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Former Russian FM: “We need each other now more than ever”

In the wake of the terrible tragedy of Malaysian flight 17, which was shot down over Ukraine on July 17, a former Russian Foreign Minister contends that Russia and the United States need to have the presence of mind to look beyond short-term tactical victories and defeats and consider the long-term consequences for the wider world. Igor Ivanov is President of the Russian International Affairs Council and former Russian Foreign Minister (1998-2004). He is also a professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations under the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MGIMO-University), a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), and author of monographs and articles on the history of Russian international relations and foreign policy. This editorial is printed here with his permission.

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Never have post-Cold War relations between Russia and the U.S. sunk to such a nadir. Bilateral contacts in almost all spheres and at all levels are either frozen, suspended or sluggish at best. The two sides are competing to best each other by their hostile rhetoric, while the mutual suspicion and negative perceptions have moved beyond the political elites towards shaping the public mood in both countries.

You can argue long and hard about the who, how and why — that conversation is bound to take place sooner or later. But it is more important at this juncture to understand what such poor Russian-U.S. relations hold in store for the two countries and the world at large.

First up in that regard should be the ongoing crisis in Ukraine (Russia Direct: Ukraine). The acute political crisis in Ukraine has been the focus of international politicians, experts, and journalists for more than six months now. On the face of it, the dramatic situation there should act as a powerful incentive for a critical rethinking of modern European and global policy, for new approaches to international security, for major conceptual breakthroughs, and for a firm rejection of outdated doctrines. After all, any major crisis is a time for renewal and a catalyst to replace the prevailing intellectual and political paradigms.

Unfortunately, in the case of Ukraine, this general rule does not seem to be working. Such a conclusion is unavoidable on observing the discussions on Ukraine in the U.S. For all the pluralist views on the causes, dynamics, and likely consequences of the Ukrainian crisis, U.S. political and expert opinion is almost exclusively centered on two points:  first, the sanctions against Russia — their scope and consistency, mechanisms to apply them, and the potential impact on the Kremlin; second, the apparent and rather blinkered belief that the U.S. is quite capable of solving major international issues without Russia, of which the U.S. political and intellectual elite is trying to convince itself and its partners.

The debate in Washington is remarkably similar to the one in Moscow.

On the one hand, Russia is repeating over and over to itself that sanctions will not hurt, and indeed, that the West is unlikely to take any action that could backfire. On the other, newspaper and TV headlines endlessly proclaim that America is not the only pebble on the beach, and that Russia would not lose much were it to minimize cooperation with the U.S. and shift the focus of foreign policy to other countries and regions.

In this so-called polemic by correspondence (since meaningful contact between Russian and U.S. experts, politicians, and journalists is limited), it is difficult to find fresh ideas and innovative proposals to resolve the crisis. At the same time it is becoming very easy to spot Cold War-style propaganda clichés and stereotypes (Russia Direct: Cold War propaganda), which just a few years ago seemed hopelessly archaic and eternally obsolete.

The revival of the phantoms and phobias of this bygone era could be ascribed, on both sides of the conflict, to the heightened sense of emotion inherent in any serious international crisis. But the worry is that such negative political rhetoric has an unpleasant tendency to morph into political practice. Already we see that Russian-U.S. cooperation is slowing, contacts at different levels are breaking off, and the edifice of bilateral interplay between Russia and the U.S., fragile at the best of times, is now crumbling. This dangerous trend is fraught with trouble for both sides and the wider world, too.

First of all, the idea that during a crisis contact should be minimized is simply absurd. On the contrary,  it is in times of crisis that dialogue is needed more than ever, since without dialogue no agreement can be reached, not even in theory. And dialogue is required not only between presidents and foreign ministers, but between lower-level officials from a wide range of departments and agencies on both sides.

Dialogue is necessary at the level of parliamentarians, independent analytical centers, media, civil society, and the private sector. Such intensive dialogue has the ability not only to dampen the political tensions and stem the flow of radical sentiment; across various platforms it can also engender practical solutions that often elude government leaders and ministers during their inevitably short meetings and phone calls.

As for the claim that Russia can survive perfectly well without the U.S., and vice versa, there is an obvious need to clarify what is meant by the phrase “survive perfectly well.” Economic ties between the countries are not the be-all and end-all for either. And it goes without saying that a lack of strategic interaction between the Kremlin and the White House will not automatically lead to nuclear war. And it is long understood that the new polycentric world does not rotate around the Moscow-Washington axis like in the second half of the last century.

