Monday, October 7, 2013

Leningrad 1985-1987 (Part Two)

Draft Chapter 11.8

Leningrad 1985-1987
(Part Two)

The Consular Community.
The Consular Corps in Leningrad was relatively small.  About 30 countries, mostly Soviet Bloc, were represented, and very few Westerners had as yet arrived on the scene.  We were there, and so were the Germans, but few others.  We represented British, Canadian and Australian interests in the Leningrad Consular District, such as they were. 

It was no surprise that the Canadians and the Australians had no Consulate in Leningrad.  I was mystified at the time, however, by the absence of the British.  I never learned the true story behind their reticence to establish a Consulate General, although in later years it occurred to me that the British indeed had a plethora of reasons.  The 1971 mass expulsions most likely had something to do with it.  In that year, the British expelled 105 Soviet “diplomats” and their own complement of diplomats was similarly reduced in Moscow.  It may be that, given the incredibly constrictive ceilings they had to observe, no one could be spared for Leningrad.  Of course, there was also the minor problem of the manner in which the previous British diplomatic establishment in Petrograd had met its end.  Shortly after Fanya Kaplan shot Lenin, the British Embassy building in Petrograd was sacked on August 31, 1918 by a rampaging band of Bolsheviks.  They also murdered the ranking British diplomat, Assistant Naval Attaché N.A. Cromie, who was defending the Embassy entrance.  The remaining staff was imprisoned in the Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul.  And of course, there was also that little matter of the massacred Tsar’s family being relatives of the British royal family.  So I guess the British had plenty of reasons to be unenthusiastic about opening up a Consulate General in Leningrad.  The British finally did open a Consulate General in 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Scandinavian countries were understandably well-represented, with the Finns  having a large contingent, as well as the Swedes.  I became quite good friends with the Swedish Consul General, Bengt Akerren, his wife, Marta and daughter Sara, who was close to my age.  Bengt was from the Swedish aristocracy and his tour in Leningrad was his last before retirement.  He was reasonably well-informed about current events in Leningrad, and, more to the point, he gave good dinner parties, which were a salvation in the culinary wasteland that was Leningrad in those days.  I also got to know his third in command, Dag Hartelius, and his wife Birgit.  Dag and Birgit were over at my place quite frequently and I visited them too.  In later years, Dag rose high in the Swedish Foreign Service, becoming Swedish Ambassador to Estonia in 2003. 

Among the Warsaw Pact diplomats, there were few that I knew well.  Mihalý Grill, the Hungarian DPO, was an exception to that rule.  He and his wife would invite me over for Goulash every now and again, and Mihalý and I would trade computer stories.  Mihalý had a miniscule Sinclair computer that had considerably less power than one of today's pocket calculators.  I had an IBM PC, which by today's standards was absolutely Paleolithic, but back then was fairly advanced (in fact, the PC's successor, the 286, was deemed too high-tech to sell to the Soviets, although I saw quite a few around town anyway).  Mihalý and I became good friends, but I never relied on him or anyone else in the Consular Community (except the Scandinavians) for information on the internal political situation.  They had no sources to speak of, and often Consular representatives were more interested in developing commercial ties than anything else. 

Some of the Soviet Bloc Consulates didn't even have commercial work to fall back on, and in many cases, one wondered why they were there at all.  I remember one time when Yefimov chided me gently for not clearing the snow off the sidewalks in front of our Consulate quickly enough.  "Look at the Mongolians," he said, "their sidewalk is always clean."  My response: "What else do they have to do?"  Yefimov had no comeback for that.

The October Revolution Parade and "Karl Zeiss."  
One of my best contacts in Leningrad was the Finnish Deputy Principal Officer, Nyyrikki Kurkivuori.  Nyyrikki was about 40 years old at the time, and was a rotund and boisterous fellow with a wide smile, thick glasses and a broad mustache.  He was married to a Finnish girl, Maija, who was quite a bit younger than he, but they seemed to be very happy together.  In addition to being rather knowledgeable about the local Leningrad political scene, Nyyrikki was always a very jolly fellow, and one for frequent practical jokes.  So it was that we would often find ourselves sitting together at official functions, exchanging jibes at the expense of our Soviet hosts.

A typical occasion was the Great October Revolution Day Parade, which took place every year on November 7.  Leningrad on such occasions was a deserted city.  Car traffic was banned in the historic areas around the Hermitage, and you could walk right down the center of Nevskiy Prospekt.  There was always a curious “1984” air to these holidays as well.  Leningrad’s three TV stations would broadcast the same programs, and in the center of the city loudspeakers would be set up blaring out patriotic music.  For its part, the Consular Corps was invited to observe the parade from a grandstand in front of the Hermitage Museum on Palace Square.   In contrast to the extravaganza in Moscow, Leningrad’s parade was definitely a provincial affair, with nothing in the way of new military hardware, and very little of any interest to be seen.  The same jeeps, armored vehicles and parade troops would be unpacked from their mothballs somewhere and marched past the onlookers, followed by a couple of Scud missiles, all polished up and looking shiny on their transporters. 

Nyyrikki and I were joking and cutting up as usual, trying not to think about the biting cold, when Yefimov saw us and inquired why I wasn’t taking pictures of the parade.  Apparently, my predecessor, Nick Burakow, had showed up every year with an enormous camera, snapping away at all the obsolete equipment rolling by.  Not wanting to insult Yefimov by telling him the parade was totally uninteresting to us blasé diplomats, I looked slyly at Nyyrikki and solemnly informed Yefimov that there was no need for a camera anymore.  Yefimov, ever the loyal party man, bit completely and asked “Why not?” in a puzzled voice.  Then I looked up and pointed skyward (i.e., U.S. satellites were watching).  Yefimov, momentarily flustered, couldn’t stop from looking up.  I saw him doing it a few more times as he walked off.  Nyyrikki and I roared with laughter.

“That’s a good one, Jim,” Nyyrikki said, but I really think you should look through these binoculars anyway.  You can see quite a bit with them.”  Nyyrikki offered me his pair, which he had been looking through for most of the parade.  Puzzled, it was now my turn to bite.  I said, “OK, Nyyrikki, but I really would prefer something hot to drink.”  Nyyrikki smiled slyly and told me to look through the binoculars and I would get my wish.  They were, after all, made by Karl Zeiss, and were the last word in optical equipment.  I looked, and of course couldn’t see a thing.  Something seemed to be blocking the lenses.  Nyyrikki looked through them and said, “You’re right, these lenses need to be cleaned.”  With that, he unscrewed one lens cap, turned the binoculars upside down, and – surprise! -- out poured piping hot brandy into the lens cap, which had now suddenly assumed its true function – a shot glass.  Shaking with laughter, Nyyrikki offered me a drink.  It was good, and for the rest of the parade, I found myself asking for Nyyrikki’s “Karl Zeiss” binoculars frequently. 

