The Foreign Service Journal, December 2011

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 33 gations also increased rapidly, so most embassy officers had to spend much of their time accompanying or brief- ing visitors. This had the advantage of bringing them into contact with Soviet officials and Soviet society, but left lit- tle time for reflective reporting. Nev- ertheless, the embassy’s reporting officers managed not only to keep Washington promptly and accurately informed of events, but to place the reports in an interpretive context with key judgments that have stood the test of time. Workweeks of 60 and 70 hours were typical. Extreme Working Conditions This work would have stressed to the utmost diplomats working in a totally supportive environment, but the staff of Embassy Moscow had to operate under conditions that would have incapacitated less capable and dedicated per- sons. In the fall of 1986, Soviet authorities withdrew all local employees from the mission. It took the State De- partment more than a year to replace the “locals” with a much smaller number of Americans; in the meantime, the embassy staff struggled without maintenance, repair and cleaning personnel, as well as assistance with unclassified clerical functions. Once the Americans arrived, however, support functions improved greatly. Simultaneously, the embassy was prevented from com- pleting construction of a new chancery by charges that it had been made unusable by Soviet bugging. The charges were grossly exaggerated — in fact, the plans for finishing construction would have provided a secure facility — but the issue became a political football between the House and Senate. As a result, most embassy officers had to work in overcrowded conditions in a firetrap. In March 1991, a fire made much of the old chancery uninhabitable for months. Key embassy operations moved into what had been planned for the garage and consular section of the new chancery. After that, the embassy did not even have space for a desk for every reporting officer. So we tried to make a virtue out of necessity by keeping the majority of officers traveling outside Moscow at any given time, at least to the degree our limited travel funds permitted. Increased in- country travel enhanced our ability to follow the rapidly deteriorating conditions throughout the country. Although President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker had, as early as the spring of 1989, approved establishing a net- work of small consulates in the Soviet republics, State Department man- agement delayed implementing the decision. (When I pressed the under secretary for management, a political appointee, in 1990 for prompt imple- mentation of the presidential decision to open small consulates in union republics, he told me to relax. He had two — Tbilisi and Tashkent — in the 1993 budget, but he couldn’t move the date up because he had to open Leipzig and Bratislava first!) Among the capitals of union republics, only Kiev, where plans for a consulate general had been under way for more than a decade, had American diplomats in place (still as an “advance party”) when the Soviet Union collapsed. At the end of December 1991 there was a sudden requirement not just for a few additional consulates, but for 14 new em- bassies. Although it seemed to us that Washington (especially Congress, but at times the State Department) was not as supportive as it might have been, all agencies and officials were operating under novel conditions, with many unpre- dictable events and stakes about as high as stakes can get. In the end, American policy coped well with the problems and opportunities stemming from the Soviet collapse. As for Embassy Moscow, Consulate General Leningrad and our diplomats in Kiev, we can be proud of the job they did. They supported the negotiations that ended the Cold War, established productive contacts in all 15 successor states, encouraged democratic changes in the Soviet Union, and kept the U.S. government well informed about developments and their implications. In fact, it seems clear that the American government was better informed about conditions in the Soviet Union than was President Gorbachev, the victim of tendentious and misleading in- telligence about conditions in his own country. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States was by far the most respected and liked foreign country among the people of the entire former Soviet Union. In Russia alone, approval ratings of the United States in opin- ion polls ran above 80 percent. Many events and factors contributed to this, but Embassy Moscow’s outreach was not the least of them. ■ F OCUS Meanwhile, every section of the embassy was inundated with what seemed an exponential increase in its workload.