Nonetheless, there is hardly anyone who would deny that the moratorium on Russian-U.S. cooperation jeopardizes the solution of a wide variety of international issues (Russia Direct: Analysis), while other problems will prove insurmountable. This applies to regional crises (such as Afghanistan) and nuclear non-proliferation; to the fight against international terrorism and drug trafficking; to the management of natural resources and global migration; to space exploration (Russia Direct: Space Race) and international cooperation in the Arctic; to the reform of international organizations and the creation of new international regimes, and to other highly acute problems facing the global community today. (At right:  Presidents Obama and Putin at D-Day commemoration, June 6, 2014)

Despite the seriousness of the Ukrainian crisis, it is by no means the only one on the global agenda. And to hang the entire spectrum of bilateral Russian-U.S. relations on just one — albeit very dramatic — international event would be shortsighted, to say the least.

It is sometimes held that to continue dialogue in a time of crisis is a sign of weakness. A readiness to talk supposedly sends out the wrong signal to the other side and implicitly demonstrates a willingness to make concessions. As a diplomat with ample experience, I can state with certainty that this is not so. The very fact of being open to dialogue does not signify readiness to give ground. On the contrary, only through dialogue is it possible to persuade the opposing side to change its position, by laying out the logic of one’s argument and the clarity of one’s vision. History shows that winding up contacts and slapping on restrictions and sanctions rarely leads to a successful resolution of crisis situations.

Any crisis is a test for all concerned. Will the sides have the presence of mind not to burn bridges or succumb to rushes of emotion, but rather, to look beyond short-term tactical victories and defeats towards the long-term consequences? It is sincerely hoped that Russia and the U.S. will survive this test with minimal losses to themselves and the rest of the world.

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Dean Rusk — A “Silent Buddha” Amidst Chaos

Dean Rusk served as Secretary of State for eight controversial years, from 1961 through 1969, when public discomfort over his daughter’s interracial marriage prompted him to offer his resignation. (LBJ refused to accept it.) He ended up serving through the end of Johnson’s term. Born February 9, 1909, David Dean Rusk spent his early years in Cherokee County, Georgia, but relocated to North Carolina to study at Davidson College. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa, Rusk studied in England as a Rhodes Scholar at St. John’s College, Oxford. Following a few years as a staff officer in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II and a brief stint in the War Department, Rusk joined the Department of State in February 1945.

Secretary Rusk’s term extended through the darkest days of the Cold War and included such conflicts and crises as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam War, the Six-Day War and the Biafra famine. Remembered by his Special Assistant, Emory C. Swank, as “even-tempered, considerate, and kind….with natural reserve and reticence and no fondness for small talk” and by historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s as Buddha-like in ”A Thousand Days,” Dean Rusk was an interesting antithesis to the violent and unpredictable times in which he lived. Both valued and condemned for his reticence and equanimity, Secretary Rusk directed his skills at cementing compromises and avoiding the type of diplomatic fiasco which would trigger nuclear warfare. In this interview with Paige E. Mulhollan beginning back in July 1969, Mr. Rusk interprets his time in office, highlighting his respect for President Lyndon B. Johnson, his opinions on various regions and his predictions for the future.

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LBJ and Vietnam –“We did not create a war psychology in the United States”

Q: Suppose we begin with just a general question–the type of man that you found President Lyndon Johnson to be.

RUSK: To begin with, he had an all-consuming commitment to his job as President. He had become President through the great tragedy of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and it was as though he felt that since he had not been the first choice for President, he was going to do everything that he possibly could to be a good President and to be a great President. He worked late at night, he worked early mornings, he took his evening reading to his bedside with him, and that kept him up frequently most of the time until one or two o’clock in the night. He would wake up at four or five o’clock in the morning and call the Operations Room of the Department or the White House to see how things were going in Vietnam….

[A]s far as Vietnam is concerned, President Johnson was his own desk officer. He was actually the Commander-in-Chief…. [T]here were times when the President would simply look around the room and say, “Now, gentlemen, I’m not going to do this so just don’t fret me about this, because I’m not going to do it.”

Q: Why do you think that Mr. Johnson never allowed his subordinates to really go out and sell the Vietnam policy?

RUSK:  Oh, I don’t think that he imposed limitations on us in that regard. I made more speeches than any Secretary of State….What we did not do was to take steps to create a war psychology in the United States. Now, that was an important decision. It was not made all at once, but it was a matter that we talked about on a number of occasions. We did not lay on big military parades. We did not put on big bond drives or [have] movie actors going around the country whooping up war-fever, and things of that sort. The reason we didn’t was because there’s too much power in the world to let the American people become too mad….We did not go out to whip up the anger of the American people over Vietnam….