Soon, other Western diplomats discovered the joke and began making their own requests, until the supply of brandy in the binoculars was exhausted.  By this time, however, the parade was nearly over and we diplomats were a jolly lot, clustered in the back of the bleachers and ho-hoing frequently.  Yefimov dropped by again, puzzled at our merriment, but he never did guess that we owed it all to Nyyrikki's binoculars.  Ever after that, all Nyyrikki and I had to do was mention the words “Karl Zeiss,” and we would crack up in helpless laughter.    

In February, 1986 I took R&R, traveling back to California.  It had been snowing heavily in Leningrad, and the day I left from Pulkovo Airport the temperature was hovering around minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit.  I drove myself to the airport, and parked my car by jamming it into a snow bank in the parking lot.  I really don't know what I was thinking.  I should have just had a driver take me out to the airport.  As it was, upon my return nearly a month later, my car remained serenely jammed into the snow bank.  The only real precaution that I had taken was to equip it with a second car battery during my first trip to Lappeenranta.  In the event, it started right up. 

The journey from Leningrad to Palm Springs was uneventful, although, as usual, the transfer through JFK was a nightmare, and my bags wound up in San Diego.  I got off the plane in Palm Springs the same evening I departed from Leningrad; the sun was setting, it was a beautiful day, and the temperature was 98 degrees. 

San Francisco Parking and the Battle of the Begonias.
I spent most of my time in Palm Springs visiting with my mother and stepfather, but I did take some time off to go up to San Francisco.  I called on Mayor Feinstein, and dropped off a few Palekh boxes that she had left behind on her visit to Leningrad, and stopped in the local FBI and OFM offices to discuss our friends the Soviets and their Consulate in San Francisco.  In FBI parlance, San Francisco was "our town."  They had the Soviet Mission blanketed with coverage, and the Soviets knew it.  They provided me a briefing on Consulate activities, and I told them that I had set up a call on the Consul General to discuss reciprocity issues.  The principal problem that each of us shared was parking.  In San Francisco, the Soviets needed on-street parking for their rather large staff, and the local residents didn't want to give it to them.  In Leningrad, we wanted a restoration of the parking lot that had been carved out of the park divider running down the middle of Ulitsa Petra Lavrova in front of the Consulate. 

Prospects didn't look good for either of us.  In our case, the city authorities were particularly unhelpful.  In the early 1980's, we had had "island parking," but the city authorities sneaked in one night and placed large floral planters in each space, blocking our access.  Every day, DPO Frank Crump would send out our FSN's to remove the planters, and every night, the city authorities would put them back in place.  This led to a rather comical series of breathless reporting cables from Leningrad covering the latest developments in the situation, which subsequently acquired an unfortunate nickname in the Department: "The Battle of the Begonias."  Eventually, Frank was told to stand down, and the planters remained.  

Following my meetings with the Feds, I went over to the Consulate to see my Soviet counterparts.  We had a good conversation, and I gave them some welcome news:  We were going to free up a few on-street parking spots for them.  By the time I got back to Leningrad, the word had gone out, and within a few weeks, my Leningrad Diplomatic Agency friends had arranged for the removal of the offending planters, and even repainted the white lines marking each parking spot.  It was the dawning of a new era of good feeling -- or so I imagined.

While in San Francisco, I also stopped in to talk with various Jewish groups who were active in helping refuseniks in the Leningrad area.  Lillian Foreman, President of the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews, gave me a nice lunch at her country club and introduced me to her case workers, who occupied a couple of offices nearby.  I was quite impressed.  The Bay Area folks had computer equipment that put ours to shame, and they had a database that covered every refusenik in the Soviet Union.  They passed me the names of a few of their contacts in Leningrad, and we agreed to keep in touch.

Charlie's Ballet Opus.
With my R&R coming to an end, I stopped in the Department on my way back to Leningrad to check up on the latest news.  Charlie, it seemed, had caused something of a stir in my absence.  The day I left Leningrad, it was like someone had thrown a switch and turned off cable reporting from the post.  The desk didn't notice for a couple of weeks, and then began to wonder.  About that time, Leningrad's one major reporting cable drifted in.  It was an unclassified, fourteen-section message on the Kirov Ballet!  I read the cable, and I thought it quite good, but the rest of the building did not share my view.  Charlie had made himself something of a laughingstock in EUR.  I was instructed to get myself back to Leningrad and to start turning out reporting on more suitable subjects.  Personally, I think Charlie got a bad rap, but the problem wasn't with the Ballet cable -- the problem was that it was the only cable of substance that had been drafted during my absence.  If Charlie had only sent in a few regular cables, and turned his Ballet Opus into an Airgram, everyone would have been full of praise.  Live and learn.

Vladimir Horowitz Concert.
Charlie may have gotten his share of brickbats for his devotion to culture, but he also had some great moments as well.  One of the best was when he hosted Vladimir Horowitz, one of the greatest concert pianists of all time.  In late April, 1986, Horowitz came to Leningrad after a successful concert in Moscow.  Born in Kiev in 1903, it was the first time he had been back to the Soviet Union since the 1930's, when he left his homeland to settle in New York and marry Wanda Toscanini, the daughter of the famous conductor.  It was in many ways a sentimental journey for Horowitz, who in his youth had played many times in Leningrad.  His earlier performance in Moscow had been outstanding, but no one knew how he would do in the Northern Capital.  Although one of the world's best pianists, Horowitz could be very erratic, and often lost confidence in his ability to play.  Because of this, his wife Wanda surrounded him in a cocoon of security, catering to his every whim to give him the necessary confidence to play.  This involved rigorous demands on the Consulate, and particularly on our Press and Culture staff, who were expected to supply Horowitz with everything he was used to back home, including special meals flown in from the States, his own piano, and videotapes of the latest episodes of his favorite TV program, "Kojak."  In many ways, Wanda Toscanini treated her husband like a brilliant but socially maladapted child, which, of course, he was. 

