Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Baker Meets with Shevardnadze in Irkutsk and Moscow, August 1-3, 1990 (excerpt from Chapter 11.11, Moscow 1989-1991)

Baker-Shevardnadze in Irkutsk, August 1-2, 1990.
Starting with the Wyoming Ministerial in September, 1989, Secretary Baker and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze increasingly took the opportunity to meet in unusual places outside of Moscow and Washington, DC, in a manner designed to show the host country in its best light.  For that reason, it was no surprise when we learned that the August 1990 meeting of the two leaders would take place in Irkutsk.  Secretary Baker was apparently enthused about the locale, because it gave him an excuse to take a side trip to Mongolia, where he planned to get in some hunting.  There was some grumbling about the object of his hunting trip, an Argali sheep with curled horns several feet in length.  It was not thought to be a proper activity for a Secretary of State, particularly since the animal in question was an endangered species, but plans went ahead for the trip anyway.

John Beyrle did the advance for S/S-S, and a team of Embassy officers that included me, Ed Salazar and Tatyana Gfoeller-Volkoff journeyed out to Irkutsk a week early to make all the
necessary preparations.  We were escorted by a large contingent of Soviet advance personnel,
including Sergey Davydov from MFA Protocol and Andrey Rogov from the USA Desk.  Sergey, in contrast to most of the people I had encountered in Protocol was very action-oriented, and easy to work with.  Whenever we encountered a roadblock in our preparations, he would simply pick up the phone, dial one of his many contacts, and inevitably start the conversation with the words: “С кем имею честь?”  (To whom do I have the honor of speaking?).  He didn’t have to twist too many arms.  The Irkutsk authorities did everything they could to ensure a successful visit, knowing full well that a Baker-Shevardnadze meeting would put their Siberian province on the map.

Andrey Rogov was not as action-oriented as Davydov, but he was very easy to deal with and laid back.  He had a nearly perfect command of English, and it was clearly his ambition to be posted to Washington.  He eventually achieved his objective, and, after a few years at the Russian Embassy in the early 1990s, reportedly resigned from the Diplomatic Service to take up a career as a Washington lobbyist, of all things. 

Knowing that Baker was an avid fisherman, the Soviets laid on a restful afternoon at the “Fisherman’s Hut,” a luxurious VIP log lodge located just up the Angara river from the lake. 
Andrey and I were deputized to go down to the lodge to make sure all was in readiness.  It was, so we spent most of the day sitting around and swapping stories.  That evening, with all preparations complete, the American and Soviet advance teams spent the evening at Irkutsk’s “Chinese” restaurant, sampling its dubious cuisine.

As the time for the visit approached, Baker’s lieutenants began filtering in.  We put most of them up in the Intourist Hotel, which was our base of operations, and in general, the early arrivals caused no problems, with one exception.  EA Assistant Secretary Richard Solomon had flown in from Beijing and somehow lost his passport en route.  He wound up phoning us from the transit lounge at Irkutsk airport, informing us that the Soviet border guards would not let him into the country.  I went out to the airport, and after a short conversation with the local head of the pogranichniki, was able to get him waived through passport and customs, on the understanding that he would be leaving on Baker’s plane.  Solomon was duly impressed, but I was a little surprised at how unconcerned he was that he might be stranded in the transit lounge during the visit.  Later, John Beyrle filled me in on Solomon.  He was a very nice guy, and very knowledgeable in his field, but notoriously disorganized, a fact that did not endear him to Secretary Baker.  On one occasion, when he was travelling with the Secretary, Solomon and an aide got off at a fuel stop in Fiji to do a little shopping.  No one noticed that they were gone until the plane was taxiing down the runway in preparation for takeoff.  Just then, the pilot reported that he saw Solomon and his aide running furiously across the tarmac in an attempt to catch up with the plane.  The pilot asked Baker what to do.  “Take off,” was Baker’s laconic reply.