Some people had the view that somehow the United States unilaterally could make peace in Vietnam, regardless of what Hanoi did. That on the face of it is an absurdity, but it’s not apparent as an absurdity to some critics….Well, a good deal of it was wishful thinking, hoping that somehow the problem would just go away if we got out of it; that maybe Laos and Vietnam and Cambodia and Thailand would survive whether we did anything about it or not; that Ho Chi Minh was just a good old Nationalist and that all he was wanting to do was to set up a kind of Yugoslavia out there, free from China, and free from the Soviet Union….

Then, as the war dragged on, and it was a slow-bleed, there was no clear indication that the war was going to come to a finite conclusion. So some people just got weary of the war and wanted to bring it to an end and to bring the casualties to an end, and that led them to embrace points of view that, in calmer moments, they would not have embraced….

“The tragic price”

Q: If you had known what the ultimate cost of lives and resources and dollars and public opinion was going to be with our activity in Vietnam, do you think looking back that you would have advised any differently? 

RUSK:  Well, every American casualty takes a little piece out of those who carry the responsibility, and I’ve felt that it was a great tragedy that it was necessary to ask our young men to undertake this fighting after all that has happened in the last four decades. On the other hand, the overriding problem before all of mankind is to prevent World War III. We learned the lessons from World War II and wrote them into the United Nations Charter and into our great security treaties. The principal lesson we learned from World War II is that if a course of aggression is allowed to gather momentum…it continues to build and leads eventually to a general conflict….I said we learned the lessons of World War II, but no one is going to learn any lessons from World War III. There won’t be enough left….

There’s another point that is highly relevant. Two-thirds of the world’s people live in Asia. Half of them are free; half of them are in Communist China. During this period in which we have made a stand in Vietnam, the free nations of Asia have made remarkable progress, not only in terms of what is happening in each particular country but in the cohesion which has been developing among the free nations themselves in regional activities, such as the ASPAC grouping of Pacific powers, and such as the ASEAN grouping of the Southeast Asian powers, and the Asian Development Bank, and the initiatives taken by Japan to stimulate agricultural production. All sorts of things have been happening out there, so that behind the cover of our resistance in Vietnam has been a steady strengthening of the forces of free Asia.

Now, they face the prospect of living next to a billion Chinese armed with nuclear weapons and proclaiming a doctrine of militant Communism–militant world revolution. It was my hope that the Vietnamese experience would give them some time in which they could strengthen themselves to be able to survive the implicit pressures of a Communist China and maintain some peace in Asia of the sort that is conformable to the national interests of the United States….[I]f the free nations of Asia ten years from now are surviving as independent nations—making their own decisions about their own national life and their own orientation in world affairs— then the Vietnamese experience will have been worth the tragic price that has been paid for it. If, on the other hand, we are moving down the chute—the chute toward World War III— then at least we can say that we tried to stop it by stopping it in Vietnam….

Stalemate in Asia

Q: The rest of Asia sometimes, I’m afraid, gets overlooked in the emphasis on Vietnam. Was there a major attempt during the Johnson Administration to move toward regularizing our relations with Communist China?

RUSK:  We repeated the effort made by the Eisenhower Administration to bring about an exchange of newspapermen. We proposed the exchange of scientists, scholars, of professional men–doctors. We proposed the exchange of weather information….Peking always came back with the answer that there was nothing to discuss until we are ready to surrender Taiwan. This has been the great problem about improving relations with mainland China. They insist that Taiwan, sometimes known as Formosa, is a part of China–their China. They don’t recognize that China was split in a civil war and that the Republic of China on Taiwan has an existence of its own….This simple attitude forces everyone to ask themselves what they’re prepared to do about Taiwan, because if you’re not prepared to surrender these thirteen million people on Taiwan to mainland China, then you’re not in business with China—with Peking [Beijing]. Peking won’t talk to you, won’t do anything….

Q: What about Korea? When did the renewed tensions along the armistice line in Korea become serious again?

RUSK:  When the North Korean leaders began making militant speeches about unifying the country by 1970 and making very bellicose statements about their own policy and attitude, we became very much concerned because we had fifty thousand American troops in Korea. We had a very flat and direct security treaty with Korea. A renewal of the Korean War would be something that we would look upon with the greatest dismay because we had enough of a struggle going on in Southeast Asia. We didn’t want a second struggle up in Korea. But throughout ’67 and ’68 we were very much concerned about North Korea.

I will never fully understand just why the North Koreans seized the Pueblo. It’s one of those situations where a small belligerent country can act with a lack of responsibility simply because other countries don’t want war. The Pueblo was in international waters.

