On 28 July 2013 Romania’s B1 TV ran a 6-hour marathon program to launch the latest literary effort by Romanian Cold War defector Ion Mihai Pacepa – Disinformation (2013), co-authored by Ronald J. Rychlak – and to praise Pacepa as a hero allegedly responsible for bringing down communism in Romania and, apparently, in Europe. (http://inregistrari.b1.ro/view-aktualitatea_rom%C3%A2neasc%C4%83-127.html, 28 July 2013)
As part of the supplementary media extravaganza Mssrs Pacepa, his interviewer Andrei Bädin, and Vladimir Tismaneanu attacked my person and my book With Friends Like These: The Soviet Bloc’s Clandestine War Against Romania (2010). Ironically, the title and central topic of the Pacepa-Rychlak volume are ideally suited for assessing their attacks against Larry Watts.
For readers who may be unfamiliar with the concept, disinformation is spurious information designed to deceive decision-makers and/or public audiences into taking action – including non-action – damaging to their interests. In the case at hand, this might refer to the misrepresentation of a source as reliable and worthy of consultation or as exactly the reverse – as a charlatan whose reports should be neither read nor considered. Since disinformation cannot withstand serious verification, every effort is made to discourage critical analysis. Even the most bizarre allegations can be sold to target audiences when disinformation is tuned to the pre-existing beliefs, suspicions, cultural prejudices or political biases of the receiver.
Most disinformation shares several characteristics. First, aside from minor details that lend it plausibility the main allegations are difficult or impossible to verify. Secondly, disinformation is difficult to trace back to its original source. Source references, when given at all, are only general and no specific citations, page numbers, or broadcast programs and times are provided. This encourages the receiver to believe that the allegation is documented while discouraging him or her from examining or verifying any specific reference. A case in point: none of the quotations that Pacepa presents as coming from his discussions with KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov, from KGB foreign intelligence chief Alexander Sakharovsky, or from Nicolae Ceausescu has any documentary basis whatsoever.
The allegations of the Pacepa-Bädin-Tismaneanu team regarding post-1963 Soviet-Romanian intelligence collaboration and their attacks against my person and my work follow this pattern exactly. They claim the existence of post-1963 collaboration against the U.S., the Vatican and Israel yet they provide no evidence or proof to back up that allegation beyond the ‘authority’ of Pacepa, insisting on what he wrote in Red Horizons. And they invent their own “Larry Watts” in order to attack assertions that I have never expressed in speech or writing, while seeking to draw unwitting U.S. personalities to join them in their campaign against assertions for which they are solely responsible. This latter tactic corresponds to a standard disinformation “game” in which conflict is incited between the target and a third party until it becomes self-sustaining, thus diverting the target’s energies and weakening its position.
Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey fell into this trap because he trusted Pacepa and therefore did not undertake due diligence in verifying Pacepa’s allegations. The same technique was used to ensnare Albert Einstein and a number of US Senators and Congressmen in unwitting support of Soviet front organizations purporting to be working on social welfare issues during the 1920s and 1930s. (www.foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/einstein.htm; New York Times, 09/02/22)
Mssrs Pacepa and Tismaneanu have sought to enlist some U.S. authority to discredit With Friends Like These since its initial publication. This was no easy task given that the book received favorable reviews from leading specialists on Romania and the Cold War in the region such as Prof. Keith Hitchens, Prof. Dennis Deletant, and Director of National Security Policy and Strategy at the US Army War College, Colonel Charles Van Bebber. (Southeastern Europe, 36 1(December 2012); Slavic and East European Review, 90 1(January 2012); Parameters, 41 3(Autumn 2011))
With Friends Like These also received endorsements from a former head of British intelligence assessment, a senior CIA analyst responsible for the Balkans, several former senior US diplomats who served in the area, and professors from both the United States and Europe. In Romania the book has been praised by Academicians, university professors, archivists, both current and former post-communist intelligence directors, defense ministers, chiefs of the general staff, etc. (for reviews and excerpts of the books see www.larrylwatts.com)
Faced with such a formidable challenge, Pacepa and company have elected to avoid the book altogether. Instead, they make an appearance of referring to the book while actually citing claims and allegations of their own manufacture. And to make those claims and allegations more credible, they impute a character and past to the author that have little or no basis in reality. Their “Larry Watts” is a disloyal American who fled the United States during the Cold War, sold his services to Romania’s communist regime, and even betrayed his country – misrepresenting me as a Pacepa in reverse. Meanwhile, Pacepa is comfortably wrapped in several layers of the American flag, writing “love letters” to the United States.
