Psychics were the subject of intrigue by both the United States and the Soviets. Each of them believed that they had the potential to be an untapped source of information and power. The Soviets first started their psychic program in 1920, but continued throughout the Cold War. The Soviets were still serious enough about psychics that in the 1970s the CIA wanted to have a psychic program of their own.
The Soviets started by focusing on telepathy, thinking that it would be the ideal way to communicate over long distances. Then they looked into psychokinesis, under the impression that someone with psychokinetic power could disrupt delicate missile guidance systems. The Soviets were quite organized and serious about their psychic program and they even came up with a theory about how psychic powers worked.
According to the Soviets, psychics relied on bioenergetics, which for them referred to the energy produced as a byproduct of metabolism in living organisms. The theory was that this could result in humans emitting an energy field termed “bioplasma.” Individuals who were psychic possessed the ability to emit a charged burst of energy that allowed them to manipulate objects or read minds.
The CIA was downright jealous of the Soviet psychic program. Their program in the 1970s was led by Scientologists, and was a disorganized mess. It never amounted to anything and it lost political backers and largely disappeared by 1995, after racking up a bill of nearly $20 million. The U.S. Army also had a psychic program, which they started in 1973, but they learned faster than the CIA and stopped the program in 1985. It didn’t help that the National Academy of Sciences had less than favorable things to say about the program when they assessed it in 1985.