excerpted from the book
America's recruitment of Nazis,
and its disastrous effect on our domestic and foreign policy
by Christopher Simpson
Collier / Macmillan, 1988
The Greek and Italian campaigns revealed something else as well:
Covert action was largely out of the control of the established
foreign policy apparatus in Washington. Although the Italian operation
had been endorsed by all the appropriate government committees,
not one of them had really known what was under way...
Secretary of State George Marshall counted on George Kennan to
make sure that obvious blunders like the Romanian affair did not
occur again. By the summer of 1948 Truman and Marshall had delegated
personal responsibility for political-oversight of all peacetime
clandestine operations to George Kennan, according to a later
Senate investigation of U.S. foreign intelligence activities.
(Control of espionage and counterintelligence, however, remained
outside the diplomat's purview.) Key members of Kennan's Policy
Planning Staff-officially a somewhat egg-headed institution dedicated
to planning U.S. strategy for ten or twenty years in the future-were
detailed to help him with this task.
Two forces, then, converged to thrust the covert operations
weapon into Kennan's hands. First, there was President Truman's
desire-strongly backed up by Secretary of Defense Forrestal-to
make use of this powerful tool in what appeared to be a deteriorating
situation in Europe. Secondly, there was the determination, especially
by Secretary of State Marshall as well as by Kennan himself, to
make sure that no one else in the U.S. government seized political
control of this prize before the State Department did.
A new stage in the American effort to use ex-Nazis began.
The early "tactical" or short-term utilization of former
Fascists and collaborators-techniques somewhat akin to the exploitation
of prisoners of war by intelligence agents-gradually came to an
end. American agencies and policymakers replaced the tactical
approach with a deeper "strategic" appreciation of the
usefulness that emigre groups might have in large-scale clandestine
operations against the USSR. The U.S. government increasingly
accepted the exiles' organizations as legitimate and began to
pour substantial amounts of money into them-at least $5 million
in 1948 alone, and probably considerably more.
The strategic thinking behind the United States tactics during
this period is best summarized in a top secret National Security
Council directive and a group of supporting policy papers which
are known collectively as NSC 20. These documents, which were
drawn up primarily by Kennan and his Policy Planning Staff (PPS),
were formally adopted by Truman's NSC in August 1948.2 They deserve
quotation at some length because they provided the basic policy
framework for U.S. clandestine operations against the Soviets,
including the use of former Nazi collaborators, for the remainder
of Truman's term.
Kennan sought, as the preamble of his policy statement states,
"to define our present peacetime objectives and our hypothetical
wartime objectives with relation to Russia, and to reduce as far
as possible the gap between them." The objectives, he writes,
were really only two:
a. To reduce the power and influence of Moscow.... b. To
bring about a basic change in the theory and practice of international
relations observed by the government in power in Russia.
Adoption of these concepts in Moscow [however] would be equivalent
to saying that it was our objective to overthrow Soviet power.
Proceeding from that point, it could be argued that this is in
turn an objective unrealizable by means short of war, and that
we are therefore admitting that our objective with respect to
the Soviet Union is eventual war and the violent overthrow of
But actual warfare is not what he had in mind. The idea, rather,
was to encourage every split and crisis inside the USSR and the
Soviet camp that could lead to the collapse of the USSR from within,
while at the same time maintaining an official stance of nonintervention
in Soviet internal affairs. "It is not our peacetime aim
to overthrow the Soviet Government," NSC 20 continued. "Admittedly,
we are aiming at the creation of circumstances and situations
which would be difficult for the present Soviet leaders to stomach,
and which they would not like. It is possible that they might
not be able, in the face of these circumstances and situations,
to retain their power in Russia. But it must be reiterated: that
is their business, not ours...."
Anti-Communist exile organizations are cited as one of the
primary vehicles for the creation of the desired domestic crisis.
