From the personal archives of a Russianist, installment twelve

Death throes of détente, June-July 1978

First seizure, Tuesday, 13 June 1978, Moscow

I visit the U.S. Commercial Office, pick up telexes. Office Director Farrand calls me and one other aside to tell about yesterday’s worrisome incident: the unexplained arrest of an International Harvester representative, who was taken from his car in downtown Moscow and has been held incommunicado despite embassy protests. Clearly retaliation for the arrest of Soviet commercial agents in New Jersey two weeks ago. Very significant, they are turning the screws. The alarm I read on Anatoly Yarilov’s face at our last luncheon in New York was quite correct: their people really were shaken by detention of persons not protected by diplomatic immunity and now we are going to feel the heat.

How well justified was my visceral foreboding; indeed, Chris’s [Purina] question about how Mr. Brzezinski’s behavior was affecting business was well placed. The impossible has finally occurred: they are touching businessmen; and the fact that they have started with IH, which has been here so long and was one of the pioneers of the Nixon policy was carefully considered. They have stepped on the tail of a firm which they hope will yell loudly at Washington to proceed more cautiously.

In the midst of this horror, our unknowing tourists complain at the Rossiya Hotel about poor service, that just the caviar they seek is not available, that the soup is cold!  And communications personnel bitch that the export control board drags its feet on their high technology orders! 

How did the Cold War begin?  As witnesses to its re-emergence we cannot doubt its ways. The wild language, uncompromising stance of Mr. Brzezinski has helped immeasurably. The other side has done its part in overt adventurism. And we are hissing at one another all over again. 

Dear Henry, now all that you built from the China Sea to Central Europe is coming undone and the culpability of shallow personalities and dilettantes in foreign policy is clear enough. The repugnant behavior of the other side is obvious, but that was always there. Adventurism in Africa! Well, since when has fishing in muddy waters been excluded? Were the meetings in Moscow when we bombed Hanoi not proof enough that peace can endure if there is a deep enough commitment to that cause?  There is a point where recriminations so spoil the atmosphere that the exchange of charges becomes self-generating, sustaining a vicious cycle of deteriorating relations and frustration.

Feeling rather defeated, I go to the ITT office for lunch – pass along the ill-tidings to Georges, who tries to show no emotion, but appears to know, admits that he too has known paranoia.  We are served a very elegant lunch, but the mood is subdued

A word about the new office within Brown&Root : about three other companies share this half-floor which Brown & Root has leased – each with one room office, each will have own telex, dining room for entertaining guests. The fact is that ITT has never officially applied for accreditation, because the process would take several years just for the company to resolve to take that step.

The New York Times, 14 July 1978

“President Deplores the Russian Trials as Blow to Liberty. House also condemns them. White House Reported Reviewing Exchange Plans With View to Cutting Some Off,” by Martin Tolchin. 13 July 1978

President Carter condemned the trials of Anatoly B. Shcharansky and other Soviet dissidents today as ‘an attack on every human being who lives in the world who believes in basic human freedom and is willing to speak for these freedoms or fight for them.’

A senior White House aide said that the Administration was reviewing all trade, technological and scientific exchanges with the Soviet Union, with a view toward ending those most beneficial to Moscow.

There is a growing debate within the Administration over whether the United States should cancel export deals with Moscow in retaliation for the trials, and an aide to Zbigniew Brzezinski, the President’s national security adviser, sought to advance the idea by urging Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat of New York, to raise the matter publicly.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2020

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