April 27, the day of the concert, came, and the Leningrad Philharmonic was packed to the rafters.  Horowitz appeared on stage to great applause, and looked for all the world like a little old man who had lost his way and somehow wandered on stage by mistake.  The instant he sat down at his piano, however, he became a different person: confident, even brave, taking risks with the music that he did not attempt in Moscow.  He played pieces by Scarlatti, Schumann, Rachmaninoff and Chopin, all brilliant interpretations.  The audience was rapt in its attention, taking in Horowitz's expressive, almost liquid, music.  At the end of the concert, Horowitz stood and bowed to rapturous applause, looking as if he had just come out of a trance.  He left the stage, and never played in the USSR again.  His music, so brilliantly played, was unfortunately not recorded professionally, but an amateur tape was made of the concert, which I recently acquired.  Horowitz passed away in 1989, and was buried in the Toscanini family crypt.  I never saw him after that one day in Leningrad, but I will always remember his concert at the Philharmonic: on that day, he played the best music I have ever heard.

The Endless Flow of Official Visitors.
During my first year in Leningrad, one of my primary duties was the care and feeding of official visitors.  Despite the studied coolness in U.S.-Soviet relations at the time, there were plenty of American officials who came a-fact-finding to Leningrad, and incidentally to play tourist as their busy schedules permitted.  The standard drill was that we would get a cable announcing that such-and-such a delegation was coming to town (usually stopping in Moscow first), and asking that we set up appropriate meetings for them.  The Leningrad Diplomatic Agency would then do up a schedule for us that had two or three pro-forma meetings, and focused on tourism, which was the real object of the Leningrad "rest stop."

Codel de la Garza.
Codel de la Garza was my first high-ranking group of visitors, arriving in August 1985.  The delegation had an agricultural meeting or two, including a visit to a Potemkin-style collective farm, and then focused on the serious business of hiking around the Hermitage (I was in the Hermitage more times in two years that I was in Lenin's Tomb as Ambassador's aide in Moscow).  Codel members were particularly impressed, as I was, by Petrodvorets, which had been restored again since the last time I had visited in 1972.  They also loved the hydrofoil ride back to town.  They departed Leningrad well pleased with their efforts.

John Block.
Agriculture Secretary John Block also visited in August 1985, and followed a similar rigorous schedule, although there was a little bit of adventure associated with his trip when the Malev airliner from Budapest broke down in Warsaw, and Block and party were stranded at the Pulkovo hotel with no way out of town.  Fortunately, our Ambassador in Hungary, Nicolas Salgo, whistled up a brand-new plane from the Hungarian authorities, enabling Secretary Block and party to continue on to Budapest without too long a delay.

Surgeon General Koop.
One group that did arrive to do some work was led by C. Everett Koop, who at the time was the U.S. Surgeon General.  The Leningrad Medical Administration laid on a lengthy series of tours of its best hospitals, focusing on treatment of lung cancer, which was of special concern to Dr. Koop.  In briefing his hosts before the visit, I stressed that Dr. Koop was leading an anti-smoking campaign in the U.S., and if at all possible, it would be wise to refrain from smoking in his presence.  This was quite a tall order for the Leningrad doctors.  Nearly every one of them was a chain smoker, and there was no such thing as an anti-smoking campaign in the Soviet Union (although Gorbachev, of course, was pursuing a very active anti-alcohol campaign at the time).  Despite their best efforts, the doctors broke down at the very first meeting.  After about 20 minutes, the head of the Medical Administration lit up a cigarette, and was followed immediately by every other Soviet at the table.  The room soon reeked with the smell of poor quality Soviet tobacco.  Despite his obvious discomfort, Dr. Koop kept a straight face and bore up diplomatically.  A couple of days later, as we all saw Dr. Koop and his party off at the Moscow train station, the head of the Leningrad Medical Administration congratulated me on a successful visit, lit up yet another disgusting Pamir cigarette, and promised to stay in touch ("Созвонимся").  I never saw him again.

Anne Armstrong.
PFIAB's Anne Armstrong also paid us a visit in my first year, although I'll be bound that I still don't know exactly why.  As head of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Armstrong and her party were in the Soviet Union to assess the intelligence/counterintelligence situation.  Her own intelligence awareness could have used a refresher course, however.  At the time, the Station Chief's identity was not declared to the Soviet authorities, and although it was an open secret, the forms were still respected.  Armstrong and her group were waiting in the CG's lobby, a place that was undoubtedly wired for sound, for a meeting in the tank with the Station Chief.  When he appeared, she said, "Oh there's CIA," greeted him by name and promptly started talking business on the way into the tank.   We hurried her along as best we could.

Charles Z. Wick.
One of our most eccentric visitors was USIA Director Charles Z. Wick, who will go down as one of the most successful Agency Directors in history, and the person who invented the slogan "Let Poland Be Poland."  Despite the fact that his most notable production was “Snow White and the Three Stooges,” Wick's self-image was that of a movie mogul, and his staff treated him with the deference one might have accorded a Louis B. Mayer or Sam Goldwyn.  In truth, his real talent was as an efficient money man, and he was an outstanding fundraiser for his ideological soul-mate, Ronald Reagan.  His schedule, which was massaged on a minute-by-minute basis by a gaggle of gasping aides, was the most intricate I have ever seen, and read pretty much like a movie script.  It was, in fact, more elaborate than many of the Presidential schedules I had worked on, and it gave Mort Allin absolute fits.  Wick also was under the impression that he was such an important person that he might be a target for terrorists, so he habitually went around wearing a bulletproof raincoat.  This caused much amusement among our Soviet hosts, but it could not be helped. 

Despite his quirky nature, Wick did get quite a lot accomplished during his visit to the Soviet Union.  In keeping with Gorbachev's glasnost campaign, Soviet jamming of VOA broadcasts was quietly stopped a few months later, and information contacts between the U.S. and the Soviet Union were broadened significantly during Wick's tenure as head of USIA.  Charlie Wick passed away July 19, 2008, a much-admired icon of the Reagan Administration.   

Gus Savage.
Perhaps the most disagreeable visitor I had to deal with in Leningrad was Gus Savage, a black Congressman from Chicago.  Savage was rude to his Soviet hosts, and in fact offended nearly everyone with his racist and anti-Semitic remarks.  We were all glad when he was finally packed out of town.  Three years later, Savage had to apologize for pawing a Peace Corps volunteer while riding around in a limo in Kinshasa.  In 1992, he was defeated overwhelmingly by Mel Reynolds, and left political life.  He deserved it.

Silent Sam Pierce. 
One of our more memorable visitors during my first year in Leningrad was Samuel R. Pierce, who was the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1981 until 1989, and the Reagan Cabinet's token black.  Pierce’s record as HUD Secretary was as obscure as it was long.  Early in his tenure, Pierce was at a meeting with President Reagan, who betrayed the fact that he didn’t know who Pierce was by greeting him with the words, “Hello, Mr. Mayor.”  During his eight years as HUD Secretary, Pierce also acquired the moniker “Silent Sam” because of his failure to do anything to alleviate the nation’s housing problems.