[President Johnson] was, of course, furious with the North Koreans, and, like me, [he] failed to understand just why they went out of their way to be so disagreeable about it. Nevertheless President Johnson did not want a war with North Korea. He made a prompt decision to try to get the ship and its men back by diplomatic means rather than by military means. We were faced with the fact that if you tried to use military force to rescue the men you might pick up dead bodies, but you wouldn’t pick up live men and that you might well start a war….

So we decided to swallow hard and try to get these men back by diplomatic means, and that took a great deal of doing. We had meeting after meeting that made no progress and we finally released the men by a device which I described at the time as being without precedent in international affairs. We signed a statement which the North Koreans insisted we sign, but at the very time we signed it we made a statement saying that we denounced the signature and the statement itself was false.

“This hemisphere is our home”

Q: Would you like to switch over a world away to Latin America? You mentioned the Alliance for Progress programs.

The Alliance for Progress was an effort to mobilize the resources…of Latin America for development. The American aid was never to be more than about two percent of the gross national product of Latin America….We expected the Latin Americans to take far-reaching steps in their own behalf in terms of investment, tax programs, the elimination of corruption, improvement in the agricultural sector, improvement in education, improvement in public health across the broad iron of development. We wanted them to move fast, but on the other hand we wanted them to move by democratic processes as much as possible….

Now, these Latin American countries also have their internal politics. They have vested interests. They have inertia. They have resistance to social change so that changes did not occur as fast as we hoped they might. Nevertheless the total effect of the Alliance for Progress was very constructive….I think that if you look at what was accomplished during the period of Alliance for Progress in investment, in new tax systems, in education, in public health, in increased agricultural productivity, you can see that it was a period of substantial progress in Latin America….I myself appeared before Congressional committees thirty-two times in public testimony on behalf of foreign aid–four times each year….

President Johnson always looked upon the hemisphere as, in a certain sense his priority area, despite the war in Vietnam and despite our obvious major involvements in Europe. He used to say that “This hemisphere is our home. This is where we live. These are our neighbors. If we can’t get along with our neighbors, with whom can we get along?”

The Six-Day War

Q: Was the President also able to master the details of a problem like the Middle East?

RUSK:  Oh, yes. He worked intensely on the Middle East….[At the time] you had a three-cornered rivalry in the Middle East. You had on the one hand a contest between the so-called progressive Arab States, the extreme Arab States and the moderate and conservative Arab states such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia—the more progressive or more extreme Arab states being primarily Egypt, Syria, and Algeria. So we were interested in peace in the Middle East. In 1967 we became disturbed because we found that the Soviets were circulating rumors of Israeli mobilization against Syria, which did not check out as being factually true when we looked at the situation on the ground. But those rumors excited the grabs and probably had something to do with the formation of the alliance between Syria and Egypt, and later Jordan and Egypt. The Soviets played a considerable role in stirring up the sense of hostility and crisis in the Middle East just prior to the June war.

Then when President Nasser [of Egypt] closed the Strait of Tiran and insisted on the departure of the U.N. forces, I think the Soviets became concerned that the situation was moving too far and too fast. So they then tried to work with the United States to cool off the situation. We and they were in touch with each other, and we tried to get commitments from both sides that hostilities would not begin. They got such commitments from the Egyptians, for example; we got such a commitment from the Israelis. And when the Israelis then launched their attack in June 1967, it was in the face of a commitment to us that they would not do so, so we were very disappointed. The views in the Israeli cabinet were closely divided–there was almost a tie vote on most of these issues. But the so-called hawks in the Israeli Cabinet carried the day and precipitated the hostilities there, which caused the crisis of ’67….

We tried to arrange a cease-fire on the first day. Had we been able to do so, there would not have been any fighting between Israel and Jordan and Israel and Syria. And Israeli forces would only have been maybe thirty miles or so into the Sinai Desert as far as Egypt was concerned. Had we been able to get a cease-fire on that first day, the situation would have been much [easier] to solve than it is today! But the Russians and the Arabs delayed in the Security Council in moves toward a cease-fire; they tried to link it with withdrawal of forces, and they tried to inject other elements into the situation….It was not until about a week had passed that an actual cease-fire resolution succeeded in passing the Security Council. By that time the Israelis were already well-established in Jordan-Syria, as well as Egypt.

