Ahhh…the good old days: the Soviet Union and the United States; the Warsaw Pact and NATO; East and West. And nukes…tens of thousands of nukes. I look back fondly at the relative safety of the time.
Sure, tensions were high. Cuban missile Crisis, proxy wars, Iron Curtains, Checkpoint Charlie. But at least then the two sides would talk; at least then the two sides took steps to ensure some level of openness and cooperation; at least then one could suggest calls for diplomacy with the Soviet Union.
I recently came across the history of one such example, the history of military liaison missions in Germany:
The military liaison missions arose from reciprocal agreements formed between the Western allied nations (the US, the UK and France) and the USSR shortly after the end of the Second World War. The missions were active from 1946 until 1990.
Basically the four Allied Powers, victorious in the war, openly allowed spying on the other side of the curtain. Those assigned in these missions held something approaching diplomatic status; this did not prevent high speed car chases, shootings, and a couple of deaths.
From Cold War Spies:
The Military Liaison Missions arose from reciprocal agreements formed immediately after the Second World War between the Western allied nations (U.S., UK and France) and the USSR. The missions were active from 1946 until 1990.
The agreements between the allied nations and the Soviet Union permitted the deployment of small numbers of military intelligence personnel — together with associated support staff — in each other’s territory in Germany, ostensibly for the purposes of monitoring and furthering better relationships between the Soviet and Western occupation forces….The MLMs also played an intelligence-gathering role.
Each of the three western powers had access to East Germany; the Soviets had access to all western zones of Germany.
The missions’ initial tasks were genuine liaison tasks. These included repatriation of Prisoners of War (PoW), location of allied service personnel graves, looking for Nazi war criminals and witnesses to Nazi atrocities as well as monitoring the distribution of food and fuel etc. In BRIXMIS’ [The British Commanders’-in-Chief Mission] case, the intelligence gathering role was only authorised by the UK Government in 1948 during the period of the buildup of the Berlin Blockade.
The MLMs were granted access to large areas of the Soviet Zone of Occupation. PRAs (Permanent Restricted Areas) around military installations and TRAs (Temporary Restricted Areas) during military exercises were marked on special maps issued to the MLMs. The primary task of the MLMs became surveillance and reconnaissance of the Soviet Forces on the ground and by air. The estimation of Soviet troop strength, observation of new equipment and military exercises became the daily routine. The Mission’s role can’t be overestimated as they were the first to tell a large maneuver from a buildup of troops which even could have resulted in a nuclear conflict.
On every single day of the Cold War, several teams of the US mission were active. Each team was comprised of two members, travelling in a nondescript four-wheel-drive vehicle. The teams carried items such as notebooks, binoculars, night vision goggles, and tape recorders, but no weapons.
The targets included Soviet or East German garrisons, temporary deployment areas, field training areas, air-ground gunnery ranges, communications sites, river crossing areas, railroad sidings, and virtually anything else of military value in the country.
The enemy’s capabilities were only part of the problem; the MLM was also tasked to look for indications of intent to use those capabilities. [Major General Roland La Joie, a former commander of the USMLM] writes: “On every single day throughout the Cold War, eight or more Allied tours were roaming the countryside of East Germany. Every day, all night, each tour looking exactly for signs of imminence of hostilities.”
Like I said, the safety of the Cold War.
Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.