Soundbite of the Week: Soviets Feared ‘Reagan, AIDS and Jews’

“There’s three things I tell people that the Russians were afraid of: AIDS, Jewish people and Ronald Reagan.”

Question: “In that order?”

Reply: “I think Ronald Reagan took the top spot. They thought he would push the button.”

One more reason to love Reagan.

That exchange aired in a remarkable 60 Minutes story last Sunday, May 10, about “Jack Barsky,” born Albrecht Dittrich in East Germany, who worked as a KGB spy inside the U.S. from the late 1970s until he was discovered by the FBI in 1997. And he’s never spent a day behind bars, lives freely in the U.S. and, until recently, oversaw the software used by the authority which runs the power grid in New York state.

In December of 1988, the KGB ordered the computer programmer, who had delivered IBM industrial software to the KGB, back to East Germany.

But he enjoyed life in the U.S. where he had married and had kids (he’s lived in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania). So, he lied to them, saying he had “contracted AIDS,” a claim he made because of the “three things I tell people that the Russians were afraid of: AIDS, Jewish people and Ronald Reagan.”

Kroft wondered: “In that order?” Barsky clarified: “I think Ronald Reagan took the top spot. They thought he would push the button.”

Communist concerns of the late 1980s show an amazing overlap with that of the columnists at the Boston Globe. That newspaper’s December 28, 1989 headlines over two pages of 1980s reviews by the paper’s columnists, as drawn from our Notable Quotables archive:

“The decade had its highs (Gorbachev, Bird)...

...and the decade had its lows (Reagan, AIDS)”

NBDaily Russia 60 Minutes Video History Steve Kroft
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