On December 25, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev, having weathered a dramatic coup attempt earlier that year, resigned the presidency of the Soviet Union, bringing to an end that nation's existence. But for nearly half a century the Soviet Union, with its substantial military forces, represented the primary security concern of the United States, and the most important single target for U.S. intelligence collection.
The Soviet Estimate: U.S. Analysis of the Soviet Union, 1947- 1991, publishes together for the first time the highest-level U.S. intelligence assessments of the Soviet Union, cross- indexed for maximum use. This set reproduces on microfiche more than 600 intelligence estimates and reports, representing nearly 14,000 pages of documentation from the office of the Director of Central Intelligence, the National Intelligence Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and other organizations. The set includes several hundred pages of debriefing transcripts and other documentation related to Colonel Oleg Penkovskii, the most important human source operated by the CIA during the Cold War, who later was charged with treason and executed by the Soviet Union. Also published here for the first time is the Pentagon's Top Secret 1,000-page internal history of the United States-Soviet Union arms race.
The Soviet Estimate presents the definitive secret history of the Cold War, drawn from many sources: the hundreds of documents released by the CIA to the National Archives in December 1994, comprising the most important source of documents for the set, including intelligence estimates from 1946 to 1984; documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the Pentagon, the CIA, the DIA, State Department, Pacific Command, and other agencies; and documents obtained from the National Archives and from various presidential libraries. The result of this effort is the most extensive and authoritative collection of declassified primary-source materials documenting the intelligence community's effort to gather information on Soviet foreign policy, nuclear weapons, military policy and capabilities, weapons systems, the economy, science and technology, and the Soviet domestic political situation.
The Soviet Estimate provides a wealth of information and documentation on key intelligence issues, including:
The Soviet Union was the major concern of U.S. national security decisionmakers for more than 40 years, and represented the most important single target of all U.S. intelligence collection efforts. The ultimate policies adopted by the U.S. during the Cold War were the result of many factors, not the least of which was an understanding of Soviet objectives and capabilities, shaped and influenced by the intelligence reports included in this set.
Until recently scholars have had to address issues such as the performance of U.S. intelligence analysis with respect to the Soviet Union or the impact of intelligence on policy without access to most of the key documents. Prior to December 1994, all of the National Intelligence Estimates related to the birth and death of the so-called "missile gap" were classified; scholars were often forced to rely either on other government documents that reproduced some of the information in estimates (for example, Department of Defense posture statements), or unofficial sources. The Soviet Estimate, with its diverse sources, permits scholars direct reference to the primary documents used in formulating much Cold War policy.
It would take an enormous effort, and many thousands of dollars, to duplicate the information contained in this collection. The Soviet Estimate allows a researcher-- whether interested in the Soviet military, the Soviet economy, or Soviet internal politics--to use one source at one location to access the thousands of pages of declassified U.S. intelligence documents on the Soviet Union.
Through The Soviet Estimate the researcher gains access to a wide variety of documents, including National Intelligence Estimates, Special National Intelligence Estimates, National Intelligence Council memoranda, interagency intelligence studies, Defense Intelligence Estimates, and intelligence reports produced by DIA, military service, and unified command intelligence organizations.
Among the specific areas covered in the collection are:
The National Security Archive prepares extensive printed finding aids for its collections. In-depth indexing offers users remarkable ease and precision of access to every document in the set. The printed Index provides document- level access to subjects, individuals, and organizations, and represents a major historical contribution itself. Important transactions within each document are indexed individually using a controlled subjects vocabulary.
The Guide includes an events chronology, glossaries of key individuals and organizations, chronological document catalog, and a bibliography of relevant secondary sources.
With its depth of documentary detail and balance of perspectives, this collection enables researchers to explore in greater detail:
Founded in 1985, the National Security Archive has developed a reputation as the most prolific and successful nonprofit user of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Through its FOIA expertise, the Archive has built what the Christian Science Monitor called "the largest collection of contemporary declassified national security information outside the United States government." Located at The George Washington University, the Archive serves librarians, scholars, journalists, members of Congress, policymakers, public interest groups, and the general public. Foundation grants and publication royalties underwrite the Archive's budget.
The Archive's editorial process focuses on high-level policy-making and implementation, with special attention to inter-agency decisionmaking processes. Archive analysts target all U.S. government documents used by policymakers during the period covered by the collection, as well as other significant materials of direct relevance to the subject.
This research establishes a roadmap for future scholarship and "freezes" the documentary record with official requests for declassification before normal governmental document destruction process can diminish the historical record. The result is an "unusual" series of publications, as Microform Review noted, which make available documents "from the twilight zone between currently released government information, and normal declassification" periods.
Accompanied by highly sophisticated item-level catalogs, indexes, and other finding aids--which Government Publications Review hailed as "gold mines in and of themselves"--the Archive's collections, according to the Washington Journalism Review, constitute "a 'Nexis' of national security . . . [a] state-of-the-art index to history."
"The National Security Archive has performed a valuable service by compiling the most extensive and authoritative file of declassifed, official U.S. National Intelligence Estimates on the Soviet Union. The compilation The Soviet Estimate is a gold mine for analyzing Soviet developments on the Cold War, and no less important, contemporary American intelligence assessments of those developments. With the benefit of hindsight and new information, the validity of those estimates can be studied, and their impact on U.S. policy and the Cold War evaluated. "
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Program, Brookings Institution, former U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria, veteran of the U.S. Department of State and Central Intelligence Agency, and author of many publications, including Deterrence and the Revolution in Soviet Military Doctrine (1990), The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War (1994), and Détente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan (1994).
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