Yuri Andropov, Part III
As Yuri Andropov was moving up the ladder at the Kremlin in
the late 1970s, he was the first to identify Mikhail Gorbachev as a
future member of the Soviet elite. In 1978, Gorbachev was
summoned to Moscow to become Central Committee secretary
for agriculture. And Andropov never stopped campaigning for
But, of course, Yuri had his own ambitions. And he also
continued to do his part, as leader of the KGB, to foment racial
tension in the U.S. In 1980 before the Los Angeles Olympic
Games, the KGB sent out bogus communications from the KKK
to the Olympic Committees of African and Asian countries. They
said in part that, "We are preparing for the Olympic Games by
shooting at black moving targets." Luckily, the campaign was
November of 1980 brought the election of Ronald Reagan. The
Soviet Union was afraid of him and they were anxious to gain
intelligence. In early 1981, a report went to Andropov of a
dinner at the White House, just a few months after Reagan had
"Though Reagan seemed to be acting the role of President, he
played the part with genuine emotion...played to perfection the
role of ''father of the nation,'' a great leader who had kept his
humanity, a sense of humor and the common touch." But
Communist Party Secretary Leonid Brezhnev was to denounce
Reagan''s policies as a serious threat to world peace.
In the early years of the Reagan presidency, the KGB view was
that the new president was planning a nuclear first strike.
Andropov became increasingly willing, to use, or connive in the
use of, terrorism against U.S. and NATO targets. East Germany
became the haven for terrorist groups, like W. Germany''s Red
On November 10, 1982, Brezhnev died. A few days later Yuri
Andropov became General Secretary. Yuri chose to retain full
control over the KGB and his most frequent visitors were senior
KGB officers. And his first statement for Western consumption
as Soviet leader was, "We know very well that peace cannot be
obtained from the imperialists by begging for it. It can be upheld
only by relying on the invincible might of the Soviet armed
Former Soviet ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Dobrynin, says
that, "Andropov did not favor confrontation with the U.S., but he
believed Reagan to be a dangerous individual whose actions
might trigger a military conflict between us."
On the domestic front, Andropov continued his hard line against
political dissidence (as outlined in Parts I and II). He also placed
an emphasis on law and order, even for solving the economic
crisis, with the explanation that "good order does not require any
capital investment whatever, but can produce great results." He
waged a vigorous campaign against corruption and replaced a
quarter of the ministers and secretaries in a desperate attempt to
revitalize the system. And Yuri was at least honest in
acknowledging the widespread inefficiency and corruption in
Soviet economic policy and government.
Author David Remnick writes that Andropov "believed that the
first step toward an efficient, working socialism was to eliminate
cheating, looting and double-dealing in the workplace and the
But Andropov himself was profoundly corrupt. Reformer
Alexander Yakovlev once said, "In a way I thought Andropov
was the most dangerous of all of them, simply because he was
smarter than the rest." In his cleanup of the Party, he ordered the
arrests of some of the most obvious Party and police Mafiosi.
Some of them were frightened so bad by Yuri they killed
Meanwhile, there was little contact between Andropov and
Reagan. The big issues of the day by 1983 were NATO''s
deployment of intermediate missiles in Western Europe and
Reagan''s Star Wars missile defense plan. Andropov warned
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl against accepting the Pershing
II missiles on German soil.
"The military threat for West Germany will grow manifold.
Relations between our two countries will be bound to suffer
certain complications as well. (East and West Germany) would
look at one another through thick palisades of missiles."
And in the fall of 1983, tensions heated up considerably over the
shoot-down of South Korean Airlines (KAL) flight 007, killing
269. The flight had strayed onto Soviet territory and the distrust
between the U.S. and Soviet Union was palpable. While it has
never been proven what really happened that night, the Soviets
felt they had legitimate concerns that Reagan had ordered the
flight to purposefully fly over Soviet territory on its way to Seoul
in order to test the Russian defense system. Andropov deemed
KAL 007 a reconnaissance flight. Ronald Reagan used the
incident as just another example of the "Evil Empire."
The Soviet leadership never apologized. Margaret Thatcher
wrote in her memoirs of the time and Andropov.
"Not just the callousness but the incompetence of the Soviet
regime, which could not even bring itself to apologize, was
Back then, the KGB had tried to spread the story that Andropov
was a different kind of Soviet leader. With KAL 007 Thatcher
concluded, "The foolish talk, based on a combination of Western
wishful thinking and Soviet disinformation, about the
cosmopolitan, open-minded, cultured Mr. Andropov as a Soviet
leader who would make the world a safer place was silenced."
In just a few months, however, it was all academic. Andropov
had never been in good health when he took over from Brezhnev
and he died on February 9, 1984, after just 15 months in power.
At the time of Brezhnev''s death in 1982, Gorbachev was the
youngest member of the Politboro, but not quite in direct line of
succession. Although Andropov favored Gorby as his own
successor, the old men in the Politboro elected the mummy,
Konstantin Chernenko. He only lasted one year and then
Gorbachev took over.
As I researched this little series on Yuri Andropov, the parallels
between him and new Russian President Vladimir Putin are quite
apparent. I have already told you how Putin publicly wishes to
emulate Andropov. There are already many signs that Putin is
carrying out an Andropov type program. The big question is will
he be able to make a dent in the massive corruption that plagues
all facets of Russian life and, if so, what instruments does he use
to accomplish this. And secondly, will he bring in his old KGB
buddies to occupy the highest cabinet positions.
David Remnick once asked an army major in the early 1990s to
speak of the future. "There will be a dictatorship soon...it won''t
be the Communist Party organs, it will be the real organs - the
KGB. They will try to develop the economy, but there will be a
strict discipline." That''s exactly what Putin wants to do. How
far he goes will determine the future path of U.S. / Russian
relations. We may not like what we see. Certainly, Yuri
Andropov was no angel.
Sources: "The Sword and the Shield," Christopher Andrew and
"In Confidence," Anatoly Dobrynin
"Lenin''s Tomb," David Remnick
"Russia: A History," Gregory Freeze
"Diplomacy," Henry Kissinger
"Margaret Thatcher: The Downing Street Years,"