We had been warned early on that Pierce came with a large entourage and could be a bit eccentric.  This turned out to understate the case by a considerable margin.  Pierce arrived in Leningrad with a large group of housing-related Republican contributors, including real estate magnate Alfred Taubman, as well as an army of staffers and other HUD hangers-on who did little but get in each other's way.  We settled the delegation in their hotel, and Pierce into the “Nixon Suite” in the CG Residence, at his request.  Knowing that Pierce might need a bit of personal handling, I assigned poor Dan Grossman to be his control officer.  Later, I asked Dan whether Pierce had asked him to do anything special.  “Just to keep his room supplied with Cutty Sark,” Dan replied.

The HUD delegation's schedule was not particularly strenuous, and largely consisted of museum visits.  There were some official meetings, however, that were insisted on by our Soviet hosts, and so they were duly entered onto the schedule.  There was one problem, though -- Pierce didn't want to go.  One meeting was particularly embarrassing:  Pierce was supposed to meet with his opposite number in the Leningrad Housing hierarchy, but "Silent Sam" failed to show.  We sat there for 20 minutes, and then had to start the meeting in his absence.  Since no one on the HUD side wanted to do anything, I assumed Pierce's place on his side of the table, and did my best to talk about housing issues.  During a break, I called up Dan and asked what was up.  "Pierce is in his room and won't come out," Dan replied.  Evidently, he had worked his way through one bottle of Cutty Sark and was starting on a second.  This pattern repeated itself throughout the visit, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when we were finally able to bid Pierce a fond farewell at Pulkovo Airport.  A couple of years later, Pierce was unceremoniously dumped, along with most of his cronies, in the HUD accounting scandal.  He should never have been a Cabinet Secretary in the first place, although, judging by his previous distinguished record of service, one could hardly have predicted such an ignominious end for "Silent Sam."  He passed away in 2000.

Pierce was not the only person in his entourage to behave in a questionable manner.  While in Leningrad, A. Alfred Taubman also made his mark.  Taubman, who was involved in many Jewish causes, and was a big supporter of Soviet refuseniks, approached me during a reception to shake my hand.  When I withdrew it, I was shocked to see that I was holding a folded up hundred dollar bill.  "Give it to your contacts," Taubman said with a sly smile.  It took some while for me to convince him that we didn't routinely hand out money to refuseniks.  Eventually, looking at me with a puzzled expression, he took the money back.  For him, it was just the standard way of doing business.  In later years, of course, he met his own Waterloo.  In 2001 he was sentenced to prison for his role in the Sotheby's price-fixing scandal. 

During my first year in Leningrad, the official visits came thick and fast, and the Consulate’s resources were often stretched to the limit.  I began to wonder whether the visits would ever end.  I got my answer in April of 1986, the day after Chernobyl blew up.  It had been a deceptively quiet weekend.  Charlie was on leave, and I was in charge, but nothing much was going on, and I was looking forward to a slow few days.  The weekend had passed by pleasantly, until noon on Sunday, April 27, when I got a disquieting call from my opposite number at the Swedish Consulate.  “Jim,” he said, “have you heard about any kind of radiation accident in Russia?”  It seemed that on Sunday morning radiation alarms had gone off at Swedish nuclear power facilities.  A quick check revealed that there had been no nuclear accident in Sweden, and immediately suspicion began to focus on the Soviet Union. 

I hurried to the Consulate and called a quick meeting with Ned Alford, our Administrative Officer, and a couple of communicators who were in the office that afternoon.  We dragged out the Department of Energy Atlas of the Soviet Union and located all the nearby nuclear plants.  The closest was the Leningrad AES, a large nuclear facility at Sosnoviy Bor that was in a militarily-closed area.  The bad news was that Leningrad was downwind of the plant.  The good news was, if there had been a serious nuclear accident there, we would have probably already found out about it.  There was another small facility at nearby Gatchina, but as it was an experimental reactor we doubted that it could cause the kind of radiation leak that had been detected in Sweden.  We cast further afield, and found another large nuclear facility at Ignalina, in Latvia. 

I called back to the Swedes and said we hadn’t heard anything, but if there had been a nuclear accident, the most likely candidate would be Ignalina.  I then called Dick Combs, who was DCM in Moscow, and asked him what was going on.  Dick said he had heard nothing about a possible nuclear accident, but we both agreed to call the Operations Center in the Department and alert them to the problem.  In the meantime, I started talking to contacts.  All had picked up rumors, but no one knew anything for sure. 

Shortly thereafter, I got a NIACT from the Operations Center asking me to check on the status of the Leningrad Nuclear Power station.  This was easier said than done, since in those days asking about nuclear reactors was frowned on, to put it mildly.  I couldn’t drive out there, since the area was closed for military reasons, so I did the next best thing and started calling around.  Calls to the Leningrad City and Party authorities got the cold shoulder, so I decided to call the Leningrad AES directly.  I got a friendly Oblast operator on the line, who, after a little cajoling, dialed around, and eventually got the duty shift supervisor at the plant.  He calmly came on the phone and said, “No, everything is fine.  We just shut down reactor number three, but that was for normal maintenance.”  He sounded so sincere, I believed him, and fired off a NIACT to the Department reporting that all seemed OK at the Leningrad facility.  So the location of the nuclear accident was still a big mystery.

This was where matters rested until the following Monday, when a short announcement was made on the 9pm Vremya news program, acknowledging that there had been an accident at Chernobyl.  I immediately rechecked the DoE map.  Chernobyl was over a thousand miles south of Sweden, so far away that I had not even considered it as a possibility.  Now it was clear that the accident must have been enormous.  In point of fact, the accident, which occurred at 1:23 am on Saturday, April 26, 1986, had released more radiation than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs put together.  Cesium-137, Iodine-131 and Strontium-90 had irradiated thousands of square miles around the reactor.  Even areas as far away as Scandinavia were experiencing pockets of radioactivity 100 times background, and I later learned that the Gatchina reactor had registered radiation levels at 37 times background in the days following the accident.

Tourists were beginning to panic.  There were about 800 Americans in our Consular District, and our Consular Section began making arrangements to evacuate them all on charter flights.  Trains were arriving from Ukraine and Belarus -- and they were full of children who had been evacuated from the irradiated areas.  Word went out to the local markets not to accept any produce “from the South.”  Rumors were flying, but Leningrad’s population seemed to be taking the situation calmly.

