Russia and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

The latest view of the assassination of President Kennedy is presented in a new book, Operation Dragon: Inside the Kremlin's Secret War on America, written by R. James Woolsey, former CIA director, 1993–95, and Ion Mihai Pacepa, former two-star general in the secret police force in communist Romania and national security adviser to President Nicolae Ceausecu.  Pacepa, who defected to the U.S. in 1978 and died on February 14, 2021, was the highest intelligence officer who defected and got asylum in the U.S. 

This new book amplifies the argument already made by Pacepa in his previous book, Programmed to Kill: Oswald, the KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination,  published in 2007, which argued that Oswald was a KGB agent.  The authors say they based their argument on the Warren Report, state that much of it was "codified" and that it has not been properly understood until their version.  The essential thrust in Operation Dragon is that the assassination was carried out by Oswald, who had been ordered by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, acting through the KBG, now the FSB.  Khrushchev, who thought JFK was inexperienced and could be manipulated, had differed with, perhaps was humiliated by, Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis, but reached an agreement on October 28, 1962 according to which the Soviet Union would remove its missiles from Cuba if the U.S. removed its missiles from Turkey.

The story in O.D. is that Oswald was recruited as a Soviet agent in 1957, when he was a Marine stationed in Japan.  He provided information that allowed the Soviet Union to shoot down the U-2 spy plane of Gary Powers in May 1960.  In 1962, Oswald was told by the KGB on behalf of Khrushchev to prepare to assassinate Kennedy.  He was trained by the KGB, but the Soviet leaders changed their mind, believing that Khrushchev had crazy ideas, and that his behavior might lead to a nuclear war, and canceled the mission.  However, Oswald went ahead on his own to carry out the assassination on what he considered a personal mission.  He had a clandestine meeting in Mexico City with Comrade Kostin, Valery Kostikov, a PGU officer of the 13th Department, the group in charge of overseas assassinations.   It is pertinent to consider that two KGB officers met a few cases before the assassination; one of them was the head of the 13th Department.  Oswald met on September 27, 1963 with the Soviet and Cuban consulates in the city.  Oswald was making plans to flee to the Soviet Union after the assassination.  In a letter of July 1, 1963, Oswald asked the Soviet Embassy for separate visas for himself and his wife and daughters, so that the family could leave for the Soviet Union before the assassination.

O.D. suggests that Warren Commission did not use much of the intelligence because they did not want to go to war with the Soviet Union and the investigation was poorly done.  The debate over Warren's conclusion that Oswald acted alone continues.   However, it is surprising that most Americans have refused to accept that conclusion.  In 2003 three quarters of Americans thought more than one man was involved, and in 2013, the number was still 61%.  It may not be a driving event in American history, but it is important in this era of Russian disinformation to examine allegations of a covert war waged by the Kremlin in the past.

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