DAVID MAYERS, The Ambassadors and America's Soviet Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 335 + xiii, including notes, bibliography, and index, $35.00 cloth (ISBN 0-19-506802-5).
Despite being geared to an audience of diplomats, this volume is of wide interest to the general reader. A public accustomed to hearing the work of special envoys such as Ambassador Richard Holbrooke in Bosnia may learn of the wider uses of on-the-scene representation in the nineteenth century and its continuing importance in some capitals.
American ministers and ambassadors are dealt with in this book, which covers the Moscow embassy of the United States and its predecessor legation from 1780 (with Minister Francis Dana) to 1992 (with Ambassador Robert S. Strauss). Thus, all appointed American diplomats up to but not including Ambassador Thomas Pickering are examined.
This summary of the contents will focus on the ambassadors and ministers considered the most important, with emphasis on those from the cold war period. Ambassador Averell Harriman, criticized recently in Christopher Ogden's Lift of the Party(1) (a biography of our ambassador to Paris, Pamela Harriman), is given the highest marks by the author, who holds a joint appointment in history and political science at Boston University.
Francis Dana encountered difficulties in Catherine II's Russia. John Quincy Adams's service (1809-14) preceded his cabinet appointment and his presidency. Another president, James Buchanan (not noted for his ability in the White House but an acceptable envoy), served in 1832 and 1833. Cassius M. Clay held the appointment twice during stormy times during the Lincoln administration (recalled in 1862, back again from 1863 to 1869). John W. Foster (uncle of John Foster Dulles) was in Moscow in 1880 and 1881. George T. Marye and David R. Francis (serving respectively 1914-16 and 1917 until Lenin's accession) were both considered by the author to be beyond their depth. President Wilson was preoccupied by war and prewar concerns such as Mexico at that time.
Modern ambassadors from William C. Bullitt (from recognition in 1934 to his departure in 1936) through Robert S. Strauss, though a mixture of professionals and those who won reputations in other pursuits, were considered a considerable improvement over such men as Francis and Clay.
Some brief quotations give the flavor of Mayers's work:
[In 1915] Wilson asserted that both the ambassador (Marye) and his Russian...