The Foreign Service Journal, December 2011

F OCUS ON THE B REAKUP OF THE S OV I ET U NION S ETTING THE R ECORD S TRAIGHT E DITOR ’ S I NTRODUCTION B Y S HAWN D ORMAN D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 1 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 21 onventional wisdom has it that the United States was caught off guard by the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. “No one saw it coming” is a common refrain. But it is false. I came of age during the last years of the Soviet regime and had the great privilege to be introduced to the world of diplo- macy by a cohort of outstanding FSOs — what we’ll call Team SOV. Fol- lowing a high school visit to Embassy Moscow in 1983, I worked inMoscow, Leningrad and the Office of Soviet Af- fairs in the StateDepartment between 1987 and 1990 in various low-level ca- pacities. In all these places, I wit- nessedU.S. diplomats understanding, analyzing and reporting on the reali- ties of what was going on in the Soviet Union in the years leading up to its collapse. The diplomats whomade up Team SOV (in the European Bureau and at Embassy Moscow and ConGen Leningrad) helped pave the way for the opening up of a closed world. In this case, as with so many others, State has done a lousy job of telling its own story. The department rarely gets credit for being smart. So we’re here to take a look back 20 years and shine a light on an amazing time in U.S. diplomatic history during a period of momentous change. From high-level negotiations on nuclear weapons reduc- tions and human rights to street-level reporting on political awakening and a crumbling economy, U.S. diplomats were at work behind the Iron Curtain covering the real Soviet Union and the historic change it was undergoing. This is not a tale of Kremlinology (though that type of old-style reading of tea leaves and leadership lineups was practiced by Western diplomats at the time). It is the story of a time when the “diplo- macy” in the Three Ds of defense, diplomacy and development was truly the Big D — a time when military ef- forts supported U.S. diplomacy and not the other way around. Complementing our coverage, we are fortunate to have reflections from the man who was president when the Soviet Union broke up: George H.W. Bush. In the interview on p. 17, “Charting a Course Through Global Change,” he offers a fascinating glimpse of Mikhail Gorbachev as an up-and- coming world leader in 1985, someone with whom the U.S. could work. Diplomacy Backed by Strength Our story begins with the man who was Secretary of State during the years preceding the end of the USSR, C Shawn Dorman, a former Foreign Service officer, is asso- ciate editor of the Journal and editor of Inside a U.S. Em- bassy: Diplomacy at Work (FS Books, 2011). Jeff Lau