As the current season of “The Americans” proceeds the viewers are still left with the question of how the characters could convince themselves that the United States would embark on a mad scheme of destroying Soviet agriculture as a means of winning the Cold War. A recent article in the Washington Post provides some insights.

It turns out that what the article termed Entomological Warfare is nothing new. The Japanese indulged in it during World War II. The United States delved into research, focusing on using mosquitoes to spread disease, The research was downgraded to a defensive focus (i.e.

figuring out what the enemy was capable of so that it could be combatted) after biological weapons were prohibited by treaty in the early 1970s.

Castro’s Cuba accused the United States of attacking its agriculture with insects every time its crops failed, but likely as a way to cover up the dysfunctional aspects of socialist agriculture. That might be the root of the story line now playing itself out on “The Americans.” But in this case, the Soviets are going beyond just using the theory as cover. They have convinced themselves that their failure to feed their own people is the result of some external plot cooked up in an American biotech lab.

The series has deftly shown how utterly dysfunctional the Soviet Union had become by the 1980s.

From bare store shelves to meager wheat fields to corruption and a lack of a proper transportation infrastructure, the Soviet Union was in a death spiral, happily helped along by President Reagan’s strategy that eventually won the Cold War. But in 1984, before Gorbachev came to power with the last ditch plan for reform, the Soviets were unable to come to grips with the fact that their system was a failure.

So their troubles had to be a plot by the evil Americans. KGB spies Philip and Elizabeth are left chasing phantoms, using all of their considerable skills and experience to uncover a plot that is likely, at best, far less than meets the eye. And thus the end game of the Cold War proceeds apace.