The EPA sent out teams to evaluate the situation in Leningrad and Moscow, arriving only a few days after the accident.  In our case, they passed out Iodine tablets (too late for the current accident, but useful in case the Leningrad AES ever blew up).  They also provided us with Geiger counters, MicroRem meters and personal dosimeters.  Over the next few weeks, I would regularly stick one of the micrometers out the window, seeing what it would register.  Generally, the levels were high (about ten times normal background radiation), but not dangerous (about 2000 times background was necessary to pose an immediate health threat).  The Department began shipping in supplies so we didn’t have to rely on local markets, and I found myself eating out of cans for the next couple of months.  Still, the situation was under control, and things gradually settled down to normal in Leningrad.  The city had been spared the worst, and in the end, we had even decided against drawing down our own personnel.

For us, the crisis had passed.  The same could not be said, of course, for the citizens of Belarus and Ukraine.  My future wife Tanya, who was just a young child at the time, was living in Teremki, one of Kiev’s suburbs, when Chernobyl exploded.  Her mother had just obtained an apartment and was afraid that she would lose it if she and the children were evacuated, so they all stayed.  The authorities told the local citizenry nothing, and there was tremendous ignorance about the radiation threat.  Many citizens of Kiev marched as usual in the May Day parade, increasing their exposure.  Nonetheless, there were rumors running through Kiev as early as the morning after the accident, and Tanya remembers that the streets were uncharacteristically deserted the weekend Chernobyl blew up, although she didn’t know why.  She also remembers other parents remonstrating with her mother, asking why her children hadn’t been evacuated to Crimea.  Tanya and her twin brother Timur were particularly vulnerable as children.  Tanya recalls that for months, she had severe nosebleeds.  Her thyroid gland would swell and she would suffer bouts of nausea and weakness, sometimes passing out.  She and Timur did not sleep well for years, and were afflicted by migraine headaches.  Tanya’s mother would go to the river Dnepr to draw water for the children, since it was common wisdom that radiation was only transmitted through the air and not the water.  Tanya says that nearly everyone who stayed in Kiev during this time suffered similar symptoms, with children faring the worst.  The authorities were of little or no help.

Although almost all Westerners were evacuated from the Leningrad Consular District in the wake of Chernobyl, a few were forced to stay behind:  those unfortunate tourists who were hospitalized due to medical emergencies.  Due to the press of Consular work, I volunteered to help out with American Consular Services during the aftermath of Chernobyl, and made a number of hospital visits.  As it happened, those who had been forced to stay behind were all British citizens, for whom we had protection responsibilities.  Foreigners were hospitalized at Gastello, and I went to visit them frequently.  I was a little shocked at the state of the hospital.  Although it was one of the Leningrad Oblast's better medical facilities, it was clearly in need of basic maintenance.  It lacked advanced equipment, and the stench upon entering the hospital was both overwhelming and sickening.  It was a lot to put up with if you were used to a Western-style hospital, although the Soviets did their best to take care of the foreigners who were left behind.

One of the last patients to leave was a British girl by the name of Julie Pritchard, who had come down with appendicitis while traveling through the area with college classmates.  Julie spent her recovery time in a private room with the windows open to air out the smell.  I visited her once every two or three days, and brought her basic items like toiletries and her favorite snacks to tide her over until she was ready to depart.  After about two weeks, she was sufficiently recovered, and we put her on a flight out.  A few weeks later, I got a beautiful thank you note from her.  Apparently, before I had started visiting her, she had been very depressed and dreading the next few weeks.  I had made her time in Gastello bearable, and that meant all the world to her.  As for me, once the last of my British patients had taken off, I was glad never to darken the door of Gastello again.

Vernon Walters.
On August 10, 1986, the Consulate received a very distinguished visitor, General Vernon A. Walters, who at the time was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.  Although he knew eight languages, including a smattering of Russian, and had served under many Presidents, Walters had never been to the Soviet Union before, and he took the opportunity of a UN recess to remedy that deficiency with a private visit.  Walters and a gaggle of young male aides arrived in some style, occupying several rooms in the as yet unrenovated Hotel Astoria.  General Walters was quite a subway buff, and had always wanted to see the Leningrad metro system, which was justly famous for its opulent architecture, and so we laid on a couple of visits to some of Leningrad's more outstanding subway stations.

In addition, the one other thing Walters most wanted to do was to lay a wreath at Piskarevskoye Cemetery, which held the mass graves of hundreds of thousands of victims of the siege of Leningrad.  Accordingly, I offered to arrange for Consulate transportation out to the cemetery. Walters, noting that his visit was private, preferred to pay for everything himself, however, and instead invited me along to ride with him in a rented Intourist Rafik.  About halfway out to the cemetery, I began to notice a distinct burning smell.  A minute later, smoke and flames burst through the floor.  The Rafik was on fire!  We all exited quickly, and watched with some interest as the Rafik was slowly shrouded in a cloud of its own smoke.  I managed to find a phone and called up Yuriy Subbotin, one of the Consulate's best drivers.  He sped out to pick us up and took us the rest of the way.  General Walters, accompanied by representatives of the Leningrad Diplomatic Agency and myself, laid a bouquet of red flowers at the monument of the Mat-Rodina, and left the cemetery, his duty fulfilled.  That evening, we all had a semi-satisfactory dinner at the Hotel Yevropeyskaya, whose dining room had the closest thing to passable cuisine in the Leningrad of that day.  After a stay of just a few days, Walters and his aides departed, their mission accomplished.  I never saw the General again.  He completed his tour as UN Ambassador in 1989, and lived a relatively quiet retirement, passing away in Palm Beach in 2002. 

The Krasnaya Strela.
Every now and again, my duties would necessitate travelling down to Moscow.  If I had to get to Moscow quickly, I flew down, but I only did this when I absolutely had to.  The airport experience in the Soviet Union was unpleasant by any standard, and the flights were undependable, noisy and uncomfortable.  Traveling by car was risky in the wintertime, although I did do it in the summer once.  Traveling by rail was the best option by far.  The rail line between Moscow and Leningrad had been laid out in Czarist times, and was as straight as the ruler used by the Czar to delineate his preferred route.  I have vivid memories of the coal dust permeating the train station, and of municipal anthems being played over the public address systems whenever the trains arrived, as if to say "welcome to our city."  These days the rail lines are crowded with more luxurious trains, but in Soviet times my favorite train was the Krasnaya Strela, the midnight express.  The Krasnaya Strela would leave the Moscow Station at 2355, and arrive in Moscow around 0700. 

The accommodations were spartan by American standards (the less said about the sanitary facilities, the better), but still one could still sleep on board and arrive refreshed.  The service was hardly stellar, and in fact, the less one saw of the fiftyish female conductors, the better.  They generally stayed up in their own compartment talking until just before arrival, when they would serve the obligatory awful-tasting cup of tea. 

