BREAKING WITH MOSCOW by Arkady N. Shevchenko
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BREAKING WITH MOSCOW

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Former UN Under Secretary General Shevchenko, the highest-ranking Soviet ever to defect, has caused an even greater stir by coming out as a CIA-run spy. After letting the US know of his interest in defecting, Shevchenko was confronted with the counter-proposal that he stay in his post and pass on information about Soviet policy-making and UN communiques. He was about to turn down the proposal, Shevchenko says, when he realized that the CIA had him cornered: if he refused, they could expose him to the KGB. That part of the story has a decidedly sleazy tinge; but in any case Shevchenko accepted, unaware that his job would last some three years. Those years are depicted in taut spy-story style, with Shevchenko in terror of being caught on almost every page; yet there remain nagging mysteries about his personal life. That life--with a focus on his diplomatic career--is recounted in the central sections. Shevchenko shows the Soviet foreign policy establishment dominated by secrecy, timid bureaucracy, and the bending of policy to fit ideological needs. (He is particularly critical of the Kremlin for failing to maintain good relations with Russia's bordering giant, China.) The central figure, and stabilizing force, is Gromyko: a far-sighted man of great intelligence about whom we're vouchsafed much trivial detail (the building and floor he occupies, his cloistered habits) but also considerable information of interest and substance. It's illuminating to learn, for instance, how instrumental Gromyko was in the rise of Leonid Brezhnev, whose ultimate supremacy over Alexei Kosygin was assured in part by the foreign-policy initiatives he took under Gromyko's guidance. Withal, intermittent references to diplomatic hypocrisy and KGB surveillance don't add up to an explanation for Shevchenko's defection. The fault lies in the portrayal of Shevchenko's first wife, Lina--seen as the most materialistic of a very materialistic Soviet diplomatic society--who committed suicide after his defection. In Shevchenko's description of endless conversations about possessions and rank, there exists a gap that might explain his course. But that only makes the story still more fascinating. Espionage fans might skim the mid-section, but it's all worth attention.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1985
Publisher: Knopf