Now that, courtesy of President Trump, some archival data on the Kennedy assassination have been declassified, interesting documents are coming to light.
Some of them were published in The New York Times on 26 October, and I have the Russian journalist Piontkovsky to thank for bringing the article to my attention.
Those who are constantly on alert for conspiracy theories needn’t worry. Yes, the uncovered documents confirm what any Russian (or anyone who really understands Russia, which in practice means, well, a Russian) knows anyway, that Oswald was a KGB agent. But no, they don’t prove that killing Kennedy was his assignment.
The documents prove the existence of only one conspiracy: that of staggering ignorance on the part of Western intelligence services and their academic consultants when it comes to Russia – in her Soviet or post-Soviet incarnations.
They may know the facts, but they typically don’t have a clue how to interpret them, including those in the public domain. For any Russian, the whole Oswald story smells fishier than Billingsgate first thing in the morning.
In 1959 Oswald, a young American left-winger, emigrated to the Soviet Union in search of millenarian happiness. So far so good – quite a few Western ‘idealists’ were tropistically attracted to the land of concentration camps.
However, and here Oswald’s story again follows a familiar pattern, by 1962 he realised that millenarian happiness was too elusive. So much so that even Oswald, a man of limited intellect, realised it might not exist.
Unlike Adam, he wanted to leave the paradise of his own accord, of which desire he informed the KGB. Nothing earth shattering there: the KGB supervised Oswald’s stay.
At this point the official story becomes less credible. For the KGB magnanimously allowed Oswald to leave, even at the risk of the Americans squeezing a lot of propaganda value out of the incident.
Such generosity wasn’t completely out of the question, but it was unlikely. At that time, thousands of Americans, some former ‘idealists’ like Oswald, some POWs stuck in Eastern Europe at the end of the war, some kidnap victims, were languishing in Soviet concentration camps or in exile.
They were desperately trying to return home, but to no avail – partly because the State Department wasn’t really interested. The peace process had to survive at any cost, didn’t it?
But fine, Oswald got lucky. The doors of the paradise were flung open, and he was ready to leave. What follows crosses the fine line separating unlikely from impossible.
For this Adam had his Eve, a model Soviet citizen called Marina Prusakova. Lee and Marina fell in love, got married and wanted to leave together. And the KGB let them.
Now anybody who lived in the USSR at that time will tell you that this is neither unlikely nor improbable – it’s utterly impossible. As a rule, Westerners married to Russian women could never get them out. In those few instances when they could, it took the man many years of banging on every door and finally getting the support of his government to see his beloved again.
Yet here we have, for all intents and purposes, an American traitor to the Soviet paradise, who’s not only allowed to leave but gets the divine dispensation to take his wife with him. This could only be possible if the happy couple – or at least Oswald – had been recruited as KGB agents.
On 26 September, 1963 (Kennedy was shot on 22 November), Oswald travelled to Mexico City, where he met officials of the Soviet embassy – this much is known.
However, the newly declassified documents identify his contact there: Valery Kostikov, of the KGB Thirteenth Chief Directorate, responsible for assassinations and sabotage. At first, Kostikov, the Directorate’s principal officer in the Western hemisphere, talked to Oswald in the presence of two other Russians, then for the next 20 minutes on his own.
What did they talk about? Mexican food? We don’t know. So far there’s no proof that the KGB told Oswald to shoot Kennedy, and we should deal with facts, not conjecture.
One such fact is that less than two months later Oswald did shoot Kennedy, and the Russians quaked in their knee-high boots, thinking that a friendly visit from SAC (US Strategic Air Command) was imminent.
The last thing they wanted was to be in any way implicated in the assassination. And here we’re treated to another declassified document that puts to shame the Brothers Grimm, Hans-Christian Andersen and all other spinners of fairy tales.
On 4 December, 1963, a CIA agent in Moscow submitted a report based on “reliable information” from “a highly placed source”. US intelligence services accepted this information as authentic – which would have been risible to any Russian child at the time:
“A source who has furnished reliable information in the past advised on Dec. 4, 1963 that the news of the assassination was greeted in Moscow by great shock and consternation and church bells were toiled in the memory of President Kennedy. According to our source, officials of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union believed there was some well-organized conspiracy on the part of the ‘ultralight’ in the US to effect a ‘coup’.”
He meant ‘tolled’, not ‘toiled’, and ‘ultra-right’, not ‘ultralight’, but never mind the language. Feel the lies.
The Soviet Union was a militantly atheist country. Churches there were razed or converted to warehouses. One anti-religion campaign followed another, and in fact one such was at its peak in 1963.
Only 38 churches were still open in Moscow, a city of seven million people – and their bells never tolled (take it from me, I was 16 at the time). That church bells would toll for Kennedy would have been as likely as Khrushchev ending one of his interminable speeches by crossing himself and saying “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”.
Any CIA analyst, in fact any halfway educated person, should have instantly identified the source of the “reliable information”: the KGB First Chief Directorate, responsible for disinformation.
That art involves telling the enemy what he wants to hear and therefore is likely to believe. Westerners, Americans in particular, have always wanted to believe that at heart the Russians are just like them. At the time, many Americans were religious, and hence even their Russian experts were ready to swallow the canard of those bells ‘toiling’ all over Moscow.
Just as now they’re eagerly swallowing the canard of the veteran of the same First Chief Directorate leading Russia on a path to Christian virtue. It’s the same bells, ‘toiling’ just as deafeningly.