CIA Director Robert Gates has acknowledged that United States intelligence erred in analyzing the collapse of the former Soviet Union, but rejected criticism that the agency failed to foresee the event.
"Let me say at the outset that we did not predict the precise timing of the coup attempt last August that proved to be the beginning of the end," Gates said Wednesday in a speech to the Foreign Policy Association.
"However, neither did Gorbachev nor Yeltsin, and indeed, the coup plotters themselves have indicated that they decided to act at the last minute."
Gates said the Central Intelligence Agency stated repeatedly, beginning in 1989, that there was a "growing likelihood of a collapse of the old order."
Citing several classified estimates dating to 1989, Gates said the agency concluded in May 1991 that "the current political situation is highly volatile and could quickly unravel."
The day before the Aug. 18 coup attempt against former President Mikhail Gorbachev, he said, the CIA warned that "the danger is growing that hard-liners will precipitate large-scale violence."
In his speech, Gates also acknowledged that CIA statistics on the Soviet Union were faulty. The statistics were provided to policy makers, scholars, banks and international financial institutions.
"Our statistical analysis ... described a stronger, larger economy than our own analysis portrayed and than existed in reality," Gates said.