I enjoyed my time on the train, but was increasingly mindful of security concerns.  One heard that periodically people would answer a knock on their door in the middle of the night only to be mugged.  One particularly memorable story, which I believe to be true, was about a group of Japanese tourists who were gassed in their compartment and robbed of their belongings.  I always kept my door locked, and never answered until I knew it was the conductor that was knocking.  I never had any problems, and slept soundly.

Testing Closed Areas.
During the summer of 1986, the Soviets responded to our liberalization of closed areas in the U.S. with a new closed area map of their own.  Significant areas around Leningrad Oblast were opened up.  As someone who had been involved in the travel controls business for years, I determined to test the newly opened areas to see if they were actually open.  The biggest problem I faced, however, was maps.  The old CIA city map of Leningrad, which was very useful even in the 1980's, did not extend into the outer Oblast, and existing Soviet maps, including the new closed areas map provided to us by the MFA, were lacking detail.  In the end, Ned Alford and I dug up maps done by the Germans from World War II that had sufficient detail to navigate by.  With that, Ned and I got into a Consulate van and set off to the new borders of our open area.  I determined that the most distant closed area that had been opened up was at the confluence of Chernaya Rechka (Black River) and the Neva, about 20 kilometers upstream from Leningrad.  With Ned as the driver, and me as the navigator, we drove through small towns in the Leningrad Oblast countryside that looked exactly as they had been depicted on the German maps of 45 years before.  Hardly anything had changed.  After running into a number of dead ends, and driving past several groups of surprised militia, we eventually managed to pick our way towards the Chernaya Rechka/ Neva boundary.  We were about to turn back when suddenly a jeep with Soviet military drove up and demanded to know what we were doing in a closed area.  As we had done at various checkpoints along the way, we showed them the new closed area map issued by the MFA, and noted our position on the map.  This group was not convinced, however.  As far as they were concerned, we were in a closed area and had to turn back immediately.  We obeyed, and drove on back. 

Our little travel adventure provoked a bit of a reaction in Moscow.  Apparently, without realizing it, we had driven to within a few hundred yards of one of the Soviet Union's most sensitive submarine repair facilities, which was just around the next bend in the river.  Later, at the Bilateral Review Commission meeting in Moscow, I explained what had happened, but it was clear that the Soviets thought I was engaging in barely legal espionage on behalf of CIA or DIA.  The fact that the new closed area map had been approved by the MFA, and presumably by the relevant security organizations, was never touched on.  I guess no one thought that U.S. officers would ever take the opportunity to drive out that way.  In any case, it was one more item in my dossier, and further proof, if any were needed, that I supposedly worked for the "Special Services."

Ed Hurwitz.  

About a month after Charlie and Maideh Magee left town, Ed Hurwitz arrived on September 5, and took over as our new Consul General.  Ed was in many ways the polar opposite of Charlie.  Whereas Charlie had been very concerned with the public image of the Consulate, the care and feeding of visitors, and the representational side of the business, Ed couldn't care less.   His concise description of the primary duties of a diplomatic mission was: "Collect, Project and Protect," with emphasis on the information collection function.  He was the quintessential political reporting officer, who liked nothing better than to attend Znaniye Society lectures or to dress up in old Soviet clothes and sneak into party meetings.  Charlie loved good food and good entertainment -- Ed, by contrast, ate very simple meals, and did not like to entertain.  Ed, like Charlie, was an old Soviet hand, but his career path, although it intersected in the Soviet Union, had otherwise been completely different.  I had known Ed for many years, and while at times I found his behavior a little eccentric, I also really liked him, and was looking forward to working with him.  Ed's priority was political reporting, and so it shot to the top of my list as well, although I had no idea how I would shoulder the increased reporting load while continuing to manage Consulate operations and visitors at the same time. 

sh finally did open a Consulate General in 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.ssian "ter years it occurred to me
Ed's most recent tour of duty had been as U.S. Chargé in Afghanistan, and while it had been a very stressful tour, he recommended strongly that I look into Embassy Kabul as a possibility.  Ed's rosy view may have been colored slightly by the fact that he had met his Scandinavian girlfriend there (she worked with the UN).  But there is no denying that Ed was enthusiastic for substantive reasons as well.  At first, I didn't take Ed's suggestion seriously, but as time went on, and I got deeper into political reporting, I began to think that it might not be such a bad idea after all.  It was dangerous, but it would provide much responsibility and the possibility for quick career advancement.  Also, following my CLL diagnosis, I had become somewhat fatalistic, and was determined to go out in a blaze of glory if I didn't have that much time left.  Eventually, I allowed Ed to persuade me, and I wound up volunteering for Kabul as my next assignment.

Ed quickly made friends among the staff and fellow diplomats, although he left most of the contacts with official Soviets to me.  He was at times a bit of a mystery man, disappearing for hours at a time on one of his clandestine reporting jaunts.  At other times, Ed's secretary would walk into his office, not see him and then check with me to find out where he was.  My first instinct would be to tell her to check behind Ed's desk.  Often as not, he would be found lying down on the floor reading traffic, as a way to assuage his bad back. 

Ed was generous to a fault.  At one point, he even proposed, in all seriousness, that I swap residences with him.  He could live quite happily in my three-bedroom apartment, while I would be much better suited to run the CG Residence.  I was momentarily tempted, but regrettably, I had to tell Ed that it wouldn't fly.  The Department and Embassy Moscow would probably frown on the exchange, and most people wouldn't understand at all.  Ed reluctantly agreed.  On the other hand, there were times when I took Ed up on his generosity.  Toward the end of my tour, when I had already driven my '79 Chevy down to Moscow to be sold, Ed offered me his armored Opel.  These cars, which cost a small fortune, had been purchased by Department's Security Bureau for the protection of Chiefs of Mission and CG's who did not already have an armored vehicle.  Ed, being a New Yorker, did not drive, and so the Opel, which arrived after the FSN's were withdrawn, sat gathering dust in the Residence garage.  I gladly took Ed up on his offer, and happily drove around Leningrad for the last few months of my tour, looking out at the city through a green rainbow shimmer of extraordinarily thick bulletproof glass.

After I left post in June 1987, Ed continued on in Leningrad for another couple of years.  After the fall of the Soviet Union, and the emergence of 11 brand new ex-Soviet countries, he was picked to be our first Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan.  Ed went out there, but his modus operandi, which was so effective in Leningrad, did not go over well with the powers that be in the Clinton State Department.  He was recalled early, and retired.  After that, I would see him around the halls of the State Department from time to time.  Ed did not seem to be bitter about his treatment at the hands of the Department's principals and we always enjoyed seeing each other and reminiscing about the good old days in Leningrad -- days that will always be bright in our memories.  Ed's contribution to the Oral History project is well worth reading.