Such incredible claims can only be made believable by “framing” targets that otherwise lack any credible motivation for the imputed behavior. Vladimir Tismaneanu, for example, began insinuating that I was an adept of Stalinism and that I worked for the Securitate almost immediately after the publication of With Friends Like These, suggesting that I had “gone native” from “too much contact” with Romanian military historians prior to 1989. (Tismaneanu.wordpress.com, 28/05/11, 30/05/11, 20/12/11 and 11/05/13)
Andrei Bädin, Pacepa’s interviewer in the “major television event,” tells the rather far-fetched tale of a Larry Watts who “moved to the Romania of Ceauşescu” after “obtaining political asylum” from that regime, and then “embraced the ideals of Romanian communism” and “collaborated with the Securitate.” (Badin.ro, 18 and 19/10/13; evz.ro, 29/07/13)
Pacepa, their source of ‘reliable’ intelligence, declares that “in reality, Watts had settled in Romania during Ceauşescu’s reign and had worked for Ceauşescu’s brother, General Ilie Ceauşescu.” (Pacepa and Rychlak (2013): 340)
None of these allegations can resist even rudimentary fact-checking. My various trips to Romania were always on U.S. government or Congressionally-financed fellowship programs. Thus, I spent two years in communist Romania on a Fulbright Fellowship; a couple of months on IREX fellowships; and a couple of months on what used to be called the National Resource fellowship, for example. I never met a single member of the Ceausescu clan during that time, much less accepted employment from one.
Nor was I huddling in cozy asylum and conspiring with the Ceausescu regime during the late 1980s, as Pacepa and Bädin insist.
Leaving aside the Pacepa team’s alternate universe, in this reality, the one where individuals actually leave paper trails, I was conducting research on a Woodrow Wilson Center grant in Washington D.C., conducting research at the University of Denver in Colorado, completing doctoral work in Los Angeles, in a program run jointly by the RAND Corporation and UCLA, and working as a RAND consultant. I provided research assistance and analysis for Pentagon-ordered studies regarding the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and the Warsaw Pact. Those studies were conducted by RAND’s principal KGB expert, Jeremy Azrael, and by RAND’s various Warsaw Pact and Eastern European specialists, for example, J. F. Brown, A. Ross Johnson, John Van Oudernaren, and F. Stephen Larrabee. I also had the privilege of participating in the odd “war game” with the likes of McGeorge Bundy, Frank Fukuyama, Arnold Kantor, etc.
By 1988 Romania’s prospects seemed to me so bleak that I temporarily left it as a field of study, re-focusing my analytical attentions on the then-extraordinary evolution and liberalization of the USSR. That autumn and winter, with the aid of a RAND grant, I even spent several months in Leningrad, the Baltic republics and Moscow, actually presenting a seminar paper at what used to be called Zhdanov University in today’s St. Petersburg on “The KGB and Reform.”(See www.larrylwatts.com) Only the overthrow of Ceausescu in the revolution of December 1989, and the persuasiveness of IREX personnel, convinced me to return to the topic of Romania from my teaching post at the University of Washington in Seattle.
I have been resident in post-communist Romania at least half-time since 1991 – working on NATO integration and security sector reform and, since 2009, teaching and writing. My residence in Romania has always been on the basis of a series of temporary visas and that remains the case today. I have neither requested nor applied for Romanian citizenship. All of this is part of the documentary record that can be verified at each of the institutions mentioned.
