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April 2000

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Warburg 2000 Conference
Collective Security—Posse or Global Cop?

Charles G. StefanAbout the Author
Previously by Charles G. Stefan in American Diplomacy:

In Roosevelt and the Wartime Summit Conferences with Stalin:
"FDR had no illusions about the nature of Stalin's régime. Recognizing the vital role played by the USSR in the war against Germany, however, he sought to develop personal contacts with the Soviet leader comparable to the close relations he had already established with Churchill. His objective was twofold: using persuasion, to ensure Soviet entry into the war against Japan and to enlist Soviet backing for the establishment of a United Nations along the lines proposed by the United States. At Yalta he achieved considerable success in achieving those basic goals. [Winter 1998]

Elsewhere in
"Life in the Foreign Service"


William Dale, on Prime Minister Lester 'Mike' Pearson of Canada:
"At an informal reception given by my boss, the American minister, in the spring of 1948 in Ottawa, I met the [then] Canadian undersecretary for external affairs, Lester Pearson. To my surprise and pleasure he went out of his way to chat with that lowest form of diplomatic life, a third secretary and vice consul (my rank at the time). [click here]

Patricia Linderman, in Moral Hazards, Foreign Service fiction set in Havana:
"The sea stretches out, luminous and blue, to the northern horizon. I lean, like a Cuban, against the rough, crumbling seawall of the Malecón. Decrepit apartment buildings, eaten away by years of salt air and neglect, line the curving waterfront. Soviet-style housing blocks sport balconies with flaking blue paint. The modern U.S. Interests Section building stands out like a clean-cut American cop in mirrored glasses. [click here]

Special feature Conference 2000

Keiran Prendergast, keynote speaker:

Elizabeth Pond , on Europe's 20th Century transformation:
The cold war was not a freezer, but an incubator of European cooperation. . . . Europe is not and never will be a homogenized federation, but it is already far more than a confederation."

Amb. Denis McLean, on sharing responsibility in wars of nationalism and separatism:
"The U.S. has a fundamental role to play in helping to put together the capabilities to meet these types of emergency. But so too have other countries."

Amb. Frank Crigler, on U.S. interest in conflicts far from our shores:
"We cannot disengage from Africa because America’s own roots run too deep there and because we as a people are too deeply touched by the fate of Africans."


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The author, a senior U.S. diplomat now retired, sheds light on the background to some of the negotiations involved in the thirty-five-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) that resulted in the August 1975 Helsinki Accords. Mr.Stefan participated throughout the preparation of a provision of the Accords — cooperation in humanitarian fields — that ultimately had great political impact. ~Ed.
ROBERT KAGAN, IN HIS REVIEW,1 of Henry Kissinger’s latest book, Years of Renewal,2 is critical of Kissinger’s volume. Years of Renewal covers the latter years of Henry’s governmental career from 1974 through 1976. In Kagan’s review, he quotes Kissinger (from his previous book, Diplomacy): “The collapse of Indochina in 1975 [was] followed in America by a retreat from Angola and a deepening of domestic divisions, and by an extraordinary surge of expansionism on the part of the Soviet Union.” In the present volume, Kissinger asserts that the mid- to late-1970s was the “seeming nadir of America’s international position.” Kagan writes that Kissinger seeks to “salvage the glittering reputation that was tarnished by the Ford years, and to do so by providing a grand revisionist account of those last years in office.” Indeed, Kagan denies that Kissinger actually laid the foundations for “America’s eventual victory in the Cold War.”

Having served on the United States delegation to the Geneva Phase of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which drafted the well-known Helsinki Final Act, I was more than usually interested in Robert Kagan’s critical view. I write with some expertise on those portions of the book dealing with the CSCE, as I was the only member of the American delegation who served on Basket III and Subcommittees 10 (Culture) and 11 (Education) throughout the drafting phase of the CSCE in Geneva, from September 18, 1973, until the adoption of the Basket III preamble on July 15, 1975. This action completed work on the whole of Basket III.

