Best of Buddies; Review of Anatoly Dobrynin's In Confidence (Random House, 1995)
Washington has lived by leaks and rumors for a very long time, but until the collapse of communism there was one person in town with whom it was always safe to let your hair down. During his quarter-century tenure as Soviet ambassador, you could tell Anatoly Dobrynin whatever you wanted about your superiors, about American foreign policy, or about America itself, without fear that the Washington Post would get wind of your indiscretions. "One good thing I know about you", Richard Nixon told him, "there has not been a single leak."
Other Americans were equally confident that the Soviet system would keep their secrets. What else but such trust would have led Brent Scowcroft, as President Ford's National Security Adviser, to apologize to Dobrynin when his boss publicly endorsed the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate? Or Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to welcome an abusive letter from Leonid Brezhnev, in hopes that it might encourage Jimmy Carter to reconsider his approach in the strategic arms talks? Or Senator Ted Kennedy to complain to Dobrynin that Moscow's disgracefully mild handling of Ronald Reagan was weakening the anti-nuclear movement, and with it the Democratic party?