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Archives say Stalin wanted Tito killed

SOFIA, May 29, 2000 -- (Reuters) Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was so angry with Josip Broz Tito that his special services were planning to assassinate the Yugoslav leader.

The plan was dropped in 1953 when Stalin died which allowed Tito to live to 1980, according to a collection of Cold War archives by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in the United States.

A bulletin of declassified archives was distributed at a conference of former spymasters from the U.S., France, Germany and Russia held in Bulgaria this month.

A top secret document prepared by the Soviet Ministry of State Security and addressed personally to Stalin mapped out three Tito assassination scenarios.

All centered on a Soviet agent known as "Max", whom the bulletin said later became a historian and a corresponding member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

Max was in Italy with a Costa Rican passport and posing as that country's special plenipotentiary in Italy and Yugoslavia. Under one option Max was to arrange a private audience with Tito during which a mechanism concealed in his clothes would release a dose of pulmonary plague bacteria which would guarantee not only Tito's death but that of all those present.

Max was not to be told about the substance, but would have been given an anti-plague serum in advance.

Under the second scenario Max, using his social connections, was to shoot Tito during a reception at the Yugoslav embassy in London with a gun which would simultaneously release tear gas to ensure his escape.

The third plot cited by the bulletin had Max shooting Tito in a similar way at an official function in Belgrade.

Preparations included a farewell letter from Max to his wife to cover up Soviet government involvement in case the assassination failed.

REASONS FOR STALIN-TITO CLASH

Yugoslavia became one of the focal points of East-West rivalry after the Soviet-Yugoslav split in 1948. As part of its containment strategy, the U.S. tried to promote splits within the Communist world that would undercut Soviet expansion and eventually lead to its disintegration, said the bulletin.

Tito's break with Stalin gave Yugoslavia unprecedented independence in Eastern Europe.

The rift could have been caused by differences over plans to set up a Balkan federation integrating Yugoslavia and Bulgaria or Belgrade's ambitions with Albania.

Yugoslavia wanted Bulgaria to be subordinate to Belgrade like the other six units of the Yugoslav federation, while Bulgaria, supported by Stalin, insisted on a dual federation with equal status between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria.

The plan was put off because of the differences.

A move by Tito to deploy troops in Albania, aiming to circumvent Moscow and fortify Yugoslavia's position with Tirana, also angered Stalin.

HUNGARIAN CRISIS DEEPENED RIFT

After Stalin's death, ties between Moscow and Belgrade thawed for brief period, but were set back by the Soviet invasion of Hungary in November 1956, said the bulletin.

Contacts between Tito and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev intensified over the fate of Imre Nagy, the reform Communist leader who in his defeat had fled to the Yugoslav embassy in Budapest.

Tito's attempts to ensure Nagy's freedom and unhindered departure to Yugoslavia failed.

Janos Kadar, installed by Moscow as the new Hungarian leader guaranteed safety for Nagy in writing, but Soviet troops detained Nagy and his associates on leaving the Yugoslav embassy and sent them to Romania. He was executed in Budapest in 1958.

WHEN DID THE COLD WAR END?

Another part of the bulletin debates when the Cold War started to come to an end.

One of the authors has chosen as the end-point a U.S.-Soviet meeting in Moscow on Christmas Eve 1989 at which the Americans proposed that the Soviet Union send a peacekeeping mission to Romania where a violent revolution was raging.

The Soviet Union declined and a day later Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed by firing squad.

"This seems to have been the first direct American request for increased Soviet military activity in Eastern Europe since 1945. As such it represented a sea change in comparison with the fears and concerns of the Cold War era," the bulletin said.



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