The GRU and the KGB
The working methods of the GRU and the KGB are absolutely identical. It is impossible to tell their signatures apart. But their functions differ essentially one from the other. The basic function of the KGB may be expressed in one guiding phrase, not to allow the collapse of the Soviet Union from inside. Every specific function stems from this. To enumerate some of those functions: the protection of communist VIPs; the suppression of any clashes or dissent among the population; the carrying out of censorship and disinformation; the prohibition of any contact between the people and the outside world - including the isolation of foreign visitors - and the cutting off of any contacts already established with them; and the guarding of frontiers (there are ten districts of KGB frontier forces). The KGB also acts overseas but its activities rotate around the same main axis - to prevent the collapse of the USSR from within. This task can be divided in the same way into its parts: the struggle with emigration and efforts to diminish its influence on the internal life of the Soviet Union; the struggle with Western radio stations broadcasting to the Soviet Union and other means of mass information which give a correct picture of the situation 'within the state of workers and peasants'; the struggle with religious organisations which might exert influence on the Soviet population; observing the 'fraternal' communist parties with the aim of nipping in the bud any heresy which might emerge from them; the surveillance of all Soviet citizens abroad, including KGB officers themselves; the seeking out and destruction of the most active opponents of the communist regime. The KGB also has other functions, but these are all either a part of the main function or not of prime importance.
The function of the GRU may also be stated in one parallel, but quite different phrase: to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union from an external blow. In the opinion of the general staff such a blow may be struck at the Soviet Union in peace-time, even in the course of routine Soviet military adventures in Asia, Africa or Europe. This, the most important function of the GRU, is undertaken on four fronts. On the military front, literally everything is of interest to the GRU. Of prime importance, of course, are the composition, quantity and deployment of the armed forces of all countries of the world; the plans and thinking of the military leadership and staffs; mobilisation plans in case of war; the type and direction of military training of forces; the organisation of forces; the means of supply; morale and so on. Of prime importance on the military- political front are the relations between the different countries of the world: overt and covert disagreements; possible changes in political and military leadership of military and economic blocs; new alliances; any, even the slightest, change in the political and military orientation of armies, governments, countries and whole blocs and alliances. On the military- technologica front the GRU handles intelligence related to the development of new kinds of armaments and military technique in the countries of a probable enemy; the carrying out of trials and tests; new technological processes which might be utilised for military ends. And the military-economic front presents exceptional interest for the GRU. First and foremost it is fascinated by the capacity of such and such a state or group of states to produce modern types of weapons, but it is also extremely keen to learn about industrial potential, energy, transport, agriculture, the presence of strategic reserves, vulnerable areas of economy, and energy. The general staff considers that if the GRU can give accurate information in good time from every country in the world on these four fronts, then it can count it impossible to destroy the Soviet Union by means of a blow from outside.
In many instances the interests of the KGB and the GRU are diametrically different. For example, a demonstration of White Russian emigres is of absolutely no interest to the GRU, but an object of the greatest possible interest to the KGB. And vice-versa: no military exercises are of any interest to the KGB residents, but they are of great interest to GRU residents. Even in those fields where the GRU and the KGB have what would seem to be interests in common, for example in politics, their approach to a particular problem would differ in essence. For example, the personality of President Carter from the very beginning provoked almost no interest from the side of the GRU, for on the most superficial possible examination of the President's personality the GRU infallibly decided that he would never be the first to carry out a pre-emptive strike against the Soviet Union. But that same man, from the point of view of the KGB, appears to be the most dangerous opponent possible, because his human rights policies are a weapon which could destroy the Soviet Union from within. In another case, the GRU displayed exceptional interest in the changes of personnel in the Chinese political and military leadership. For the KGB this question posed practically no interest at all. The KGB very well knows that after sixty years of communist power the Soviet population will not be in the least interested in any communist ideology from China or Korea or Yugoslavia; it is also quite convinced that not one defector from the Soviet Union will ever seek refuge in China. China is, for the KGB, almost an empty place.
In examining mutual relations between the GRU and the KGB we have to return to the question of the GRU's dependence on the KGB. In the chapter on history we endeavoured to show the character of these mutual relations in the past. The same mutual relations have been preserved up to the present day. The GRU and the KGB are ready at any moment to destroy each other. Between them exist exactly those mutual relations which perfectly suit the Party. The jealousy and mutual hatred between the GRU and KGB are familiar to the police of every country where the Soviet Union has an embassy, and it is precisely this enmity, noticeable even to 'unarmed eyes', which provides proof of the independence of the GRU.