"At the present time," Kennan continues, "there
are a number of interesting and powerful Russian political groupings
among the Russian exiles . . . any of which would probably be
preferable to the Soviet Government, from our standpoint, as rulers
of Russia." At the same time it is decided that both the
Soviet internal problems and the official "hands-off"
posture that the United States desires could be more effectively
achieved by promoting all the exile organizations more or less
equally rather than by sponsoring only one favored group. "We
must make a determined effort to avoid taking responsibility for
deciding who would rule Russia in the wake of a disintegration
of the Soviet regime. Our best course would be to permit all of
the exiled elements to return to Russia as rapidly as possible
and to see to it, in so far as this depends on us, that they are
all given roughly equal opportunity to establish their bids for
The policy framework for clandestine operations involving
exiles from the USSR, in short, was to encourage each of them
to attempt to seize power in his or her homeland but to attempt
to decline responsibility for having done so. Most interesting
in the present context, no distinctions were to be made in the
extension of aid to the various exile groups. The practical implication
of this decision in the world of 1948 is clear: The United States
would indeed support the veterans of the Vlasov Army, the eastern
SS collaborators, and other groups that had permitted themselves
to become pawns of Berlin during the war.
The State Department began the first known major clandestine
effort recruiting Soviet émigrés at the same time
its drafts of NSC 20 were working their way through the policy
process. This project was known as Operation Bloodstone, and it
became one of the department's most important covert projects
from 1948 until approximately 1950, when it was superseded by
similar programs under direct CIA sponsorship.
Bloodstone proved to be an open door through which scores
of leaders of Nazi collaborationist organizations thought to be
useful for political warfare in Eastern Europe entered the United
States. The project's usual cover, even in top secret correspondence,
was an innocuous effort to utilize "socialist, labor union,
intellectual, moderate right-wing groups and others" for
distribution of anti-Communist "handbills, publications,
magazines or use of . . . radio" that was secretly financed
by the U.S. government. This all was true enough.
But there was much more to Bloodstone than its cover story.
In reality, many of Bloodstone's recruits had once been Nazi collaborators
who were now being brought to the United States for use as intelligence
and covert operations experts. Some of them eventually became
U.S. agent spotters for sabotage and assassination missions. The
men and women enlisted under Bloodstone were not low-level thugs,
concentration camp guards, or brutal hoodlums, at least not in
the usual sense of those words. Quite the contrary, they were
the cream of the Nazis and collaborators, the leaders, the intelligence
specialists, and the scholars who had put their skills to work
for the Nazi cause.
Kennan's anti-communism was far more sophisticated than that of
many of his colleagues, and he wanted to use clandestine warfare
techniques carefully. He viewed as unrealistic and dangerous demands
for a quick "liberation" of Eastern Europe from Soviet
influence, which were beginning to make themselves heard from
the political right. Kennan had long been suspicious of popular
participation in the formulation of foreign policy, and he considered
U.S. Congress, for example, too mercurial, too ill informed,
and too much subject to domestic pressures to serve the country
well when it came to foreign affairs. These attitudes made him
aware of the dangerous impact that yahoo-style reaction was beginning
to have on American policy overseas. "I personally look with
some dismay and concern at many of the things we are now experiencing
in our public life," Kennan had written in the spring of
1947.'7 "In particular I deplore the hysterical sort of anti-Communism
which, it seems to me, is gaining currency in our country."
Whatever the reason, Kennan made common cause in those years
with other men who were soon to commandeer the work he had begun
and take it places the diplomat apparently never expected. NSC
10/2 failed to bring covert operations under close civilian control.
Instead, the clandestine service metastasized through the government
at an extraordinary rate. Regardless of what Kennan may have intended,
as NSC 10/2, NSC 20, and other programs he had helped design became
institutionalized, they transformed themselves into an unrelentingly
hostile effort to "roll back communism" in Eastern Europe,
an effort that eventually consumed millions of dollars, thousands
of lives, and considerable national prestige. As the political
temperature between the superpowers inevitably got more frigid,
the forces that Kennan had once ridden to power overwhelmed him
and his program. By 1950 his erstwhile allies in secret work-men
like Allen and John Foster Dulles, Paul Nitze, and Arthur Bliss
Lane-were grasping for more power and depreciating Kennan's policies
for being "soft on communism."
In the end, Kennan testified many years later, "it did
not work out at all the way I had conceived it.''