With the advent of the Reagan Administration, the practice of hiring Soviets to work in our Missions in Moscow and Leningrad came under increasingly critical scrutiny.  Many prominent administration officials viewed Soviet employees as a security violation waiting to happen and cited counterintelligence concerns as a good reason to discontinue the practice, noting that the Soviets, for well-founded reasons, refused to hire Americans at their diplomatic installations in the United States.  I was exposed to the debate in searing terms while on the Soviet Desk, when I was called on to draft a lengthy report on reciprocity issues (the Huddleston Report).   

By 1985, there was general agreement that there were too many local employees working at our diplomatic establishments in the Soviet Union, but there was disagreement on just what to do about the issue, since the average cost of replacing a local employee with a cleared American was close to $250,000 dollars a year, or in total, several tens of millions of dollars annually, money the Congress didn’t want to spend.  Ambassador Hartman had agreed, somewhat half-heartedly, to begin a gradual reduction of Soviet employees, but this action was insufficient for  Reagan Administration conservatives, who were looking for an opportunity both to eject Soviet spies from the United States and to get rid of our FSN’s in the USSR once and for all.

Their chance was not long in coming.  The FBI had been watching a Soviet physicist in New York by the name of Gennadiy Zakharov.  Zakharov, who worked for the United Nations, did not have diplomatic immunity, but was clearly involved in espionage.  The FBI arrested him in a sting operation on August 23, 1986.  The KGB viewed this as a breach of protocol, and began looking around for an American without diplomatic immunity whom they could arrest and hold hostage to ensure Zakharov’s release.  Very quickly, they settled on their target, Nicholas Daniloff, the Moscow Bureau Chief for U.S. News and World Report, who was about to finish his tour and return to the United States.  Accordingly, on September 2, Daniloff was arrested in Moscow on trumped-up charges of espionage.

The KGB had tried this despicable tactic before.  In 1961, they had arrested an American professor, Frederick Barghoorn, in an attempt to gain the release of Soviet spy Igor Ivanov.  The attempt backfired, however, when Barghoorn turned out to be a personal friend of President Kennedy.  In 1978, following the arrest of Soviet UN employees Valdik Enger and Rudolf Chernyayev,  the KGB arranged the arrest of an innocent American businessman, Jay Crawford.  Strenuous efforts on the part of Ambassador Toon gained his release, but Enger and Chernyayev were also released in a trade for Soviet dissidents.

The KGB may have assumed that their hostage tactics would work again, but in fact, it just gave hardliners in the Reagan Administration the opportunity to press for a “settling of accounts” with Soviet espionage activities inside and outside the United States.  According to Jack Matlock, who was the President’s principal advisor on Soviet affairs at the time, President Reagan was determined to put an end to the outrageous Soviet practice of hostage-taking.  As far as he was concerned, the Soviets had to release Daniloff immediately or pay a heavy price.  When Gorbachev equivocated, Reagan ordered the expulsion of 25 suspected Soviet spies from the U.S.  Daniloff was quickly released, as was Zakharov, but when the Soviets attempted to retaliate for the mass expulsion by expelling five American diplomats, Reagan lowered the boom, expelling 55 more suspected Soviet spies and lowering the ceiling on Soviet diplomats from 320 to 251, a number equal to that of American diplomats in the USSR. 

The Soviets furiously looked around for a way to retaliate but found they were in a box.  If they expelled more American diplomats, they would find themselves in a downward spiral of mass expulsions, a situation that they knew would not just cripple their espionage efforts, but destroy them, as had happened in 1971, when the British expelled 105 Soviet diplomats to bring their numbers into parity with the British diplomatic presence in the Soviet Union.  Predictably, the Soviets then proceeded to shoot themselves in the foot by deciding that the best way to retaliate would be to withdraw the 200-plus local employees who worked at Embassy Moscow and Consulate General Leningrad.  The theory was that American diplomats were soft and would complain so loudly that the Reagan Administration would be forced to make some sort of accommodation.  This attitude represented a profound misunderstanding both of the toughness of American diplomats and their influence on Washington’s power elite.

Ambassador Matlock says that the Reagan Administration had anticipated this Soviet reaction.  That may be, but those of us in the field had no inkling of what was coming.  We were like a bunch of ants scurrying around our little anthill, while high above us squabbling children argued whether it would more fun to set us on fire or drown us.  It didn’t matter how the argument was resolved.  Things were going to turn out badly, at least as far as we ants were concerned.

FSN’s Withdrawn: Consequences.
I was in Finland getting my car fixed when I got the news that our FSN’s were being withdrawn.  On the evening of October 22, 1986, I was in my room at the Hotel Lappeenranta, and had turned on the TV to catch the evening news.  To my surprise, I saw Soviet Foreign Ministry Press Spokesman Gennadiy Gerasimov.  He was in the middle of making an announcement that would change the lives of every American diplomat in the Soviet Union.  In response to massive American expulsions of Soviet personnel in New York, Washington and San Francisco, Gerasimov said, the Soviets were expelling five American diplomats, including Dan Grossman, our Pol-Econ officer in Leningrad.  Then came the kicker:  the Soviets were also withdrawing all their Foreign Service Nationals, over 200 from Embassy Moscow, and over 30 from the Consulate in Leningrad.  The next day, as I drove back across the border to Leningrad, all kinds of thoughts were running through my mind.  My first concern was, “Are the Soviets going to expel any more of our people?” (They did. One of our communicators was booted out shortly thereafter).  My second concern was, “How in the world are we going to cope without our FSN’s?”  As Deputy Principal Officer in Leningrad, it would be my responsibility, along with Administrative Officer Matt Burns and GSO Jane Floyd, to figure out the answer to that question. 

The next few days were full of frenzied activity.  Our expelled colleagues only had a few days to get out of the country, and so the rest of us helped pack them out and send them on their way.  Ed Hurwitz, our Consul General, pitched in, bad back and all, and managed to injure himself pretty badly lifting boxes that were too heavy for him.