The Baker-Shevardnadze meetings went off without significant problems, with both Ministers enjoying themselves at the Fisherman’s Hut, and engaging in rather desultory talks on Afghanistan, arms control and timing for the next Summit meeting.  On Thursday, Secretary Baker departed for Mongolia and his sheep-hunting expedition, and John Beyrle and I and the rest of the Advance Team packed up and flew back to Moscow.  John stayed over at my place and we were planning to take the day off on Friday.

Those plans were dashed, however, when the phone rang at 7am and we were told that Baker was hurrying back from Mongolia for a meeting with Shevardnadze in Moscow, a trip described in breathless detail in the first chapter of Baker's memoirs, "The Politics of Diplomacy."   Just as the Irkutsk meeting was breaking up, Saddam Hussein had invaded and occupied Kuwait, sparking a global crisis.  Iraq had been one subject of the Irkutsk talks, but honestly no one in the diplomatic world had expected that Saddam would be stupid enough to attack his neighbor, particularly when Baker and Shevardnadze were already meeting and discussing the Iraq situation. 

The first order of business was to ensure that Secretary Baker’s plane was cleared into Moscow, and DAO immediately began working with its counterparts on that issue.  Meanwhile, John and I drove out to Vnukovo II with all the members of the Advance Team that we could find to set up the VIP airport for a meeting and press conference later that day.  John paid particular attention to a seemingly trivial element, the arrangement of furniture in the meeting room.  John knew from past experience that Baker liked it one way and one way only.

Baker’s plane arrived and his staff began streaming down the stairs to set up for a press conference in the Main Hall.  It turned out that there had nearly been a disaster of sorts on the trip back from Mongolia.  The Secretary’s plane had stopped in Irkutsk to refuel and had blown a tire on landing.  There were apparently no suitable jacks available, so the plane sat on the tarmac for hours while airport officials frantically worked on a temporary solution.  I’m not sure how the problem was solved, although it was most likely a classic Russian improvisation of some sort.

As staffers milled around the Main Hall, Pat Kennedy, who at the time headed S/S-EX, could be seen calmly connecting all the audio equipment together as John and I escorted the Secretary and his party up to the meeting room.  By the time they had completed their talks upstairs, everything was ready for their press conference in the Main Hall, with the Moscow press corps hurriedly assembled behind rope barriers.  Baker and Shevardnadze made a joint statement on Iraq, declaring an arms embargo, but not specifying what future steps might be taken.  As a participant in the event, I was hurrying around too fast getting things set up to pay too much attention to what they said, but it was clear that a fundamental change had occurred in U.S.-Soviet relations.  We had suddenly changed from cautious adversaries into allies, at least with regard to the Middle East.  Unfortunately, only four months later, Shevardnadze resigned in protest over Gorbachev’s attempts to compromise with the demands of Soviet hardliners over Lithuania and other internal security issues.  He was replaced by Aleksandr Bessmertnykh, a friend of the U.S., but no ally.  The golden period of U.S.-Soviet foreign relations was over almost as quickly as it had begun.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Storming the Russian White House, October 4, 1993 (ISCA 1992-1994)

ADST recently published Wayne Merry's account of the storming of the Russian White House on October 4, 1993.  Here is an account of my view of the crisis from Washington, or at least, from the Russia Desk and the Operations Center, which I hope will be useful to readers.

On September 21, 1993, the deteriorating political situation in Moscow turned into a full-blown constitutional crisis when President Yeltsin issued Decree No. 1400, suspending the Congress of People's Deputies and ordering elections for a new Parliament for December 11-12.  The same day, Parliament declared Yeltsin was no longer President, and that Vice President Rutskoi, holed up in the Russian White House with rebellious hardline parliamentarians, was.  Strobe Talbott, who was running S/NIS at the time, tasked us to do a memo reviewing the situation and, if possible, to predict what might happen next.  One of my Junior Officers, Mark Pekala, drafted the memo, which, as usual, was a very professionally done job, but because he had to clear it with everyone else in the building, it was too cautious, and avoided the obvious question of whether the situation was going to deteriorate into violence.  I toughened up the memo and sent it up to Strobe without clearing it around again, predicting that the situation would turn violent within a few days.  This caused a lot of heartburn among those who found out that their cautious views were not taken, but as September wore on, we began to look like prophets as the situation steadily worsened.

On October 2, anti-Yeltsin demonstrations turned violent, and on the evening of October 3, the Ostankino TV complex was attacked by anti-Yeltsin forces.  That evening, we set up a crisis management cell in the Operations Center, which I headed, in order to keep the Department leadership informed on the latest events, and to get ready to evacuate our Embassy personnel if the situation warranted it (we eventually decided that the best thing to do in the circumstances would be to hunker down, as the situation on the streets was too chaotic to allow a successful evacuation).  At about 10pm, I called Strobe at home to update him on the situation.  After the Ostankino battle, Special Forces, apparently under Yeltsin's control, were reportedly moving to seal off the Russian White House, and speculation was rife that October 4 would either see the end of the parliamentary revolt or the end of Yeltsin.  Strobe asked me straight out, "Jim, do you think Yeltsin is going to attack the White House?"  I said it was impossible to say, but that if Yeltsin was going to attack, it would probably be at local dawn, which was 11:38pm Washington time.  Strobe took the hint, and decided to come in right then.  He and his deputies had just gotten set up in the Operations Center when we heard that, true to my somewhat timid prediction, pro-Yeltsin forces had attacked the Russian White House at dawn.  We all sat transfixed watching the CNN broadcast of the siege, including the tanks on the Kutuzovskiy Most blasting away at the upper floors of the White House.

We maintained contact with the Embassy throughout the night -- the decision to hunker down had turned out to be the right one.  For the next few days, there was considerable disorder on the streets, and Embassy personnel on the compound stayed in the Gymnasium on the NEC, which was below ground and afforded the most protection.  One marine was seriously wounded by a sniper, but that was the extent of our casualties.  A particularly dangerous moment came when a sniper was identified in the bell tower of the church on Bolshoy Devyatinskiy Pereulok, which faced the South Gate of the NEC.  Eventually, the sniper was neutralized. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Spike Dubs (excerpt from Moscow 1977-1979)

Spike Dubs.
In early 1978, the situation in Afghanistan was becoming increasingly unstable.  Mohammed Daoud was overthrown in a Communist coup that April and the country gradually moved to the center of U.S. attention.  By late 1978, the Department was scouring the rolls for single Junior Officer volunteers to go to Afghanistan, and I had even been approached by State Personnel to go out to Kabul as a Political Officer after completing my tour in Moscow.  I turned down the offer flat, thinking to myself that Afghanistan was about the last place I would ever want to go. 

Ambassador Toon was also paying close attention to the events in Afghanistan, and as Ambassador's Aide, I was constantly scanning the wire services for the latest news.  So it was that on Valentine's Day, 1979, I was in the middle of preparations for the traditional Spaso House Valentine's Day reception for the Embassy staff when I got word from Press and Culture that some important news about Afghanistan had just come over the AP ticker.  I went down to the press room and discovered that our Ambassador in Kabul, Adolf "Spike" Dubs, had been kidnapped by Afghan militants.  As I stood there reading that news item, another one came over the ticker reporting that Dubs had just been killed in the course of a rescue attempt.  Without thinking, I ripped the story off the ticker and ran up to give the news to Ambassador Toon.  Toon looked at the wire stories, and, for the first time ever, I noted that he was in a considerable emotional state.  His face turned a bright red, as it did when he was agitated, and he could not speak.  Finally, he thanked me for getting him the news, and I left to continue reception preparations at Spaso House.

Only later did I learn that Ambassador and Mrs. Toon had served with Spike Dubs in Moscow, and that they had been the best of friends for many years, and that Spike himself had been Chargé in Moscow a few years before.  I felt terrible about having sprung the news on Toon with so little preparation, but there was nothing to be done.  That evening, as guests gathered for the Valentine's Day reception, Ambassador and Mrs. Toon did not appear.  Finally, I got word from the Ambassador to tell everyone that he and Betty would not be coming down for the reception.  They were just too broken up about Spike Dubs' death.  DCM Mark Garrison and his wife Betty filled in for them, and the reception continued on until late in the evening, with only a very few of the guests aware of why the Toons had not joined the reception.  It was a very sad night.  I told myself I would never go to Afghanistan -- it was just too unsafe and too unpredictable.  How little I knew.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Harry Gilmore and the Yugoslav Desk (1974)

Harry Gilmore passed away on April 23 (his Washington Post obituary is here.  As Yugoslav Desk Officer back in 1974, he was my very first boss in the Foreign Service, when I was marking time between language training and going out to my first assignment in Belgrade.  He was a great guy, with a wonderful sense of humor and an infinite reserve of common sense.  We bumped into each other periodically during the remainder of our careers in the Foreign Service, but I never worked directly for him again.  I'm sorry I didn't. Here is an excerpt from my draft memoirs on my time on the Yugoslav Desk in 1974. 

After spending Christmas vacation at home in San Clemente, I returned to Washington to work for few weeks on the Yugoslav Desk, which at the time was part of the Office of Eastern European Affairs.  Harry Gilmore was the Yugoslav Desk Officer, and as I had no known skills, he put me to work as one might an intern, organizing filing cabinets, doing Xeroxing, and other tasks of a pretty menial nature.  In the process, I also got to read a good bit of the cable traffic coming from Belgrade and to brief myself in on my future job as half-Political Officer, half-Ambassador's Aide.  Harry was a very genial soul, and very easy to work with.  He eventually rose to the senior ranks, and was our first Ambassador to Armenia from 1993 until 1995.

I also did a couple of minor human rights projects with Judyt Mandel, who at the time was a Junior Officer working in the office.  Judyt had a natural interest in human rights, having been born in 1948 in the Bergen-Belsen DP camp (her parents had been inmates of the original concentration camp), and she threw herself into her work.  She proved to be an invaluable colleague, if on occasion a trifle disorganized.  I served several tours with her, including one rather memorable one in Moscow from 1989 until 1991. 

Finally, I took the opportunity to meet and talk with Dick and Sharon Miles, who were back from Belgrade.  Dick, who had workedwith Vernon Jordan in his pre-Foreign Service life, was extremely impressive.  He and Sharon seemed to know everyone and everything about Yugoslavia.  In later years, we would become fast friends, serving together in Washington and in Moscow, and keeping in touch through our entire careers. 

While my time on the Yugoslav Desk was generally very pleasant, not all my encounters with Department staff were friendly.  One day, Harry gave me a last minute task to copy an entire briefing book for John Baker, our EUR DAS, and so I hurried down the corridor and got to the copier just before a few of the more senior secretaries walked in, and I proceeded to monopolize the copier for the next fifteen minutes or so.  In those days, there were usually only one or two copiers on each corridor of the Department, and they did not have the automatic collating and sorting functions we take for granted now.  Because of this, the local secretarial corps got rather possessive about their Xerox machines, and weren't happy with the appearance of interlopers, particularly Junior Officers like myself.  As time went on, and I continued copying away, the secretaries got pretty ticked and began talking among themselves.  Eventually, one senior secretary disdainfully asked who I was and what I was doing.  I explained it was a last minute project for the DAS.  “Well, that's PPP,” she commented -- shorthand for “Pretty Poor Planning.”  Suitably chastened, I hurriedly completed my project and dashed down the hall.

A couple of days into my tenure, Harry decided that I needed an office of my own, and as none appeared to be available, I suggested that I clean up one of the deserted corridor offices that, while it had a desk, was also stuffed full of papers that nobody else seemed to want.  Harry agreed, and so I got to work cleaning the place up.  After a day or so, the office looked pretty good.  Its most significant distinguishing feature was a six-foot tall map of Albania, so Harry dubbed me the “Albanian Desk Officer.”  This was quite a good joke, as we had not had relations with Albania since the beginning of the Cold War.  Little did any of us know, of course, that after the fall of the Soviet Union we would have an Embassy of several hundred people in Tirana, and that the country would serve as one of our principal military support bases for the air war in Kosovo in March 1999, a war in which I was to play a significant part as head of the Kosovo Implementation Office.  Time has a way of changing everything.

