Primary Sources

The White House evaluates Soviet Intelligence Capabilities


In the final months of his presidency, shortly before the official dissolution of the Soviet Union, George H. W. Bush instructed the leaders of the US intelligence community to completely reevaluate their raison d'ĂȘtre. Most American intelligence agencies, he pointed out, were conceived in the attitudes and priorities of the Cold War. Therefore, at Cold War's end, he argued, they were required not just to rethink their priorities, but the fundamental categories they used to establish these priorities. He suggested that the environment, global health and the availability of natural resources would be potentially viable post-Soviet concerns.


George H. W. Bush, "National Security Review 29, Intelligence Capabilities, 1992-2005," 15 November 1991, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

The end of the Cold War and collapse of Soviet Communism already have radically altered the international landscape. . . .

Many new, non-Soviet issues have assumed greater importance for the Intelligence Community in recent years, issues such as terrorism, narcotics, proliferation, economic intelligence, technology transfer, and others. . . .

CIA and the Intelligence Community have their roots deep in a Cold War that is now over and the threat of a Soviet military that is now struggling at home to preserve its very existence, to avoid its breakup into multiple republic armies. We are in transition from watching Soviet operational readiness to wondering about the control of Soviet nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have been transformed, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, and Soviet activism abroad (especially in the Third World) dramatically curtailed. . . .

Beyond the traditional areas of interest, we need to consider intensified intelligence efforts in some global problems and new efforts in others. For example, will we need more and different intelligence information on international aspects of the environment, natural resource scarcities (such as water), global health problems, international research and development efforts, and so on. . . .

The Intelligence Community today is being asked to cope with issues ranging from traditional Soviet military forces to the environment, from economic competitiveness to AIDS. We must establish the proper role, mission and priorities for U. S. intelligence in this changed and changing world. Otherwise, our capabilities will spread too thin to satisfy even the highest priorities and our inability to plan and invest long-term will leave us with inadequate intelligence assets to protect our vital interests and our security. (signed) George Bush

How to Cite this Source

National Security Review, "The White House evaluates Soviet Intelligence Capabilities," Making the History of 1989, Item #129, (accessed October 24 2021, 9:01 pm).

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