The Foreign Service Journal, November 2019

24 NOVEMBER 2019 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL ATIMEOF HOPE AND Ambassador Eric Rubin is the president of AFSA. A career Foreign Service officer for 34 years, he holds the rank of Career Minister and most recently served as U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria. The stunning fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 heralded a series of events that transformed the postwar world. Here is a view fromWashington. BY ER I C RUB I N I joined the Soviet Desk in February 1989 after a year as a watch officer in the State Department Operations Center. I quickly realized that I was joining a dream team. It was the largest single-country office in the department by far, divided into three divisions: bilateral affairs, multilateral affairs and economic affairs. I was assigned to “bilat,” as we called it. I was thrilled: I had studied Russian in high school in 1977 and continued through college. I knew I wanted to go to the Soviet Union as soon as possible, but for my first tour, I was sent to Honduras where I had the opportunity to learn Spanish. My portfolio on the Soviet Desk was fantastic: I handled all our visa applica- tions for American diplomats going to the USSR, which was a bureaucratic slog and a constant test of patience. But I also got the title of “internal politics and nation- alities affairs officer.” At the time, that meant monitoring report- ing on political developments in Moscow and in the 11 other republics we considered part of the Soviet Union (we treated the Baltic states separately and oversaw developments there from the Eastern Europe office). Little did I or anyone else realize what this portfolio would entail just a few years down the road. FOCUS ON THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL