Washington D.C., November 19, 2019 – One hundred years after the birth of Anatoly Dobrynin, one of the most effective ambassadors of the 20th century, the former dean of the Washington diplomatic corps is being remembered in both his home country and the United States for his abilities, not least in helping to manage the ever-turbulent relationship between the two superpowers for almost a generation during a pivotal period of the Cold War.
Dobrynin was universally respected for his many skills but even more for his desire to serve as a straightforward, non-ideological mediator and negotiator between the two rival powers, the United States and the USSR. His role in confidential back-channel communications with senior American officials from Robert F. Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis to Henry Kissinger in the era of détente helped build a basic level of confidence and trust on both sides that was crucial to resolving or averting numerous actual and potential crises.
While he developed an unusual personal connection with the United States, where he lived from 1962, the year of the Cuban episode, to 1986, mid-way through the Reagan administration, he not surprisingly considered himself an unabashed loyalist to the Soviet Union.
“I served my country to the best of my ability as citizen, patriot, and diplomat. I tried to serve what I saw as its practical and historic interests and not any abstract philosophical notion of communism. I accepted the Soviet system with its flaws and successes as a historic step in the long history of my country, in whose great destiny I still believe. If I had any grand purpose in life, it was the integration of my country into the family of nations as a respected and equal partner.”
As noted below, after his retirement he continued to contribute to international understanding through his memoir, which has become something of a manual of diplomatic craftsmanship, and especially through his cooperation with the global scholarly community including participating in a number of conferences and projects organized the National Security Archive over several years.
The following documents and excerpts from three of those conferences from the mid-1990s (see "New documents" below) show Dobrynin “in action” – both as an active diplomat engaging American officials in confidential interactions and after his retirement, providing his former U.S. counterparts and scholars what at the time was almost unprecedented direct perspective from the Soviet leadership whose inner workings and decision-making were still largely opaque so soon after the collapse of the USSR.