Israeli Intelligence in the Cold War

In contrary to claims about alleged Israeli espionage against the United States, one should note the tremendous contribution of the Israeli intelligence community in the form of information provided to the US of Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles

Israeli Intelligence in the Cold War

It is likely that there is no actual story in Jeffrey Stein's latest investigation in the magazine "Newsweek", in which Israel is accused in espionage activities against the US, especially in view of the fact that Israel was severely burned as a result of the Pollard affair. With regard to Pollard, the US refusal to release from prison after serving his sentence for over 28 years may indicate a lack of rationality in the approach of a few sectors in the American political establishment on this matter.

With regard to the "Newsweek" reports, its objective, as Prof. Avraham Ben Zvi estimates, is political - especiallyin order to torpedo the current initiative of the Secretary of State Kerry to exempt Israeli citizens from the requirement to obtain entry visas to the US.That to be done by labeling them as dangerous to American security interests. Moreover, he says, the new media campaign is intended to make Israel the scapegoat in American public opinion and damage the image of the Netanyahu government. This is being done not only by showing it as "opposed to peace", but also by denouncing it as a disloyal and subversive ally.

In the background lie the conventions that are prevailing in the wide world, that the alliance with the US unilaterally leans in Israel's favor. This is evident by the extensive US military aid to Israel, and in light of the political support still shown by the government and public opinion in the US against anti-Israeli initiatives of Arab states and the Palestinians. However, from time to time, some US organizations and officials, which supporting Israel is anathema to them, try to undermine it. This trend is notable recently – in light of Netanyahu's firm stand on the issue of the Iranian nuclear program and in the Palestinian issue.  Therefore, it is right to emphasize that the partnership between the US and Israel is two-way: Israel does not only receive within the framework of this alliance, but also gives.In the global perspective, Israel throughout the years stands as the "front post" of the US in the Middle East, at the heart of the Muslim-Arab world, which is hostile to Western values. Accordingly, Israel is protecting Western interests in this region, and as a result absorbs most of the fire of the clash of the Islamic civilization with the Western. In particular ,we should note the Israeli contribution to the USon the intelligence level.

The bold intelligence relations between the two countries are conducted since the 50s.The infrastructure for collaboration between the Israeli intelligence community and the CIA was placed following the success of the Mossad to obtain the secret speech of Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, to the 20th Session of the Soviet Communist Partyon February 25th 1956, which denounced Stalin's tyranny. Followinga US request, Israel published the speech in "The New York Times", and the shock that gripped the Western world in view of the crimes of Stalin, contributed to de-legitimization of the regime of the Soviet Union in the Western public sphere.

Subsequently, due to the convergence of interests between the two countries in various fields,the intelligence cooperation between them have developed and deepened. The intelligence cooperation is reflected in a concealed intelligence affair related to the time of the "Cold War" that took place between the US and the Soviet Union, in a field that was of existential significance to the Americans – the Soviet nuclear threat on their country and the survival of the entire democratic world. As is known, the severity of this threat was manifestedin the "Cuban missile crisis" in October 1962.

At the time of the"Cuban Crisis", the Soviet Union was in advanced development of intercontinental missiles with nuclear-carrying capacity (ICBM - Inter Continental Ballistic Missile). The most common Intercontinental missile in the Soviet strategic missile array in the 60s and 70s was the R-16 (designated SS-7 among the American intelligence community). The dimensions of this two-stage missile were impressive –it was over 30 m with a diameter of 3 m. Its maximum range was between 10,500 to 13,000 km (depending on the warhead weight), equipped with thermonuclear(hydrogen) warheads of between 3 to 6 megaton – which could completely destroy major cities like New York or Chicago (200 to 300 times more of the nuclear bombs the US dropped in World War II on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whose yields were 15 and 21 kiloton).

The American intelligence community during the "Cold War" had difficulty gathering intelligence on the Soviet Union, mainly until the 80s, therefore it had focused on technical means of collection, with emphasis on aerial photographs (by the U-2 aircraft and at a later satellite imagery). The great US thus failed to obtain information about the status of military nuclear capability of the Soviet Union, despite being of critical significance to its existence. On the contrary, the little Israel had succeeded.

During the second half of the '70s-early '80s, the Israeli intelligence community gave its American colleague ground-breaking and valuable information on the strategic missile forces of the Soviet Union. Based on the intelligence provided, it was possible to draw a detailed and fairly accurate picture of the structure and deployment of at least part of the strategic missile divisionsof the Soviet Army.

It seems that the major significance of the information was from a technology standpoint. It included detailed technical data of the R-16 ICBM and its operational doctrine. As stated above, this missile served as the backbone of the Soviet strategic missile force. The data that was transferred to the Americans also included a remarkable description of thermonuclear warheads of the missile. Some of the intelligence information could have been verified using aerial photographs, but there were details that were only verifiedlater, including in the Russian press. For example, the information included some verification of the rumor about the deadly tragedy occurred on 24 October 1960, in which Marshall Mitrofan Nedelin was killed (first commander of the strategic missile force), as well as about 100 crewmembers. This incident was the result of an explosion of proto-type of the R-16 missile, as it was stationed and fueled on the launch pad at the trials field in Baikonur, ready to be launched. Shortly after the incident, Soviet authorities reported that Marshall Nedelin was killed in a plane crash. Only in 1989, after nearly 30 years, the Russian magazine Ogonek exposed to the true circumstances of Nedelin's tragic death.

Indeed, the CIA agency has expressed its deepest appreciation and gratitude to the Israeli intelligence community, citing information received from it as "unique". According to a senior official at the CIA, the information received from Israel had balanced the intelligence overvaluation made by the Agency on this matter, pointing out that the strategic missile technology of the Soviet Union is less advanced than assumed until now in the CIA. According to him, the American intelligence community had so far feared, due to lack of essential information, that during the 70s the Soviet Union had made great progress in the technology field, and developed the ability to equip its missiles with MIRV-type (Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle) warheads. MIRV technology allows the missile to attack multiple targets simultaneously and is more immune from interception.As a result, this was the most significant contribution to shape the UD defense capability against a Soviet nuclear strike.

You might be interested also