as politicalon behalf of some cause is brought under control in one country or region, as it usually is sooner or later, political extremism on behalf of some other cause has broken out somewhere else. Thus, at the moment the Montoncros and Tupamaros are quiet, while Sikh. Tamil, and Shi'ite radicals present major terrorist problems We expect this pattern to persist.

Utile Change Expected in Soviet Role. Wc also expect the Soviet Bloc to continue to support various foreign extremist groups and radical states. The costs to the Soviet Bloc of providing such support appear to be slight, whether In terms of money, reputation, influence, or risk. Often the benefits have also been meager, but in some cases the payoff has been substantial, foreace initiativero-Western government besieged. Where the potential costs appear to outweigh the potential benefits, as in Western Europe, the Soviets simply refrain from getting involved. Given this situation, the Soviets have no reason to modify these durable and flexibleinternational developments modifyalculus. In Western Europe, for example, where the Soviets have generally kept their distance from extremist groups of all sorts, serious political instabilityountry might tempt them into an adventurous relationship with local leftist revolutionaries.

Conoeivably, even in (he absence of any external impetus, the new Soviet leadership might decide to modifyongstandingof supporting foreign political extremists (when it approves of their goals) and of opposing multilateral efforts to make terrorist activities crimes under international law. General Secretary Gorbachev lias gone on public record twice in recent months to criticize terrorism, and he has cautioned both Syria and Libya to avoid terrorist acts that might provoke the United States Moreover, the Soviets have hinted they might be willing to discuss ways in which East and West can cooperate to combat transnational terrorism. On the other hand, the opportunistic Soviet conduct during the recent confrontation between the United States and Libya is one of several indications thai, so far, the Corbachev regime is Quite like its predecessors when it comes to actions, as opposed to words.

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