ANATOLY DOBRYNIN (New York: Random House/Times Books, 1995), xv + 672 pp., including appendix and index, $30.00 cloth (ISBN 0-8129-2328-6).
The scholarship surrounding the American-Soviet relationship in the final stages of the Cold War, and even in its earlier climactic stages, finds an important addition to the literature in these two volumes written by insider diplomatic actors, both of whom served as ambassadors. Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin served as the U.S.S.R's ambassador to Washington from the Kennedy administration to the Reagan administration (1962-1986) and was representing his government in Washington during the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as during numerous summit conferences. Ambassador Jack F. Matlock, Jr. was the American ambassador to Moscow from 1987 to 1991 under Presidents Reagan and Bush and also served in the Reagan administration as special assistant to the president from 1983 to 1986, being involved in the work of the National Security Council. Thus both have strong credentials to present some of the "inside story" to the public for the first time since the major changes in the former Soviet Union.
These volumes can be placed alongside a recent diplomatic history of U.S.-Russian relations from the early days to the present, David Mayers, The Ambassadors and America's Soviet Policy, and the important memoirs of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III.
As Soviet ambassador to Washington, Mister Dobrynin represented Soviet leaders from Nikita Khrushchev to the early days of the Gorbachev period. Without apologizing for his communist background, he describes the difficulties of keeping diplomatic relations between the two then-superpowers on track.
The Soviet Union that Gorbachev inherited in 1985 was a global power,
perhaps somewhat tarnished in that image, but still strong and united and
one of the world's two superpowers. But in three years, from 1989 to 1991,
the political frontiers of the European continent were effectively rolled
eastward from the center of Europe to the Russian borders of 1653, which were
those before Russia's union with the Ukraine. How did all this happen?
The roots of the demise of the Soviet Union must be found mainly at
home, in our political struggles, in our incompetent but highly ambitious
leaders, and in the unbelievably quick chain of domestic events in which the
great majority of the population did not participate and still does not
really understand (p. 615).