Thursday, September 5, 2013

Gromyko Gets Snubbed.
(Excerpt from Chapter 11.7 Soviet Desk 1981-1985)
The recent snubbing of President Obama on arrival at the St. Petersburg airport for the G-20 meeting reminds me of a time when we were actively into snubbing the Soviets ourselves, right after the downing of KAL007.  The shoot down came just before the opening of the UNGA in 1983, and Gromyko's plane was not allowed to land.  1984, however, was a different story.

The following year, the Department decided to allow Gromyko's plane into JFK on an exceptional basis so that he could attend the UNGA.  He flew in on September 19, 1984.  Unfortunately, it was not the greeting ceremony that he or the Soviets were expecting.  Primarily for security reasons, his IL-62 was guided to the most remote area of JFK, so far away that the rest of the airport was out of sight, and it took almost ten minutes to get there via back roads from the main terminal.  In order to impress upon Gromyko just how ill-favored he was, it was decided that the U.S. side should greet him on arrival at an insultingly low level.  It was in that manner, therefore, that I was delegated to be Gromyko's official airport greeter.  Gromyko's IL-62 taxied up to the parking area and the entire Soviet brass lined up in protocol order all the way up the landing stairs and a considerable distance out onto the tarmac.  I was there with the FBI and a couple of USUN officials at the far end of the line.  Gromyko stepped out, greeted all his high-ranking cronies, and began looking around for the highest-ranking American.  He eventually found me at the end of the line.  Looking even more like a cold fish than usual, and sporting his usual grimace that rapidly turned into a frown, Gromyko gave me a limp-wristed handshake as I welcomed him to the United States, never bothering to look me in the eye.  Then he and his minions loaded themselves into the first limousine and trundled off.  My FBI escorts thought it was all very funny, and so did I.  I would not see him again until Codel O'Neill visited Moscow the following year.

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