As part of my honorary Albanian Desk Officer duties, I occasionally had to scramble down to the language unit to get an Albanian document translated.  It was my first encounter with the State Department's linguist corps, and it was a memorable one.  I found that there was no one in Language Services who knew Albanian, but that there was one interpreter who was willing to give it a try.  The interpreter, a career civil service employee whose name I never learned, was very old; his hair was white, his glasses coke-bottle thick, and his skin the color of translucent parchment.  He had the air of someone who had spent his entire career indoors, sitting at his desk.  Nonetheless, he had a twinkle in his eye as he warmed to his new challenge.  “I know all the languages around Albania,” he said proudly, “just not Albanian.”  Slowly, like he was working on an Acrostic, he pieced together the translation from snippets of this and that until finally, after about fifteen minutes, it was complete.  I was impressed.  In later years, I came to realize just how lucky the State Department was to have such talented people working for it.  I came to know quite a few Russian interpreters during my career, including Dmitriy Zarechnyak, Bill Hopkins, Kyrill Borissow and Peter Afanasenko.  They all had phenomenal interpreting abilities, putting my years of study in the shade.  I don't know what we would have done without them.

One of the last events of my brief tenure on the Yugoslav Desk taught me a good bit about what it meant to be a personnel manager.  One of the Desk's Civil Service secretaries had just gone into the Foreign Service, and was about to go on her first secretarial assignment overseas.  John Baker, who was the Deputy Assistant Secretary in EUR at the time, came down to say a few words at her farewell office party.  I remember thinking, “I wonder if I'll ever be able to speak that well?”  The chief thing I took away from my experience on the desk was that they were a close-knit community, people who really cared for each other.  

Monday, May 4, 2015

50th Reunion Class Speech – As delivered 
May 1, 2015

[ad lib on crashing tables and chairs]

-- It’s great to be back at MICDS, and I’m particularly happy to see so many here from the Country Day Class of 1965.  By my count, more than half of us who graduated fifty years ago are present today.  That shows, more than anything, how loyal our class is to MICDS.  One thing I have also noticed: I see my classmates all looking around at each other, and I know exactly what they’re thinking: “Why is it that I FEEL so much younger than my classmates LOOK?”  It’s the same story for every class.

-- The Class of 1965 was the last class to start at the Old School back in 1957.  And, as many of you know, when Country Day was built, it WAS way out in the country.  But by the time our class started there, nearby Lambert Field had grown so much that this was no longer the case. I can remember Wally Cole, our very patient math teacher yelling at the top of his lungs, trying to teach us the basics of decimals and fractions as Voodoo Jets roared overhead on full afterburners. [ joke about noise in the auditorium being somewhat higher than Voodoos on full afterburners]

-- Back then, our wise benefactors, who included the McDonnells and the Danforths, decided that the best thing to do would be to move Country Day right next to Mary Institute.  This was an inspired idea.  [We, the Class of 1965, were the first class eighters to start at the New School on Warson Road in 1958.  It looked very different back then.  Most of the trees were not yet planted, the grass had not yet grown, and Danforth Chapel was one of the more impressive buildings on campus.  Now of course, Danforth is gone, having been replaced by the state of the art McDonnell and Brauer STEM facility.]

-- Many of us representing the Class of 1965 today did a full eight years at Country Day School, and I think that for most of us those years were some of the most enjoyable of our lives. [They were also eventful.  As students, we lived through some of the worst periods of the Cold War, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, and of course, many of us were at Country Day when our Headmaster, Mr. Pynchon, came to the student Dining Hall to announce with great sadness that President Kennedy had been shot.]  