Pacepa’s rapid-fire ability to compound untruths is impressive. In one ‘revelation,’ obviously considered by him to be the “smoking gun,” Pacepa proclaims with emphasis that the English language version of my book was published only “a year after its Romanian ‘translation’”. “Clearly,” the triumphant defector announces, “Watts’s book was first written in Romanian,” and that “proves its role as disinformation.” (Pacepa and Rychlak (2013): 340)
Once again, Pacepa’s fable crumbles when subjected to even the most superficial verification. The launch of the English edition of my book, including close-ups not only of the front and back covers but of the English language text and maps inside, has been on the internet since November 2010. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eM7T7vDf1i4, 10/11/10) It was also presented to a Romanian meeting of the Trilateral Commission at the time. The maiden launch of the first Romanian edition in May 2011, seven months later, has also been available on the internet since then. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HucNXn8TOY, 19/05/11) The English “horse” did indeed come before the Romanian “wagon”.
Such basic fact-checking is hardly rocket science. And Pacepa’s failure to bother with it while insisting that reality was exactly the reverse raises some very serious questions about other information for which his testimony is the sole source. Trotting out a series of former U.S. officials and other Americans who have been gulled by Pacepa hardly reduces this basic credibility problem.
Pacepa singles out my work in the final chapter (before the epilogue) of his Disinformation and insists that it is dedicated to discrediting him. However, With Friends Like These is over 760 pages long and Pacepa appears only on seven pages of the text, the first time only on page 550. (Watts (2010): 550-552, 554, 581-582, 660) And, in contradistinction to his practice, I do not target him with ad hominem attacks. The few brief references I do make to his past in Romania are primarily based on his own, sourced utterances and on recent discoveries by the hard-working staff at Romania’s National Council for the Study of the Security Archives. (e.g. Liviu Ţăranu, Ion Mihai Pacepa in the Securitate Files 1978-1980, CSNAS 2009)
That said, my book does detail the Soviet Bloc’s clandestine war against Romania up until 1978, on the basis of archival documents from the former Warsaw Pact members principally. And its central finding, that the independence of Romania’s communist regime was not only real but far more real and genuinely anti-Soviet than we in the West realized at the time, strikes at the heart of the Pacepa legend, so heartily supported by Mssrs Tismaneanu and Bädin.
Pacepa’s main theme remains as it always has been – that communist Romania was a Soviet Trojan horse and that none of its independence was genuine. The Pacepa team demands, on the one hand, that we dismiss all of the overwhelming documentation to the contrary that has emerged from the archives of the former Warsaw Pact states – and to ignore “the man behind the curtain,” a glimpse of whom would destroy the entire myth created by long repetition of this lie.
His bottom line is that Romania hoodwinked Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan (in his first term), along with CIA directors John McCone (1961-1965), William Raborn (1965-1966), Richard Helms (1966-1973), James Schlesinger (1973), William Colby (1973-1976), George Bush, Sr. (1976-1977), Stansfield Turner (1977-1981) and, apparently, William Casey during the first half of his tenure (1981-1987). This was highly improbable even before the post-communist avalanche of documentary evidence to the contrary from Soviet and Warsaw Pact authorities – documents that are now publicly available at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Cold War International History Project and the Parallel History Project for Cooperative Security (for example). (http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/; http://www.php.isn.ethz.ch/collections/index.cfm)
On the other hand, Pacepa throws a “curtain” of culpability over the entire Romanian state security apparatus, the various Romanian communist regimes, and Romania itself so that they might be identified with Pacepa as agencies of the KGB and Kremlin. He would have us believe that the wealth of documents now made available by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Historian and at the CIA’s Freedom of Information Act Reading Room, which illustrate the special Romanian-American relationship, are unreliable because the U.S.A. had been hoodwinked from the early 1960s until almost a decade after he arrived in the United States. (http://history.state.gov/; http://www.foia.cia.gov/)
Always an unlikely proposition, insistence upon it is now ridiculous. Not only can US intelligence reporting be compared with that from within the Warsaw Pact, but it is even possible to triangulate the documentation from the former Soviet bloc made available through official declassification and vetting processes with the impromptu East German intelligence leakage during the collapse of the German Democratic Republic, the KGB archives smuggled out by Vasiliy Mitrokhin, and the Soviet Central Committee and KGB documents remaining in the archives of the Republic of Moldova (and other former Soviet republics), which Moscow has been desperate to reclassify (without success as of this writing).