Strategy Implications for Ongoing International Conflicts

How Soviet Intelligence Won the Vietnam War

2023 American Patriotism in Clayton, NC

From October through December 1972, U.S. B-52 bombing and U.S Navy mining of North Vietnamese principal ports brought the North Vietnamese Communists in Hanoi to their knees. This and President Nixon’s Vietnamization of the ground war beginning in 1969 had brought all but 26,000 Americans home and won the war. A peace treaty was signed in Paris on January 27, 1973. It could have been a stronger treaty had Congress not applied financial pressures to limit American actions. However, all  that was needed to maintain peace was keeping the South Vietnamese armed forces supplied. But following Nixon’s Watergate scandal and 1974 Congressional elections, Congress so limited funds to support South Vietnam’s defensive capabilities that North Vietnam, bolstered by renewed Soviet financing, launched a massive, heavily equipped invasion of South Vietnam and Cambodia in 1975. The abandonment and the fall of South Vietnam and Cambodia resulted in the deaths of 1,1 million South Vietnamese and 2.4 million Cambodians by murder, starvation, deprivation, and drowning in the South China Sea under the brutal rule of Communist regimes. We had won the war, but Congress gave the victory away with disgraceful consequences.

The Vietnam war had been a two-front war. There was the military battlefield, and there was a propaganda, psychological, and political battlefield on the home-front. France also withdrew from IndoChina in 1954, not because of the tragic Battle of Dien Bien Phu, but because the Communists had undermined public sentiment in France and the French Parliament. The path to North Vietnamese victory in 1975 was undermining public sentiment on the American home-front and thereby undermining support for the war in Congress. The Soviet Union has been gone since 1991, but the strategy of undermining public opinion and political support on all fronts has proved to be a successful strategy for both external and internal enemies of the American Republic and Western Civilization.

During the Vietnam War, the Soviet Union had two major intelligence agencies. The more famous KGB (now FSB) was mainly intelligence for interior security but included Warsaw Bloc Soviet satellites.  As did the KGB, the FSB reports directly to the President of the Russian Federation. The GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate), which is actually much larger, is responsible for foreign intelligence. The GRU reports to the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. The KGB/FSB is most comparable to the FBI. The GRU is most comparable to the CIA, except the GRU also includes Spetsnaz, special forces troops, numbering probably at least 10,000. GRU functions also have many military equivalents to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The British equivalent of KBG/FSB would be MI5, and the GRU equivalent would be MI6. The Israeli equivalent to GRU, very relevant for this article, is Mossad, highly regarded by the Soviets and now the Russians. Israeli interior security is the very low-profile Shabak. Aman is Israeli military intelligence. Both the KGB/FSB and GRU are highly selective, including high IQ standards.

Several months after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, in March 1992, GRU Colonel Stanislav Lunev, who had been posing as a journalist with the Russian TASS news agency in Washington since 1984, defected to the United States. He is, so far as is known publicly, the highest ranking GRU officer ever to defect. He is a very talented linguist, having served in China and Singapore, as well as an accomplished intelligence officer. He has since acted as a consultant to the FBI and CIA and assumed an FBI-protected identity. He has, however, published two books under his real name. The information discussed here is from his 1998 book, Through the Eyes of the Enemy.

By 1990, Col. Lunev had become disenchanted with the Soviet system, and became unhappy when President Boris Yeltsin, elected in July 1991, began to favor mafia-linked oligarchs in his desperation to save and govern Russia. About 40 percent of GRU officers had already resigned for more stable and better paying jobs. Col. Lunev was born in Leningrad (now again St. Petersburg), the son of a Soviet Army officer and war hero. He was educated mainly in military schools after age 13. He joined the Army in 1964 and was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1967.  I was an intelligence officer and Air Commando during the Vietnam War, so our military service overlaps about 5 years. My brief statistical summary of the war in this article is footnoted in my book, Lessons from the Vietnam War: Truths the Media Never Told You, 2009.

The three years Lunev spent from 1975 through 1978 in Moscow training under GRU faculty reveal some important information about the GRU and the Vietnam War.

“We spent a great deal of time studying the Vietnam War, which was considered a [North] Vietnamese victory over American imperialism. While the GRU instructors would not state it directly, they strongly implied that the GRU was responsible for the [North] Vietnamese success.”

“We studied the American armed forces. We learned the structure of the U.S. military from the lowest private to the president, as well as a detailed description of every weapon.”

“The GRU and the KGB helped to fund almost every antiwar movement and organization in America and abroad. Funding was provided by operatives or front organizations. These would [also] fund student organizations. The GRU also helped [North] Vietnam organize the propaganda campaign as a whole.”

