My best job at CIA was conducting the one-on-one early morning briefings of The President’s Daily Brief and updating it with Vice President George H. W. Bush, Secretary of State George Shultz, and Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger during President Ronald Reagan’s first term – 1981-85. (The president preferred to sleep in, and would usually be briefed later in the morning by the above, plus his national security adviser.)
This was the time when Mikhail Gorbachev was coming into prominence – eventually becoming head of the Communist Party and President of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev had been virtually unknown, so it was easy for Weinberger, CIA Director William Casey and his protégé Robert Gates to paint Gorbachev as simply another Commie – just a more polished, clever one – and assure Reagan that the Soviet Communist Party would NEVER change: nor would it EVER EVER give up power peacefully.
I found myself in a unique position to critique that benighted attitude by providing my own views (citing concrete evidence), though only, of course, when asked to by the people I was briefing.
Teflon-coated Robert Gates, whom some folks still look up to, has not changed. In his book, Duty, he responded dismissively to those warning that Russia would be alarmed by the emplacement of offensive missiles in places like Romania, Poland, and the Black Sea: “Making the Russians happy wasn’t exactly on my to-do list.” So here we are today with “unprovoked” war in Ukraine.
During my interview with RT International last evening, I could not resist the temptation to record my brief meeting with Gorbachev when Gates’s name came up. Our until-then cordial conversation ended abruptly as Gorbachev’s face turned cold. “привет ему” (give him a greeting), Gorbachev said. He had been on record, long since, as deeming Gates a major impediment to decent relations between Washington and Moscow. For all we know, Gates may still have the ear of neophytes like Jake Sullivan and Antony Blinken.
This originally appeared at RayMcGovern.com.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His 27-year career as a CIA analyst includes serving as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).