The Foreign Service Journal, December 2011
F OCUS ON THE B REAKUP OF THE S OV I ET U NION T HE V IEW FROM THE T RENCHES 34 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 1 he dream of every ambitious Foreign Service officer is to serve in a country that is mak- ing history with far-reaching consequences for American national interests. Fortunate are those now serving in North Africa and the Middle East in the midst of an his- toric upheaval. Fortunate also were those who served at the embassy in Moscow — under the able leadership of Ambassador Jack Matlock — during the last years of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I was one of them, having arrived in Moscow as a sec- ond-tour officer in the spring of 1987, shortly before Amb. Matlock did, for a short stint in the consular section be- fore taking up my regular assignment in the political-in- ternal unit. The end of the Cold War lay only a few short years in the future, but it was still on in Moscow, especially for the Soviet special services. A Hardy, Dedicated Community In this war, the embassy was a small outpost on enemy territory. We were under constant KGB surveillance, at the embassy and our residences, as we moved around Moscow or traveled to the few provincial cities that were not off limits to Americans. At times, microwaves bom- barded the embassy; there were rumors of “spy dust” and other secret means to track our movements. We thought the KGB had turned one or two of our Ma- rine guards and through them gained access to the most sensitive parts of the embassy (the Lonetree-Bracy affair). We also feared that our communications systems had been compromised. As a precaution, we wrote our cables out on pads of paper and sent a secretary to Frankfurt once a week to type them up and transmit them to Washington. Slowly, over many months, we rebuilt our capacity to send classified traffic directly fromMoscow. (A few years later, the U.S. government concluded that our communi- cations systems had not been compromised at all. Rather, the alleged compromise had been part of an elaborate S ERVICE IN M OSCOW WAS A HEADY EXPERIENCE THAT IS THE STUFF OF EVERY DIPLOMAT ’ S DREAMS . B Y T HOMAS G RAHAM Thomas Graham served as a political officer at Embassy Moscow from 1987 to 1990. From 1994 to 1998, he re- turned to Moscow as head of the political-internal unit and then acting political counselor. After leaving the Foreign Service in 1998, he joined the Carnegie Endowment for In- ternational Peace as a senior associate. Later he served as director for Russian affairs on the National Security Coun- cil from 2002 to 2004, and special assistant to the president and senior director for Russian affairs on the NSC from 2004 to 2007. He is currently a managing director at Kissinger Associates.
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