A Murder in Georgia

August 13, 1993

Any time an acting CIA station chief is killed in a foreign country it is news. Usually, however, there are vehement protestations from Washington that the agency never identifies its operatives.

Not in the case of Fred Woodruff. After the 45-year-old Virginian died of a single shot in the forehead while riding through the countryside with a security chief of the Georgian republic, he was quickly identified as a CIA veteran official training security forces in that Black Sea state.

Mr. Woodruff's death seems to confirm recent reports that CIA and U.S. Special Forces commandos were secretly authorized by President Clinton earlier this year to start the Georgia training program with the implicit intent of keeping Eduard Shevardnadze in power.

Mr. Shevardnadze, of course, is remembered as a former Soviet foreign minister. A security general by training, a Communist Party functionary by choice, he was instrumental in overseeing a number of tough arms reductions negotiations with the U.S. He won further respect and friends in Washington when he early on cast his fate with democratic reformers, realizing Mikhail S. Gorbachev would go down with the splintering Soviet Union.

In brief, Mr. Shevardnadze is the type of leader that Washington would want to promote and protect in these post-Soviet political conditions.

Those conditions have forged links between the CIA and the successor agency of KGB that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. At the time Mr. Woodruff was killed, CIA director R. James Woolsey coincidentally happened to be in Moscow for a week of talks with Russian Intelligence Service Chief Yevgeny Primakov.

That visit was cut short by the murder. But if anything, instability in Georgia and other parts of the former Soviet Union is likely to intensify Russian-American intelligence cooperation on internal problems, arms proliferation, terrorism and narcotics. In fact, some of the elements now involved in a civil war in Tajikistan used to run guns and do other cloak and dagger missions for the CIA during Soviet involvement in Afghanistan.

During the Soviet Union's existence, the Russian heartland and its industrial centers were the CIA's main targets. Dangers posed by the disintegration of the world's second nuclear superpower have refocused much of that work on more exotic areas of the former Soviet Union.

That Mr. Woodruff's body was claimed by the CIA chief himself reflects this change and invites debate about the dangers of involving U.S. intelligence and military officers in such operations.

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