To America With Love: A Warning From a KGB Whistleblower

On a cool winter night early in the year of 1970, Russian informants reported to Delhi police that a member of their Russian Information Center at the Soviet Embassy had vanished  suddenly during a night out at the cinema with two other associates when he failed to meet them in the lobby. His colleagues claimed that their friend, described as an affable 31 year-old press officer named Yuri Bezmenov, had left them to buy his movie ticket from a scalper outside the building, but disappeared at some time during the night to never return. 

In response, the police swiftly mobilized to seal off the Delhi airport along with two major railway stations to limit Bezmenov’s movement and ensure his timely capture, unaware that they were ultimately too late — by the next morning the KGB informant, disguised in a faux beard and a string of beads, had discreetly assimilated into a crowd of hippie tourists to escape to Greece, leaving behind his wife, infant daughter, and his position as a journalist to begin another life as a renegade whistleblower. 

Bezmenov was a Russian-born Ukrainian whose father had been a high-ranking member of the Soviet Army that oversaw the activities of Soviet troops in foreign countries, particularly in Mongolia and Cuba. As a teenager, he entered the Soviet-controlled Moscow State University to pursue an education in diverse fields of history, literature, and music, while taking a keen interest in languages and Indian culture — even going so far as to transform himself through donning traditional Indian clothing on campus. His professors took interest in his seemingly innate propensity for disguise and his roleplay was encouraged by the institution, as most graduates were prepared and deployed as foreign diplomats, journalists, and secret agents of the state.

Bezmenov’s ability to transform and assimilate would be to his advantage when he settled in India from 1963-1965 as a translator and public relations officer employed by a Soviet refinery. When he was called home in 1965 he was hired as an apprentice for RIA Novosti, a propaganda machine that styled itself as an information organization that claimed the promotion of peace and understanding between nations as its noble raison d’etre. But their stated aims, as he would come to find, were a thinly veiled smokescreen to conceal their activities happening behind closed doors, and that nearly three-quarters of the employees were actually members of the KGB. Bezmenov served as an informer in addition to his role as a Novosti journalist and was tasked with using his position to gather information from foreign countries while also disseminating disinformation for the purpose of infiltration and expanding the communist sphere of influence throughout the country. With his knowledge of Indian culture, Bezmenov was stationed as a press officer at the Soviet embassy in New Delhi, where he relayed useful information on the political climate of the country. During this time, he  began to develop a sympathetic affinity for India and its people and became increasingly disenchanted by the merciless tactics of the Soviet Union to expand its reach around the globe. 

After escaping to Greece the news of his alleged defection spread throughout the Western world, with the US describing him in reports as a suspected KGB agent. However, he was undeterred in his efforts to seek asylum there and after some interrogation by the CIA, was granted refuge in Canada in the early 70s; he would later relocate to Los Angeles during the 80s as a freelance journalist. Having finally found his freedom, he would go on to give lectures on his career as a Soviet agent and the tactics employed by the KGB, warning Americans of an insidious and ever-present communist threat that sought to subvert them. The right-wing author and conspiracy theorist, G. Edward Griffin, took interest in Bezmenov’s claims of Soviet infiltration around the world and extended him an invitation to meet, in which Bezmenov would give an interview titled ‘Soviet Subversion of the Free World Press”, in which he described his life as the son of a KGB officer, his role at the Novosti Press Agency, and his later escape to the West. But perhaps the most interesting information from the interview was his outline , described further in his essay “Love Letter to America”, of an alleged 4-step process that would be used as a means of subverting the political system in the USA to install a communist regime — not through infiltration or violent overthrow, but through a subtle process of psychological warfare and ideological capture. These steps, according to Bezmenov, were part of of a process to “change the perception of reality in the minds of millions” and are outlined below:

  1. Demoralization: Bezmenov claims that this is the most time-intensive step in the process, but one that he believed was already well underway (if not fully complete) in America. Demoralization involved an ideological infiltration of communist ideas into the public, mainly through the platforms of academia and the mainstream media in which communist propaganda would be unchallenged by a counterbalance of traditional American values, thus creating an echo chamber. It would take 15-20 years to be realized, or roughly the amount of time needed to indoctrinate a generation, making them unquestionably sympathetic to the communist cause. In this way younger, dogmatic and supposedly “enlightened” generations would be pitted against their elders and foment distrust or disdain within family units, thus leading people to fill the void by transferring familial loyalty to that of the State. Bezmenov claimed that this re-education of the masses was already well underway and cited the 60s hippie generation as an example of a generation that had been infiltrated by Marxist values, and then came to power in the 80s to introduce these ideas to the mainstream. Bezmenov claims these ‘useful idiots’, after suffering disillusionment with the system they helped to put in place, will likely become bitter enemies of the new regime and be quickly disposed of.
  2. Destabilization: In this step, the subversion process would switch from a focus on institutions such as academia and the press to the economy, military, and foreign relations, and would take 2-5 years. The newly formed, indoctrinated generation will rise to occupy important positions in the government, supported by academia and the press as their subversive arm. The government would begin interfering in the economy, transforming it into a massive welfare state to placate the demoralized masses with promises of government-funded goodies, such as centralized healthcare, under the guise of creating an equitable “Utopia”. The police would also become increasingly militarized to deal with potential regime defectors.
  3. Crisis: The briefest step, taking about 2-6 months to complete, involves a stage of crisis or political upheaval meant to provoke panic and division among citizens, and often precedes a sudden or revolutionary shift of power. In America, Bezmenov claimed that this process would likely lead to the rise of sleeper agents with unlimited “emergency powers”, martial law, altering the checks and balances between government branches, and changes to or disregard of the Constitution. Changes to the economy would begin to resemble that of the Soviet Union, with a destructive shrinking of the private sector through the nationalization of important industries. 
  4. Normalization — Finally, the subversion process would end with an indefinite state of normalization in which citizens acquiesce to the new regime change and habituate to the communist lifestyle with minimal and harshly punished resistance. “The vanquished state,” says Bezmenov, referring to the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia, “is brought by force into the normal state of socialism; namely, subjugation.”

Bezmenov spent his later years as a teacher of International Relations at the University of Windsor, Canada and wrote prolifically about his former life as a Russian press agent and his insights into communist propaganda and subversion tactics. He died in 1993 from a heart attack induced by his alcoholism, leaving behind a mostly forgotten — but perhaps significant — legacy as a Soviet defector and author, sometimes writing under the alias Tomas Schuman. Yuri, and his message to America, has been recently resurrected in the popular video game franchise Call of Duty, making a brief and potentially purposeful appearance in the trailer for Black Ops Cold War. As Bezmenov’s message resurfaces two decades after his death, the question still remains: was he sincere in his plea to the American citizens he claimed to love, or is his defection and lax ability to freely disseminate information to us, his audience, suggestive that he was himself an agent of subversion? Or did he capitalize on Cold War tensions, offering up fabrications and disinformation in exchange for asylum in an enemy nation?

Whatever his intentions, he ultimately left the choice to those who listen to him.

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