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Doc Type: 
Dobrynin, Anatoly
Full Title: 
In Confidence: Moscow's Ambassador to Six Cold War Presidents
Language Type: 
Random House
Pub City: 
New York

 (Summary by Holly Decker, Harriman Institute, Columbia University)

               Ambassador Dobrynin, the Soviet Ambassador to the United States, was one of the officials present at the Geneva Summit. Whilst in Geneva, he was primarily involved in the plenary sessions along with the other ambassadors and foreign ministers. His memoirs provide a general overview of the events of the summit and make inferences about Reagan and Gorbachev’s tete-a-tetes.

               He describes the initial meeting between the leaders in positive terms and states that their initial private tete-a-tete was open and frank, a fact that is agreed upon by both the participants. He goes on to describe the ensuing discussions about SDI, which was the largest point of contention. The Ambassador provides an insightful analysis into the Soviet understanding of Reagan’s written proposals regarding arms control.

“But the most controversial point lay in the third proposal for ‘a greater reliance on defensive systems’- which in Reagan’s language meant SDI and ducked the question of whether they would be covered by the long-standing agreement to limit ABM systems. Worse, the statement seemed to imply that the Soviet Union agreed with SDI in principle and that there might even be some possibility that we would cooperate in this ‘defense program.’”[1]

               Dobrynin provides very little analysis of the discussions of human rights and regional conflicts, saying that these were areas that were neglected because of time constraints. He touches briefly on the private meeting where Gorbachev and Reagan discussed the issues but does not describe the time dedicated to these issues by Shultz and Shevernadze. One of the areas of agreement mentioned in the joint communique was the decision to increase cultural exchange.

Dobrynin also describes Reagan as being less forceful in his pursuit of human rights than normal. Part of this interpretation may be a result of the discussion occurring in private. In the memorandum, Reagan acknowledges that human rights were considered internal issues by the Soviets and as a result, he chose to discuss this particular issue in private. Gorbachev responded to Reagan’s comments by providing specific examples of American trespasses against human rights. There are some indications in the memorandum that the discussion became heated. The notetaker indicates that Gorbachev interrupted Reagan on at least one occasion without listening to the translation. This discussion lasted for over an hour. While Dobrynin is correct in suggesting that the issues of regional conflict and human rights were subordinate to the issue of arms control, it was discussed and had obvious impacts. Later in Dobrynin’s memoirs, he acknowledges the importance of the issues when he states that Gorbachev agreed to include “’resolving humanitarian cases in the spirit of cooperation,’” in the final statement.

[1] Anatoly Dobrynin, In Confidence (New York: Random House, 1995) 588-589.