NATO, Non-Proliferation and the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia

RUSK:  [In Europe] we had long discussions with the Soviets on the key articles of the Nonproliferation Treaty. The chief objective of the Soviet Union was to be sure that the Germans never got their finger on any trigger under any circumstances, or by any combination of voting, or anything of that sort. Now the way the Nonproliferation Treaty eventually wound up was on the basis of the idea that there would be no new entity that had control of nuclear weapons. If the countries of Western Europe were to merge, if they were to create a unified Europe which had control of foreign and military policy, then that Europe would be nuclear by direct succession—by inheritance from Britain and France. Now the Soviets had some objections even to that interpretation of the treaty, and we made it clear to them that we were going to announce that that was our interpretation of the treaty, and if they publicly objected to it then we’d have to go back to the drawing board and negotiate the treaty again; because there would be no treaty if that interpretation were counterbalanced. In fact they did not object to that interpretation; I suppose that the Soviets predict that it’s going to be a long, long time before Europe ever gets to that degree of unity.

Q: The most sensational event I suppose in NATO affairs during the Johnson presidency was General de Gaulle’s demand that the headquarters be moved out of France.

RUSK:  Well, we were disappointed of course that France withdrew from the military arrangements of NATO; it made a big difference in matters of convenience, matters of logistic support, matters of headquarters locations, and things of that sort….

We were very anxious that Europe recover from its tendency to withdraw into itself and assume the role that was waiting for Europe in world affairs. You see, decolonization had been quite a shock to both France and Great Britain, and the tendency to become a little France or a little England was very pronounced. And there grew up in Europe a strong feeling of isolationism in the sense that Europe would look after its own affairs and not pay too much attention to wharfs going on in other parts of the world. We were concerned about this because that would leave the United States more or less alone as great power in the free world able to act in any part of the world where an action was required. We wanted some help in this role….

Q: All the experts say that the big problem in Europe is to settle the German problem.

RUSK:  The settlement of the German problem is basically a problem with the Soviet Union. There isn’t going to be any settlement of the German problem to which the Soviets don’t agree. I talked with [Andrei A.] Gromyko [Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs] many times about the German problem and tried to show him what vast changes in the situation could take place if we got the German problem behind us. And the only thing that the Soviets had to do was to allow the East Germans a chance to choose for themselves whether they wanted to be independent as a separate East German state, or become a part of the united Germany; and that if that question was settled by plebiscite, that then there would be far-reaching opportunities for a disarmament as between the two sides, and for intimate trade relations between the two sides, and a new era of peace in Central Europe.

You see, the German question is probably the only question on which the Soviet Union and the United States might be drawn into a nuclear war….President Johnson did such things as bring the Consular Treaty negotiations to a conclusion, the Civil Air Agreement to a conclusion, the Nonproliferation Treaty, the space treaties; he did his best to get the SALT [Strategic Arms Limitation Talks] talks started before he left office….[This] was to reduce tensions by trying to find points on which agreement could be reached, whether they were small points or large points, simply because President Johnson wanted to reduce the dangers in the world.

Q: You mentioned the SALT talks that got interrupted by Czechoslovakia. How far had the agreement gone prior to the August invasion of Czechoslovakia?

RUSK:  The Soviets moved into Czechoslovakia on a Tuesday night. It had been agreed between us and the Soviet Union that on the Wednesday morning–the next day–we were both going to announce in our respective capitals a summit meeting to launch the SALT talks. And one of the first things that we had to do when they moved into Czechoslovakia was to cancel that announcement. So we were just on the point of announcing a summit meeting to start the talks on offensive and defensive missiles. So we had gone a long way down that trail. Now one wonders why the Soviets felt that they could go ahead with the SALT talks and at the same time move into Czechoslovakia.

[Of course] we had no commitments to Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia was a Communist country that was very active in pursuing the world revolution in terms of interfering in the affairs of other countries and doing things to stimulate dissident groups here and there. Czechoslovakia had been almost as active as Red China and the Soviet Union itself. So we did not feel that we owed any obligation to Czechoslovakia.

Anyhow it was covered by the Warsaw Pact, and any overt move by us to support Czechoslovakia would have meant war, and we were not prepared to go to war over the issue of the internal arrangements in Czechoslovakia….But a move by the Soviets into Yugoslavia would have created a crisis of first-class proportions because the threat of the movement of Soviet armies to the Adriatic would have been of great concern to all of NATO as well as to the United States. So President Johnson tried to warn the Soviet Union against any further Czechoslovakias.

The Famine in Biafra

Q: What about a much more long-lasting and serious, in terms of human costs, problem: the Nigerian difficulties?

RUSK:  We thought this was an African problem that ought to be handled by the Africans in an African way. In general we felt that it would be a great misfortune if Nigeria were to split on tribal grounds. We felt that the repercussions of that throughout Africa would be very severe. If you reorganized Africa politically on the basis of tribes, you might have four or five hundred petty principalities that could not sustain themselves; and you’d have political confusion in Africa that would make it very difficult indeed to sort things out. And this was generally the view of the other African states.