If the fate or career of a GRU resident were to depend even slightly on his colleague from the KGB, he would never in his life dare to differ with, still less quarrel or brawl with, the Tchekists: he would be like a cowed lap-dog with his tail between his legs, not even daring to bark for the lady of the house, like the 'clean' diplomats in all Soviet embassies. But officers of the GRU do not do this. They have guarantees of their independence and invulnerability from the KGB. Some specialists are inclined to consider the GRU as a branch of the KGB, usually adducing in defence of this opinion two arguments. Firstly, they say that the chief of the GRU is always a former KGB general, but this has always been the case, beginning with Aralov, and has never prevented the GRU from actively opposing the efforts of the KGB to swallow it, and even sometimes on the order of the Party striking the Tchekists sudden and heavy blows. The second argument is that everybody joining the GRU has to be vetted by the KGB. This argument appears convincing only at a first glance. The fact is that ea«jh new official of the Central Committee of the Party also undergoes the same vetting by the KGB, but it certainly does not follow this that the Central Committee is under the control of the KGB or is a branch of the KGB. Both the Central Committee and the GRU select for themselves the people necessary to them, and in this connection consult the KGB, for any person until he becomes a Central Committee official or joins the GRU is under the control of the KGB and possibly the KGB may have some unfavourable information on a given person. The KGB in this case plays the part of a filter. But once having passed this person through its filter the KGB no longer has the right to interfere with him, either inside the Central Committee or inside the GRU. The KGB is like a guard at the gate of a secret installation. The guard may refuse entry to an engineer who has forgotten his pass at home, but he has no right to examine the contents of that engineer's safe. If it so desires, the KGB may, of course, discredit any unwanted official of the GRU or the Central Committee. However, this is fraught with potential reciprocal measures.
There exists still another irrefutable indicator of the independence of the GRU from the KGB. In the GRU there is no 'special department'. The security of the GRU is assured by its own forces, and always has been. The Party is very keen that this should continue, because it knows that if the KGB were to organise its own 'special department' in the GRU, a similar department would swiftly be introduced into the Politburo.
To illustrate the uneasy peace and the paradox of the independence that exists within the triangle of Party - KGB - GRU, let us consider a real confrontation. The working day of the GRU chief usually begins at seven o'clock in the morning, sometimes earlier. At that time he personally reads all telegrams which have come during the night from illegals, from undercover residencies, and from the intelligence directorates of military districts, groups of forces and of the fleet intelligence. In the next-door office, the first deputy to the GRU chief and the chief of information of the GRU are doing the same thing. If any questions have been raised by any of the higher commanders, from the chief of the general staff upwards, their opinions will be heard separately, independent from the opinions of the GRU chief.
This day began for the GRU leadership at the unusually early hour of 3.30 in the morning, when it was informed by the command point that the aircraft from Paris had landed at the central airport and taxied up to the GRU building. The day before, at Le Bourget airport, the Soviet supersonic passenger aircraft Tupolev TU144 had crashed. The whole of the Paris residency had been at the show and the majority had had cine cameras. The moment of catastrophe had been photographed from different points by different officers, and the GRU had at its disposal no fewer then twenty films showing the same moment. The films had not been developed in Paris but brought straight to Moscow. Now the operational technological institute of the GRU would develop them immediately. At nine o'clock in the morning the Politburo session was to begin, at which they would hear evidence from Tupolev, his deputies, the minister of aviation production, the director of the Voronesh aviation factory, directors of subsidiary concerns, test pilots and of course the GRU and the KGB. But at seven, the telephone rang and it was Andropov, at the time head of the KGB. 'Peter Ivanovitch, how are you?'
Peter Ivanovitch Ivashutin (present chief of the GRU) did not hasten to match the friendly tone. 'Well. How are you, comrade Andropov?'
'Peter Ivanovitch, don't be so official. Have you forgotten my name? Peter Ivanovitch, there is something I want to talk to you about. I hear you have got some films showing the catastrophe.' Peter Ivanovitch said nothing. 'Peter Ivanovitch, would you be very kind and give me just one little film? You know yourself that I have to make a report to the Politburo but I have no material. These shows are not of great interest to my chaps and unfortunately not one of them was there with a cine camera. Help me to get out of this mess. I need that film about the catastrophe.'
All service telephone calls to the GRU chief are relayed through the GRU command point. The duty shift of operators is always in readiness to prompt their chief with a necessary figure or fact, or to help him over a mistake in conversation. At this point the entire duty shift was frozen to the spot. Their help was not called for at all. The GRU chief remained silent for some time. The duty operators were quite certain that in a similar situation, the KGB would undoubtedly refuse if the GRU asked for its help. But what would be the decision of the GRU chief, an ex-colonel-general of the KGB and ex-deputy chairman of the KGB? Finally, in friendly, even tones he answered Andropov.
'Yuri Vladimirovich, I won't give you one film, I'll give you all twenty. Only I will show them at nine o'clock in the Politburo, and at ten o'clock I'll send my chaps over to the Central Committee to give you all the films.'
Andropov angrily slammed down the receiver. A concerted roar of laughter shook the walls of the underground command point. The senior operator, choking with laughter, entered the conversation in the log book.
(After Andropov became General Secretary of the Communist Party and Soviet Leader, Ivashutin still survived as GRU chief, because any attack from Andropov could easily have upset the fragile Party-Army balance with unpredictable consequences for Andropov himself.)