The next thing we had to do was to invite our FSN’s back to the Consulate for one last time to get their final paycheck.  It was a very sad occasion.  Many of our FSN’s had been with the Consulate practically since its inception in July, 1973, and they were clearly surprised by their government’s action and felt a bit lost.  We knew, of course, that there were quite a few informers among our FSN crew, and that UpIP, the KGB-supervised agency that provided our employees, even held regular debriefs.  But many of these employees were our friends as well, and quite a few had divided loyalties.  Some landed on their feet.  For example, our Administrative Assistant, Alisa Kotletsova, wound up at UpIP in a job similar to the one she did so well at the Consulate.  Others handled the change less effectively.  Yuriy Subbotin, one of the Consulate’s drivers, was a case in point.  He and I had been through a lot of adventures together, including extracting Ambassador Vernon Walters from a burning Rafik while on the way to Piskarevskoye Cemetery.  He was loyal and devoted, and clearly distraught at leaving.  I felt particularly sorry for him, even as, with a leaden face, I doled out the last rubles he would ever receive from the Consulate.  It was a dejected bunch of FSN’s that left our offices that day.

Meanwhile, it was becoming increasingly obvious that all American job descriptions were about to change radically.  After a few days, Embassy Moscow had decided to set up an APD (all-purpose duty) system, under which officers would be placed on a duty roster and every so often would have to spend the day not at their regular jobs, but in GSO, helping to perform the various support functions that had once been done by our local employees.  Early on, it became clear to us in Leningrad that we did not have sufficient personnel to run a rotating roster.  All of us would have to be on APD all the time.  Fortunately, we had a fair number of enthusiastic volunteers.  John Floyd, our Seabee, was able to keep the Consulate’s systems running while doing basic maintenance tasks in his spare time.  John also volunteered for some of the more dangerous work, which included roping himself to an iron railing and lowering himself down the roof to clean off icicles and snow.  Bea Burns volunteered to be the telephone operator.  Jack Friedman, a retired FSO and the husband of our Consular Officer, Joyce Marshall, and who ironically had once headed a Consulate himself in Brisbane, volunteered to be the Consulate Driver and also make customs runs.  And so on, down the line.  Everybody volunteered for something, and everything was covered by at least one person.

I had no known skills, other than those of a Political Officer, which didn’t translate too well to the practical world of GSO.  So Matt and Jane gave me a pair of coveralls with the name “Sergey” sewed on them, and told me to stand by for whatever duty needed extra hands.  In this manner, I found myself hosing down the parking lot with hot water to melt away the ice.  I shoveled snow in front of the Consulate to clear a path for our vehicles.  A couple of times, to the amusement of our Soviet guards, I got out and pushed our minivan when the cold weather stalled it out in front of the Consulate.  I loaded and unloaded household effects and merchandise from Stockmann, as well as our diplomatic pouch, and kept the office clean.  In addition, of course, no one had any domestic help any more, and this hit spoiled bachelors like me particularly hard.  I must say, I developed a new respect for housework after struggling to wash and iron a few shirts and clean out a stove.  But soon, everything simply became the new norm.  I got used to it.  After about the second week, I actually started getting into my new role, and even sent off to Stockmann for another pair of arctic coveralls.  They were blue and heavily padded, and whenever I moved around in them, I looked like the Michelin Man.  “Sergey” somehow got stenciled on them as well.

It was the coldest winter in almost a decade, getting down to minus 38 degrees Centigrade on some days, but despite this, and unusually heavy snowfalls, the Consulate slowly settled into more normal operations.  In early 1987, military TDYers and PAE contractors began arriving to help share the load.  Gonzalo Quintero (“Gonzo”) was one of the first.  A former Seabee, he provided a tremendous boost to our capabilities.  After an initial shakedown period, we all slowly settled into our new way of life.  There were pressures and stresses, of course, but everyone was filled with a determination to show the Soviets that they couldn’t push us around, and that we weren’t so soft that we couldn’t do without our FSN’s, no matter how much we had liked them and depended on them before. 

So by the spring, we were well on our way to self sufficiency.  One thing, however, should be noted:  we could not have succeeded without a little help from an unlikely source: our Soviet hosts.  It turned out that Moscow’s decision to withdraw our FSN’s had been just as much a shock to our Leningrad Diplomatic Agency counterparts as it had been to us.  Many who worked in the Agency, and in UpIP, did not agree with the policy – some because of the intelligence value of having Soviet employees working in our midst, but most, simply because they thought it was a stupid and punitive decision.  A few people in each organization did what they could to help us, easing our administrative burdens considerably.  More often than not, our requests for under the table assistance were granted immediately, and unofficially, and it really helped.

In the end, the stupidity of the decision became apparent even to the Moscow authorities, but by then there was nothing they could do about it.  It was a policy engraved in ideological stone, and not just on the Soviet side.  A new element had also entered the picture which, it appeared, would permanently scotch any chances of using Soviet employees ever again: the Lonetree/Bracy Marine Guard scandal. 

Lonetree and Leningrad. 
In early January 1987, one of my remaining communicators called me into the Consulate to receive a very alarming message: "Stop all telecommunications traffic immediately, and put the Communications Center under 24-hour guard."  This seemed a little bit odd to me, since the Consulate was already under 24-hour guard by our Marine security detachment.  Then the other shoe dropped: the guards had to be somebody other than the Marines.  A few days before, Sergeant Clayton Lonetree had gone to his superiors in Vienna and confessed that he had been involved in a love affair with one of Embassy Moscow's Soviet FSN's, Violetta Seina.  Subsequent interrogation raised the possibility that Lonetree and another Marine, Corporal Arnold Bracy, may have actually let Soviet agents into sensitive areas of the Embassy.  Thus, the order went out, "Secure the Communications Center."  The person in charge of doing the securing turned out to be me, and the next few nights I slept in the Communications Center SCIF, just in case any Soviet agents should come calling.

In this manner, in addition to all our APD duties, we all acquired a few new chores.  In short order, we set up a duty roster to have someone in the Communications Center around the clock (this restriction was eventually relaxed).  In addition, with all electronic communications shut down, we reverted to the tried and true method of ball point pens and yellow legal pads.  We sent one of our two secretaries to Helsinki, where, each week we would deliver our immortal prose via diplomatic pouch.  Our secretary would then type up the cables and send them out from Embassy Helsinki with the caption, "This is Leningrad …."  It was a strange situation, but in some ways, it resulted in better reporting.  Since the cables were often held up for as much as a week, there was time to think and rewrite to one's heart's content. 

The bad news was not over, however.  A few months later, as all of Embassy Moscow's Marines were being rotated out, the order came through to relieve Leningrad's six Marines as well, even though no one suspected our guys of any foul play.  It turned out that the ongoing investigation had uncovered at least one previous Leningrad Marine, a Sergeant John J. Weirick, who was accused of fraternizing with a Soviet employee back in 1982.  Our Marines were alternately heartbroken and indignant, but nothing was to be done, except to give each and every one of them a farewell party to remember.  A new order had begun at our posts in the Soviet Union, and we were all its victims.

End of Part Two.

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