The Foreign Service Journal, December 2011

40 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 that had ever existed at the em- bassy. Ray Smith, a veteran Soviet hand in his own right, was re- cruited as political counselor. The political-internal section, the core of the political reporting opera- tion, was headed first by Shaun Byrnes, and later by John Parker of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. They supervised more than a dozen other reporting officers, nearly all of whom possessed superlative report- ing talents. Among them were Tom Graham, who fo- cused on the Baltic states and the Caucasus, and Rosemarie Forsythe who covered nationalities issues. I was recruited to head the political-external section, which covered Soviet foreign relations, and was fortunate to have a number of superb officers there, including Dick Nor- land and Carey Cavanaugh. The economic section was headed by John Blaney. He oversaw an outstandingly talented section, including Mike Gfoeller and Ross Wilson. The debates between pol and econ, as we were called, were often highly con- tentious, but in the end, we generally ended up report- ing the correct story to Washington. Outside the embassy, we were also lucky to have an excellent group at our consulate general in Leningrad, led by Consul General Dick Miles, and reporting offi- cers Jon Purnell and George Krol. We also received the strong support of the Soviet desk back in Washington, which at the time was led by Sandy Vershbow and John Evans. Most of these officers eventually became am- bassadors to one or more of the New Independent States that succeeded the Soviet Union. An Unusual Environment I had arrived in Moscow rather unexpectedly in April 1989, fresh from Embassy Kabul, where, as acting deputy chief of mission, I had overseen that embassy’s own modest reporting effort in verifying the Soviet with- drawal from Afghanistan. The unexpected part came when, as the Soviet withdrawal was nearly complete, I suddenly had to organize the withdrawal of our own diplomatic staff from Kabul. A few months later, I found myself in Moscow. I was surprised to find that the chancery looked much the same as it had when I had worked there in the 1970s. But to the west of the Old Office Building, a New Embassy Com- pound was nearly completed— all except for the New Office Build- ing, which was still under con- struction due to various security fiascoes over the previous decade. The NEC conveniently housed ex- tensive underground facilities, in- cluding meeting rooms, parking garages, a commissary, cafeteria, sports complex, swimming pool, bowling alley and assorted shops. Less convenient, it was surrounded by a multilayered ring of KGB surveillance, overshadowed as it was on three sides by taller buildings. Across Konyushkovskaya Ulitsa was the newly-completed Supreme Soviet build- ing, also known as the White House. The northern end of the compound was bounded by one of the “Seven Sis- ters” wedding-cake skyscrapers and the southern end by the Mir Hotel, the 1950s-era skyscraper complex that once housed Moscow City Hall. And directly across the street stood a non-working church dubbed “Our Lady of Telemetry” due to the obvious presence of KGB and other unwelcome guests. (After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Church of the Nine Martyrs of Kizik was re- opened.) There was a “NoMan’s Land” between the old and new office buildings occupied by structures not under embassy control, including the Ginzberg, a decrepit apartment building from the early Soviet era. And there was the so- called “Change Building,” a small, three-story, temporary facility put up by Soviet authorities for the workers who had been “constructing” the New Office Building for the past decade. There were even persistent rumors of a large network of tunnels under the New Embassy Compound itself. If true, it meant the NEC was surrounded not just on all sides, but in three dimensions as well. It was an un- settling thought. Apart from the general environment of constant sur- veillance and the dilapidated state of the chancery, work- ing conditions were adversely affected by a number of new and oppressive security requirements in the wake of the Lonetree-Bracy security scandal of 1987. At the Center of the Revolution Serving my third tour in the Soviet Union, and my fourth in Soviet affairs, I suppose I also qualified as a So- F OCUS We were fortunate to have a whole generation of experienced Soviet hands working on the problem.