IN CONFIDENCE: Moscow's Ambassador to America's Six Cold War Presidents by Anatoly Dobrynin
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IN CONFIDENCE: Moscow's Ambassador to America's Six Cold War Presidents

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Dobrynin, Soviet ambassador to the US from 1962 to 1986, doesn't tell all, but he tells enough to give a fascinating and indispensable account of the relations between the Soviet Union and the US during his tenure. Dobrynin began his career towards the end of WW II, when Stalin instructed Molotov to find more candidates for the Foreign Ministry among young engineers; Dobrynin, an engineer in an aircraft factory, was plucked out and told to present himself for new duties. By 1952, with a mind ""clogged by the long years of Stalinism, by our own ideological blunders,"" he became counsellor in the embassy in Washington, and in 1962 he was appointed ambassador. By his flexibility, his ability to improvise, and his readiness to provide as well as seek out information, he soon established a remarkable rapport with a series of presidents and their advisors. He not only gives details of the major negotiations, but conveys an unusual perspective on the individuals involved: He describes a Soviet leadership ""almost as exasperated at Hanoi's determination and secretiveness as Washington""; a drunken Brezhnev telling President Nixon the most sensitive details of behind-the-scenes Kremlin relationships; how Nixon was ""essentially rather irresolute""; Carter's relations with Moscow were not guided by clear priorities or a sense of long-term implications of actions; and Reagan was ""much deeper . . . than he first appeared,"" though he ""had a poor conception of our relations and did not like examining their intricacies""; and the author portrays the ""stagnation of thought, ideological inertia, and lack of flexibility"" of the Soviet Politburo. Dobrynin makes no bones about being a communist and finds it difficult to understand the revulsion inspired by the Soviet Union's record, but his candor, his extraordinary ability, and his sharp perceptions make this book an entertaining and important one.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 692pp
Publisher: Times