By and large American policy toward Nigeria was the policy of the overwhelming majority of the Organization of African Unity; only four of the more than thirty-five African states recognized Biafra or showed sympathy toward Biafra. The rest of them were in favor of the unified Nigeria, partly because they all shuddered at the thought of breaking up over tribal grounds, you see. So we favored the Federal Republic; we favored the central government of Nigeria.

But in the interest of trying to get the two sides to settle the matter through palaver–through talk–we decided not to send arms in there, and not to involve ourselves in the fighting in any way, but to remain at some distance. I think in retrospect that was the correct policy, although now the federal government of Nigeria looks upon us as somewhat at arms-length because we did not give them the arms that the Russians did and that the British did while they were having their battle with Biafra.

Q: I guess the issue in Africa then that has excited the longest political interest here was the whole complex of issues involving Rhodesia and the U.N. policy.

RUSK:  We had some domestic reaction toward the Rhodesian situation. In general we felt this was a British problem–we tried to stay one or two steps behind Britain in it because we did not want to buy the Rhodesian problem as being one of our own. We have a commitment to human rights that generally makes us feel that the Rhodesians ought to give some sort of political representation to the blacks in Rhodesia; we felt that it would have been desirable for the problem of the blacks to be settled between Britain and Rhodesia before Rhodesia became fully independent. But in general we acted in support of the general attitude in the U.N. on Rhodesia, and our sanctions on Rhodesia were part of U.N. sanctions. But we didn’t crusade on the subject, and we didn’t–what we were trying to do was to keep ourselves from getting very much involved in it….

Peace in a nuclear world

Someone once asked me what I considered to be the most important achievement during my years as Secretary of State, and I answered that I helped to add eight years to the time since the nuclear weapon had been used in anger. Now I think that the historian will probably have other evidence at his disposal; but as it looked to us in the 1960’s and still looks to me in March 1970, the overriding issue for the human race is how to avoid a nuclear war.

We have thousands of megatons lying around in the hands of frail human beings, and if those megatons are fired–if they go off–then there’s a real question as to how much of the human race can survive. Certainly there will be nothing but rubble in most of the northern hemisphere. Everything that you do in foreign policy has to be measured therefore by whether it contributes to or detracts from the possibility of maintaining peace in a nuclear world.

Close behind it are other great problems like the population explosion. By the time this transcript is available to the reader, the impact of the population problem will be clear for everybody to see; but that is something that the human race has got to deal with, and it is not yet dealing with it in an effective way. The relations between the races is another great problem–the white race is a minority race in the world, and it has got to come to terms with the colored races of the world. We are making some progress on that, but we still have not gone far enough. And if we have a division in the world between the colored and the white races, then we’ll have the problems of an enormous impact upon our hands.

Then the gap between the developing countries and the developed countries is a matter of great concern. It has been estimated that the per capita gross national product favors the developed countries at a ratio of about twelve-to-one compared to the developing countries. That gap is widening instead of closing. By the end of the century it might be twenty-to-one, so you may have a great division in the world between the haves and the have-nots that will be a source of friction and maybe even violence before the end of the century….

Q: Did you ever try to answer the question, what was your greatest failure in eight years?

RUSK: I think the greatest mistake was the Bay of Pigs. I think the greatest failure we had was in failing to bring the Vietnam War to a conclusion while we were still in office. The greatest crisis we had was the Cuban missile crisis. But I think the greatest satisfaction comes out of the thousands of little things that were done every week that built toward peace in the world.


Caught in a Honeypot – Marine Clayton Lonetree Betrays His Country

Marine Security Guard Clayton Lonetree was seduced by a Russian woman, “Violetta Seina,” at the annual Marine Corps Ball in November 1985. She worked as a telephone operator and translator for Embassy Moscow but lived a double life as a KGB agent. Lonetree was so highly regarded that he was chosen to be part of the Marine unit assigned to provide security for the 1985 summit between Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan. However, despite the strict non-fraternization (“no frat”) policy imposed on all MSGs in such parts of the world, Lonetree and Seina began a relationship soon after they met. She introduced him to her “Uncle Sasha,” KGB operative Aleksey Yefimov, who asked Lonetree to become a “friend of the Soviet Union.”