[-- While much about Country Day and the world around us has changed since then, there are a few things that, thankfully, have remained the same.]  In particular, then, as now, we were blessed with a group of dedicated and talented teachers, some of the finest in the nation.  More than anyone, they deserve our highest praise. [ad lib on our Russian teacher, Mrs. Danett, present at the reunion, in her nineties, one of our greatest teachers]

-- Our teachers did an outstanding job. But at the end of eight years, I can’t say that we were the most scholarly bunch ever to graduate from Country Day.  Of course, we all went off to college – Dean Webb saw to that -- and we also had our share of future achievers.  But what most distinguishes the Class of 1965?

-- One thing I do remember is that, more than almost any other class, we had a lot of fun – we truly enjoyed our time at Country Day.  [If you glance at our Senior Class photo, you will see a pretty solid-looking bunch, but if you look a little closer, you will see who we really were.  A lot of us are wearing Country Day hats, or staring off in the wrong direction, or laughing and joking with each other – doing anything except posing seriously.  That’s who we were then, and that’s who we still are now.]

-- The Class of 1965 was also known for one other thing.  We were VERY good on the athletic field.  Whether it was on the tennis court, where our esteemed Reunion Chairman, Spencer Burke, was king, or on the basketball court, where co-captains Eddie Barad and John Mackey, held sway, or on the baseball and soccer fields, we were a force to be reckoned with.  But it was on the football field where our true class identity came through.  Led by our team Captain, Dave Perry, we were undefeated in the ABC League, and in many cases, unscored upon as well.  And while many of us weren’t all that good at mathematics, as our teachers Mr. Werremeyer and Mr. Stickney would attest, there were two numbers that we all understood perfectly well: 20 and 6, as in Country Day Football Rams 20, Burroughs 6.

-- So that’s our class – a bit rough and tumble, but successful in the end, and also very grateful for the opportunities that eight years at Country Day gave us.  And that leads me to the business part of my speech, the announcement of the Class Gift. I’d like to call on Tim Smith, our chief fundraiser, to give us a report on how well we’re doing in achieving our pledge goal. [Tim gives a short report.  Note: the pledge goal for the Class of 1965 has been exceeded, and we are now over $125,000, with more pledges coming in. About 40 classmates have made pledges, with about 25 more yet to be heard from.]

-- In conclusion, I’d like to thank all of you being here today, and especially those members of the Class of 1965, and I hope we will all see each other at many more reunions to come.  Thank you very much. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

Veterans Day is a time to honor those who have served, are serving, and will serve in our nation's armed forces.  In keeping with this tradition, the following is a brief history of my own family's service, which began in the Revolutionary War, and has continued to the present day.

The tradition of military service is very strong in the Schumaker family.  Members of my extended family have served honorably in the military at least as far back as the mid-18th Century.  My 4th Great Grandfather, George Shoemaker, served in the Fairfax Militia in 1758 and, during the Revolutionary War, in Captain Baxter's Company of Rockingham Militia.  Non-patrilineal ancestors, such as my 5th Great Grandfather, Nathan Fish, served under George Washington, as did my 4th Great Grandfather, Samuel Logan.  During the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries, most of my direct ancestors were farmers and clergy, and, with the exception of the Turners, appear not to have entered military service.  This changed, however, with the beginning of the Second World War. 

My Father
My father, Fred L Schumaker, 
served as a Captain in the Army Engineers from 1943 to 1946.  He designed topographic models of Pacific Islands, including one of Iwo Jima, for the Marines to use in invasion planning.  My Uncle Joe Matthews also joined the Army during the war, serving as an Infantry officer in the Pacific Theater.  My Uncle Jack Flowers served in the Army during the Korean War, and my Uncle Shirley Dean Flowers was an Air Force pilot for much of the Cold War.

Over the years, the family has also endured its share of sacrifice.  During the Civil War, my Great Grandfather, Frederick Samuel Turner, fought for the Union.  He was captured by the Confederates, but survived the war and lived to the ripe old age of 77.  His brother, my Great Granduncle, George Butler Turner, was not so lucky.  He could have bought his way out of the Union draft by paying $300, but he volunteered instead.  He was killed at the Battle of Missionary Ridge in 1863, but not before leaving a detailed chronicle of his military experiences in hundreds of letters sent back to his parents. 

