The Foreign Service Journal, November 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2022 13 LETTERS-PLUS Who Lost the USSR? BY JAMES E. GOODBY RESPONSE TO OCTOBER 2022 PRESIDENT’S VIEWS, “MORE DIPLOMACY, NOW” James E. Goodby joined the Foreign Service in 1952 and rose to the rank of Career Minister. During his career, he was engaged in international security negotiations with the USSR and later with the Russian Federation, includ- ing tours as head of the U.S. delegation to the Conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures and Disarmament in Europe, part of the Helsinki Process, and as chief negotiator for Cooperative Threat Reduction (the Nunn-Lugar program). He served in U.S. missions to the European Community and to NATO, and was appointed deputy assistant secretary of State for European affairs and then ambassador to Finland. He worked with George Shultz at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution from 2007 until Secretary Shultz passed away in February 2021. He is currently an Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution. “A n era has ended with the passing of Mikhail Gor- bachev,” Ambassador Eric Rubin rightly states in his October 2022 President’s Views. As an individual who witnessed some of the defining moments of that era close up, I offer some thoughts. George Kennan reportedly called Mikhail Gorbachev a “miracle.” And so he was. He was a political leader whose belief system was evidently based on universal values, and he did his best to act on those values in his conduct of pub- lic business. For such a man to emerge from a political system created by Joseph Stalin is, indeed, a miracle. Yet, today many deem Gorbachev foolish for trying to do something that he should have understood was impossible. He set out to reform the governance of the USSR and to bring Soviet policies into line with the principles of the Helsinki Accords of 1975, of which his country was one of the signatories. It is said that he was naive in attempting to do these things, and that history should judge him a failure. One does not have to be a cynic to see Gorbachev as an unusual phenomenon at the top of any political system. So I argue that it was also a miracle that such a man as Gorbachev was paired in the United States with two men who were really quite unusual within the context of the American political system: President Ronald Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz. Shultz often told of the winter week- end soon after he had become Secretary of State when he and his wife, Obie, were invited to have supper at the White House with the Reagans because the weather had forced the Reagans to cancel their planned weekend at Camp David. At that private discussion, Shultz said, he realized for the first time that Reagan had never met a senior Soviet official, and that he really wanted to do so. That conversation led to Reagan’s meeting from time to time with the Soviet Union’s ambassador in Washington and, ultimately, to several meetings between Reagan and Gorbachev. Shultz was Reagan’s intellectual and political partner in thinking that the Soviet Union could be changed. They dif- fered with most of the president’s advis- ers in thinking that U.S. policies might help end the Cold War. Reagan used an arms buildup as one method of bringing pressure on Moscow. Another of the ways they sought to bring about change was to build personal trust between American and Soviet leading officials. Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze was Shultz’s counterpart, and Shultz set about establishing in his dealings with Moscow that his own word was his bond, and that he respected his adversaries in Moscow. The two minis- ters built a relationship that lasted the rest of their lives. “Trust is the coin of the realm” was George Shultz’s recipe for achieving results in diplomacy. One of the several tragic consequences of the incumbency of Russia’s current president, Vladi- mir Putin, and his decision to invade Ukraine is that trust between Russian and American leaders no longer exists. It will be hard to restore. It will probably take another miracle. Shultz thought of himself as carrying