Lonetree was soon convinced to turn over confidential information, including embassy floor plans. After he was transferred to Embassy Vienna in 1986, he passed on blueprints of that embassy and burn bags with top secret cables, including on U.S. arms reduction. On December 14, 1986,  Lonetree came forward to the CIA station chief in Vienna and confessed. He was immediately turned over to the Navy Intelligence Service (NIS) and placed under arrest, charged with espionage. Read more

Remembering Pope John Paul II

John Paul II was one of the most charismatic popes in recent history, a rock star who attracted millions during his frequent trips abroad and who was considered a beacon of hope for people in his native Poland. Born Karol Joseph Wojtyła on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice in southern Poland, he was elected pope in 1978, the first non-Italian pope in 500 years. He was critically wounded by a Turkish terrorist while in St. Peter’s Square in 1981; he later took the unprecedented step of meeting his would-be assassin in his prison cell.

He was fluent in eight languages and his pontificate, which lasted more than 26 years, was the third longest in history. He greatly expanded diplomatic relations with other states, from 85 countries in 1978 to 174 countries in 2005, including the U.S. The man who oversaw a record number of canonizations was himself canonized on April 27, 2014. Read more

Constant Companions: KGB Stalking of FSOs

Revanchist policies from the Kremlin, crackdowns on protesters – lately with Russia it seems like everything old is new again. So perhaps it’s time to look back at the very embodiment of Cold War tensions – the infamous KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, or Committee of State Security). Rarely violent but often threatening, the constant presence of KGB agents became a fact of life for those serving in the USSR, especially Moscow. From smashed car windows to seductive blondes, the Soviets used many tactics to intimidate and monitor the Americans placed in their charge. And yet many Foreign Service officers found they were able to coexist with their KGB counterparts, and often formed wary relationships of grudging respect. Read more

Making the World a Safer Place — Nuclear Arsenals and the Fall of the USSR

Imagine what Europe would be like today if Belarusian strongman Aleksandr Lukashenka were able to threaten his neighbors with nuclear weapons. Or how much tenser the situation in Ukraine would be if Kyiv had access to the bomb — Would Putin grab just Crimea or would he be tempted to take all of Ukraine to maintain regional security and make sure its nuclear arsenal did not “fall into the wrong hands”? With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the nuclear weapons which once belonged to one country were now the property of many. Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan all held some of the former Soviet Union’s arsenal. With the growing concern of “loose nukes,” terrorism, and regional instability, it was clear to many that suddenly having three more nuclear states in the world was not a tenable situation. Read more

The Downing of KAL Flight 007

On August 30, 1983, a Boeing 747, Korean Airlines 007  took off for Seoul from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.  With 246 passengers and 23 crew on board, the routine yet ill-fated flight would never complete the second leg of its journey from Anchorage to Gimpo Airport. Significantly off course, Captain Chun Byung-In inadvertently piloted the plane through restricted Soviet airspace in the Kamchatka peninsula. On September 1, as it flew near Moneron Island, west of Sakhalin, a Soviet SU-15 interceptor, piloted by Major Genadi Osipovich, shot down the civilian aircraft. All on board were killed, including 22 children under the age of 12 and U.S. Congressman Lawrence McDonald of Georgia.  Read more

“If Putin gets away with Crimea, eastern Ukraine will be next”

The following was written by Victor H. Ashe, Ambassador to Poland under the Bush Administration. He argues that President Obama’s past actions have emboldened Putin to make the moves he has made and that the U.S. needs to show that there will be consequences for such actions. The article was originally published March 14, 2014 by Ambassadors Perspective, the website of the Council of American Ambassadors.

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“A fragmented Ukraine which does not join the EU or NATO is what Putin wants”

Having lived in Poland for five years from 2004 to 2009 as the U.S. Ambassador to Poland, I had a front row seat observing the Orange Revolution in the adjacent nation to the east, Ukraine. In that case, a rigged election was thrown out, new elections were held, and a democratically elected President emerged.

He was Viktor Yushchenko whose face had been disfigured a few years earlier in an attack on him. Hopes for success for enjoying freedom and economic vitality with him were high. Celebrations were everywhere.

Then disappointment set in as he fell far short of moving Ukraine to economic stability. The rising economic tide such as it was lifted only some of the boats. During the current crisis, Yushchenko has been silent.

Ukraine is a nation of 47 million people, which is larger than Poland. It has been the nation between Russia and Poland. It suffered the Stalin sanctioned famine of the 1930s which resulted in millions of deaths by starvation. It was a major battleground in World War II. It has great potential which has not become a reality. Oligarchs play a huge role in the governmental structure.

The country itself is somewhat artificially created in certain areas. Crimea had been part of Russia until 1954 when it was transferred to Ukraine then one of the Soviet Republics. It made no difference then as all reported to the Kremlin. Lviv in the west was part of Poland prior to World War II before Stalin annexed it into Ukraine. It retains a strong post western view and Ukrainian, not Russian, is the major language there.

