The Moscow-oriented communists also availed themselves of the Christian Peace Conference (CPC), another important communist front organization which sought to manipulate Christian churches and the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva. I visited their headquarters in Prague and personally witnessed how CPC representatives took decidedly pro-Soviet positions at numerous ecumenical meetings in Eastern and Western Europe as well as in Africa (Kenia), North and Latin America (1973-1987). The CPC was also very active in the Netherlands and in East and West Germany. Additionally, they were siding with the Palestinians.
The CPC was dominated by the Soviet-controlled Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) which became a member of the WCC in 1961. A supportive role was played by the former KGB, the Soviet intelligence and security service during the Cold War.
Through the CPC and the Russian Orthodox Church the Soviets manipulated the debate in ecumenical circles and the peace movement. Soviet agents helped to draft policy statements on international affairs at annual WCC Central Committee meetings and at so-called “WCC Assemblies.” I covered these meetings and Assembies for the Dutch press (notably EO Radio/TV, TV magazine “Visie,” Reformatorisch Dagblad, Nederlands Dagblad), Freedom House in New York, Conflict Quarterly (University of New Brunswick, Canada) and “Militaire Spectator” (Ministry of Defence, The Hague).
Highly successful KGB agents
Two Soviet KGB agents in the WCC were later identified by KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin. They were Aleksei Buyevsky (“agent Kuznetsov”) and metropolitan Nikodim (“agent Adamant”). Nikodim became one of the WCC’s six presidents at the Nairoby Assembly in December 1975. (I was there myself, by the way.)
Vasili Mitrokhin, who supervised the transfer of the First Chief Directorate’s archive from the Lubyanka to the new KGB headquarters at Yesenovo, defected to the United Kingdom in 1992. This First Chief Directorate was responsible for the KGB’s foreign operations and intelligence activities. Mitrokhin and Christopher Andrew, a historian from Cambridge University,
published the book The Mitrokhin Archive in 1999 (the London publisher is Allen Lane). Mitrokhin and Andrew quote from a KGB report saying its agents had succeeded “in placing its agent KUZNETSOV in a high WCC post.” This was at the WCC Central Committee meeting in Canterbury in 1969. “Agent KUZNETSOV was Aleksei Sergeyevich Buyevsky, lay secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate’s foreign relations department headed by Nikodim. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s he played an active role in the work of the WCC Central Committee, helping to draft policy statements on international affairs.” (See p. 636 on Nikodim and p. 637 on Buyevsky.)
I identified Buyevsky as a possible KGB agent already in 1977 – in my book Christus of Ideologie? (Christ or Ideology?), a lengthy study on church-state relations in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and Communist China published by “De Banier,” Utrecht. I wrote on p. 226: “Indien Buyevsky zelf niet tot de geheime dienst behoort, dan staat hij toch onder directe controle van de Russische geheime dienst, alleen al uit hoofde van zijn functie.” (“If Buyevsky does not belong to the Russian secret service himself, then he is bound to be controlled by them, if you take into account his position, at least.”) See also: Emerson Vermaat, De Evangelische Omroep – Ontstaansgeschiedenis (Founding History of the Evangelical Broadcasting Corporation) (Soesterberg: Aspekt Publishers, 2007), pp. 36, 37, 126 footnotes 35 and 36.
This was based on personal observations at WCC meetings, not on any other sources. It was a guess at the time and my guess turned out to be correct.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the World Peace Council continued to exist, although without financial help from Moscow. The relatively short Gorbachev era also ended in December 1991. The International Christian Peace Conference ceased to exist in 2001.
In the 1970s and 1980s the Soviets had a keen interest in the Muslim world, although there was no Islamic equivalent to the Christian Peace Conference or the Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace (ABCP, headquarters in Ulan Bator, Mongolia). The Soviets did support Palestinian terrorist organizations and initiated an international debate on “anti-Zionism.” When Muslim extremists forced the pro-Western Shah of Iran to flee his country and took over in January 1979, the Soviets did not hesitate to court the new rulers. A setback, though, was the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 which was universally condemned by the Muslim world.
The Soviets continued, however, to manipulate anti-Semitic public opinion in the Middle East and Iran, often successfully. Their vocal criticism of Israel and Zionism was helpful in this respect. In October 1980, Syria and the Soviet Union signed a twenty-year Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. During the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) the Soviets reiterated that they were neutral, yet they sided with the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a secular Muslim and a war criminal, providing him with arms. After that war Moscow’s relations with Iran suddenly improved. Iran and Syria are now Russia’s most important allies in the Muslim world.
Quote from an important and lengthy Dutch intelligence report (February 1981):
“From 3-12 October 1980, for instance, there was a ROC (=Russian Orthodox Church, V.) delegation here, which gave the purposes of its visit as ‘consultation with Dutch religious denominations’, but which was really intent on establishing contacts with political parties and peace movements. All these meetings were arranged by the third secretary Political Affairs of the Soviet Embassy, I.A. KROTOV, who is suspected of having KGB affiliations.
Another striking fact is that the metropolitan of Minsk and White Russia, FILARET had, since he became Exarch for Western Europe in December 1978, paid at least five visits to the Netherlands for reasons not known. What he came to the Netherlands to do could be deduced from the fact that in 1979 he was awarded two decorations for work for peace in the presence of high ranking Soviet authorities.” (See pp. 26, 27, 64, footnote 26, 69.)
Table of contents:
- The Role of the Russian Orthodox Church in the World Council of Churches
- The Role of the Russian Orthodox Church in Manipulating “Religious Circles for Peace”
- The Role of Soviet Front Organizations
- The World Council of Churches and Soviet Fronts
- The Soviet Appraisal of Liberation Theology
- Concluding Comments and Additional Remarks on KGB infiltration of the WCC and the Role of Islam
- Appendices: Confidential and previously not published intelligence documents (Dutch BVD/AIVD, (West) German Security Service and East German Ministry of State Security)