“What will be a great surprise to the  American people is that the GRU and KGB had a bigger budget for antiwar propaganda in the United States than it did for economic and military support for the Vietnamese.” The antiwar propaganda cost the GRU {alone} more than $1 billion [evidently per year], but as history shows, it was a hugely successful campaign. The antiwar movement created an incredible momentum that greatly weakened the U.S. Military.”

Assuming the $1.0 billion is a 1975 figure, the 2023 GRU expenditure equivalent would be $5.59 billion at minimum. Moreover, based on GlobalSecurity.org comparative U.S intelligence figures for Soviet economic and military economic aid to North Vietnam, the 1975 GRU propaganda figure is an annual budget or expenditure. Hence the GRU alone was spending an average of $5.59 billion per year on propaganda and subversion in the United States. The KGB would have added some, but the GRU had the main responsibility for foreign intelligence spying, subversion, and propaganda.  

Actually, these figures are not surprising to me. I had a chance to watch and endure some of it firsthand as a graduate student at Stanford from 1969 to 1971, although Stanford anti-war disruptions were mild compared to the University of California at Berkeley and other institutions in California and on the East Coast. The largest coordinating organization was The New Mobilization Committee to End the War, whose activities were documented by the U.S. House Committee on Internal Security in a 1970 report. Another brief research book, Losing the War for U.S. Public Opinion during the Vietnam War, 2005, by Navy LCDR Marco P. Giorgi is helpful in comprehending the vast antiwar campaign of demonstrations and propaganda that gave North Vietnam and their Soviet backers a victory in the media and the U.S. Congress. According to Giorgi, the maximum Soviet and North Vietnamese propaganda effort followed the TET holiday offensive in February 1968. Here is his precise summary of the Soviet-backed propaganda and agitation strategy:

Realizing they were not likely to win on the field of battle against American forces, the North Vietnamese communists opened up a new front on American soil. The weapons were propaganda and agitation…The anti-war movement undermined public support for the Vietnam War through the mass media, the alternative press, and protests.”

The GRU efforts to dominate the U.S. peace movement also required a considerable infiltration of local and national organizations.  I have an 8-page chapter in my book, entitled “The American Front.” Also see my March 13, 2023, Times Examiner article, “Vietnam Lessons from a Two-Front War.” In addition, I recommend Louis A. Fanning’s 1976 book, Betrayal in Vietnam.

All the street demonstrations and Palestinian flags we are now seeing on our streets and campuses are an extended propaganda war against U.S foreign policy and Israel, often focused meanly on the Jews. While I think all this is unhelpful to clear thinking, actually threatening to most people’s free speech, and is reprehensible in its attack on Jews, it doesn’t mean Americans are becoming Anti-Semitic. It means someone, usually the Left, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, CAIR, the Muslim Brotherhood, or George Soros can afford to pay lots of money to demonstrators and for drumming up media focus. Soros money and organizations are even involved in overthrowing national governments in the cause of “democracy.” George Soros’ Open Society Foundations front organization, Tides Center, recently contributed over $15 million to facilitate anti-Israel, pro-Hamas, and pro-Palestinian rallies. Measured by the amount and volume of lies, it looks suspiciously like Vietnam days.

However, we must also consider that our immigration policies or lack thereof have flooded the country with far higher numbers of Muslims than in  previous decades.

My alarm at the current high levels of obvious propaganda in almost all media by no means implies that America is always right. Our history clearly shouts that we are prone to factual, analytical, and moral error.  We are not always quick to discern between good and evil or between truth and lies. NATO meddling in a Serbian ethnic, cultural, migration, and religious conflict and bombing Serbia for nearly 80 days in 1999, killing 500 civilians and 1,000 military and police, seems like despicable arrogance to me. I cannot reconcile the bloody 2014 U.S. State Department backed regime change in Ukraine and its even more horrific cost in Ukrainian blood and lives since March 2022 with a righteous cause. Moreover, the extent of outrageously false Ukrainian and pro-Ukrainian American propaganda is a hefty clue that we are not on high moral ground. The U.S is using Ukraine for its own purposes, while we are dangerously close to destroying Ukraine and “fighting to the last Ukrainian.”

Colonel Lunev has quite honestly pointed out that lies and garbage can be hugely successful in misinforming or disinforming a naïve, ignorant, or apathetic public.  Napoleon achieved fame as a general because of his innovative and ready abilities in counterattack. Those who would defend truth, beauty, and goodness in the world would do well to master the science and art of counter-propaganda as well as Napoleon mastered the tactic of counter-attack.