Ned Dybvig
Perhaps most tragically, my cousin, Ned Turner Dybvig, was killed in action in Vietnam.  Ned was a talented artist and an athlete, and a graduate of Cornell.  He was in top physical shape and highly intelligent.  He was an outdoorsman and skydived for fun.  He was drafted, and joined the 101st Airborne in 1967.  He was killed in a firefight near the ancient capital of Hue in April of 1968. 

Finally, of course, I was also drafted into the Army in October of 1969.  I served for four years, somehow making it through Basic Training at Fort Ord without being "recycled," taking Russian for 15 months at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and then serving for three years at the White House Communications Agency.  My experience in the Army set me on the path to a Foreign Service career.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

KGB Survelllance, Embassy Moscow 1977

With the renewal of some aspects of the Cold War, articles are once again appearing describing the increasing harassment and surveillance that our personnel at Embassy Moscow are experiencing.  None of this, of course, is new, but we still have some way to go before the treatment of our diplomats descends to the levels it reached under Brezhnev, Khrushchev, and especially Stalin.  Here are my own memories of my first few days in Moscow back in July of 1977, which included my first encounter with the KGB.

George Kennan once wrote that “The Moscow police…are instructed to view with suspicion diplomats found to be anywhere except in an automobile, in a museum, or at the Swan Lake ballet.”  I quickly learned the truth of this statement from firsthand experience.  On one of my first evenings in town, I was invited to a party at Kutuzovskiy 7, one of the huge apartment complexes across the river from the Embassy.  K-7 was mainly populated by foreigners, and closely guarded by the Soviets.  Since it was close by, I struck out on foot from the Embassy, figuring I could walk the distance in twenty or thirty minutes.  It was dark when I started out, and I soon lost my way.  I found myself walking in the middle of a small park in the direction of the Kutuzovskiy Bridge, when suddenly I realized that a couple of cars were shadowing me.  Both were black Volgas, and clearly official-looking, with rather unusual antennae sticking out of their roofs.  One Volga stopped about fifty feet in front of my position, the other in back.  I pretended not to notice and just kept on walking until I was able to find a sidewalk and get back on track.  I later learned that the KGB tailed most people when they first arrived, in order to determine the pattern of their activities.  Usually, once they had decided that the new arrival was no threat, they would stop the surveillance.  In my case, overt surveillance stopped after a very short while.

I was far from the only American under KGB scrutiny.  Just a few days later, on July 15, 1977, the KGB picked up another Embassy Officer, Martha Peterson, at the Krasnoluzhskiy Bridge, and accused her of servicing a dead drop for a Soviet agent.  The incident was hushed up at the time, but became public in June, 1978, in retaliation for the U.S. arrest of Soviet spies in the United States.  Izvestiya published a picture of Martha sitting defiantly next to our very dejected-looking Consul General Cliff Gross, with spy paraphernalia spread out before them.  Izvestiya even accused her of being an accessory to murder, which was a complete falsehood.  Martha later wrote about her experiences in her memoir, “The Widow Spy.”

The KGB liked to promote the impression that it was all-seeing and all-powerful, but even the massive counterintelligence assets maintained by the Soviets did not have enough resources to follow everybody.  They stayed on obvious targets, of course, like Gardner “Gus” Hathaway, then Moscow Station Chief.  Gus reported that most of the time he was more escorted, than followed, by a flotilla of minders.  Such activities were a waste of time, however, since others were doing the real field work.  For example, one of my contemporaries, legendary Case Officer John Guilsher, seemed to be able to evade Soviet surveillance when the need arose.

In later years, I came to realize that KGB physical surveillance came in many forms.  There was the invisible cocoon, which I was in when I first arrived in Moscow, that could collapse in on a target with frightening speed, and then there was the lockstep surveillance that was endured by obvious targets like Gus, or by those the KGB felt needed some corrective harassment.  And there were many stages in between.  I experienced many kinds of physical surveillance during my Foreign Service career, and, at least when the KGB was behind it, things were done very professionally.