During my time there, I visited Lviv, Kiev, and Odessa on the Black Sea. In Lviv and Odessa, I spoke to young political leaders of several political parties on how to organize and what to do if elected to local offices. I was there under the auspices of the International Republican Institute, which is federally funded in large part, as is the National Democratic Institute (its Democratic counterpart).

Crimea which is currently occupied by Russian troops is also home to the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. It is overwhelmingly Russian in its population with Russian the dominant language. This crisis has played into President Putin’s hands as he has never fully accepted the independence of Ukraine from Russia. A divided or fragmented Ukraine which does not join the EU or NATO is what Putin wants. Whether this occupation will end with Russian withdrawal or a new quasi nation such as South Ossetia in Georgia appears to be moving towards Russian control. The minority Tatar population of Crimea will live in fear.

“There must be consequences to what Putin is doing”

President Obama’s past actions have emboldened Putin to make the moves he has made, as missile defense was weakened in Eastern Europe from what Obama inherited from George W. Bush, a reset policy with Russia which has failed to produce meaningful results, and an announcement recently to reduce the size of the U.S. Army to pre-World War II levels. Refusal to provide guns to the Ukrainian army is noted in the Kremlin. There does not appear to be an appreciation in the White House that Putin interprets these actions as weakness.

It is obvious the U.S. is not going to engage in military action nor does any serious U.S. leader suggest such. However, there must be consequences to what Putin is doing. Simply announcing there will be consequences and leaving the Russian guessing what they may be is useless.

When Putin invaded Georgia in 2008 there were no meaningful consequences to the creation of two new “nations” which the United Nations does not recognize. Putin may assume the same will happen here. After all, six years later he hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi, which is literally next door to the nation he invaded. No one seemed to recognize the incredible irony of this except Putin, a former KGB agent who is still one at heart.

The current non-elected government of Ukraine is powerless to act and the new government represents several warring factions within Ukrainian society. But it is all Ukraine has at present. Elections are planned for May. But will circumstances allow that to happen? Western powers will have to undertake meaningful sanctions which may have to last for some time to have an impact.

The U.S. can, under current federal law, deny visas and entry to the U.S. for Russian leaders and citizens. The G-8 meeting in Sochi can be canceled. Bank accounts of Russian oligarchs in the U.S. can be frozen. Something should happen that has a real impact. Perhaps this will occur after the so-called referendum occurs in Ukraine on March 16 and Russia announces its response to that referendum. All fully expect an overwhelmingly Yes vote to become part of Russia.

If Putin gets away with the seizure of Crimea, then eastern Ukraine, which is also closely tied to Russia, will be next. Ukraine will become a substantially reduced nation in size and influence. Poles will be even more worried as to Russian intentions, and with good reason.

Poland has much at stake here and remembers the change in missile defense in September 2009, which was poorly introduced to the Polish government. In fact, it was done on September 17, 2009 which marked the 70th anniversary of Stalin’s invasion of Poland as Hitler’s ally at that time which became a negative public relations issue in Poland.

Ukrainians who have looked with envy at Poland for its free democratic system and successful economy will feel they have been abandoned. President Obama’s legacy in world affairs will suffer but so will freedom everywhere.


View All Russia/Soviet Union Articles.

Ukraine’s Push for Independence

“With Ukraine, Russia is an empire. Without it, Russia is just another country.” The history between these two is long and often fraught with conflict. Before the current protests in Ukraine over relations with Russia, Ukraine had to fight to free itself from the Soviet Union. Official independence was declared August 24, 1991 and with it came its own host of problems. The United States was split between keeping the Soviet Union intact (and its reformist leader Mikhail Gorbachev in power), versus supporting Ukrainian democracy and self-rule. This ambiguity was highlighted by President George H.W. Bush’s much-criticized “Chicken Kiev” speech, in which he warned against “suicidal nationalism.” Eventually Washington decided to recognize Ukraine. However, its sizable nuclear arsenal, lingering Communist sentiments, the situation in Crimea, and the nature of the future government all became salient issues post-independence.  Read more

Transnistria — Moldovan Land Under Russian Control

The Transnistria region in Moldova is a Cold War relic. Along with Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenian-controlled Azerbaijan and South Ossetia in Georgia, it is a post-Soviet “frozen conflict” zone where a situation of “no war, no peace” still persists. It did not want to separate from the USSR when the latter was dissolved; the brief military conflict that started in March 1992 was ended by a ceasefire in July 1992.

Despite years of multilateral negotiations, this tiny sliver of land is unrecognized but independent, with its own government, military, police, and currency. While Transnistria is much smaller than Moldova, it retains considerable leverage, in now small part because of the Russian military contingent stationed there. Read more