In those portions of his lengthy review dealing with the Geneva phase of the CSCE, Kagan is mostly but not entirely right. He certainly is correct in asserting that the “initial impetus for a pan-European conference had come from Moscow.” It was indeed the hope of Brezhnev and other Soviet leaders that the CSCE would be short lived and would enshrine Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe, which included the Soviet zone of Germany — since 1949 the so-called German Democratic Republic (GDR). He is also on target in asserting that the CSCE was primarily a forum, until near its close, for the West Europeans. Indeed, the French delegation, which took the lead for Western Europe in the Cultural subcommittee (No. 10), declined to participate in the informal NATO caucus on Basket III (presumably because the U.S. and Canada were represented in this caucus).

However, I question Kagan’s condemnation of Kissinger’s role throughout the Geneva phase of the CSCE. As elaborated subsequently in this article, the Secretary of State acted differently toward the CSCE in 1973-74 than he did in 1975, and it is only fair to point out this change in Kissinger’s actions.

It is time for specifics on the CSCE. First of all, it is pertinent to note that the U.S. delegation (USDEL) had no written instructions from the secretary of state when it arrived in Geneva in September 1973. The delegation did not even receive the normal telegraphic summary of general objectives usually sent to an American delegation at an international conference.3

The delegation’s posture during the initial phases of the CSCE was remarkably low profile. Indeed, USDEL’s posture was so low-key that when Secretary Kissinger asked us to slow down the negotiations, in response to the Soviet-supported Egyptian-Syrian attack upon Israel in early October 1973, we could, in practice, do little if anything. In any case, the West Europeans imposed a phase of general debate on the CSCE, which lasted three months. Thus, the initial Soviet target date for completion of the conference — the end of 1973 — passed before any agreed language had been drafted.

Once this phase had passed and drafting had begun, the then-head of the American delegation, Davis Eugene “Gene” Boster, was concerned that the United States had no proposal in Basket III. Boster, whom I had previously known and served with, Charles Stefan at CSCE in Genevaturned to me and together we worked out a joint proposal with the U.K. delegation in the Education subcommittee. Boster cleared the language with Washington, and the U.K. delegate on Subcommittee 11 and I jointly presented the proposal early in 1974. It dealt with the promotion of exchanges between East and West, including provisions for improving the situation that scholars from the West confronted in the U.S.S.R. and elsewhere in the Warsaw Pact countries of eastern Europe. The joint U.K.-U.S. proposal was provisionally registered in Subcommittee 11 in the summer of 1974. However, it was subsequently softened somewhat due to higher-level Soviet concerns. This “softening” took place during informal U.S.S.R.-U.K. talks toward the end of the Geneva phase of the CSCE, and the final language probably represented the maximum concession that the Soviet side was then prepared to accept.4

It was during this low-key phase of the CSCE negotiations that the practice was begun of regular luncheons with key members of the Soviet and American delegations. Each side alternated in hosting the luncheons. I recall one luncheon during which Ambassador Boster skillfully handled complaints by the Soviet side on the general slowness of the negotiations. (This luncheon took place during the so-called period of general debate between September and December of 1973). These luncheons continued on a regular basis until, in 1975, acting under instructions from Washington, the posture of the American delegation stiffened, and the luncheons were discontinued, undoubtedly to the relief of both delegations.5

In early 1974, the fate of the well-known Russian dissident, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, was a behind-the-scenes concern to the Western delegations at the CSCE. Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoli Kovalev, the head of the Soviet delegation reportedly played an important role in the resolution of the situation facing us at that time. This situation lasted until Solzhenitsyn was expelled to the West instead of being incarcerated in the U.S.S.R. According to Kovalev’s own account many years later, he was instrumental in the Kremlin’s decision in the case. Kovalev reportedly argued then that a decision to jail Solzhenitsyn would mark the end of the Helsinki process.6

At about this time, one of the Danish delegates, whose delegation had taken the lead for the EC-9 in the Human Contacts subcommittee, spoke privately to me about his delegation’s proposal dealing with emigration from the U.S.S.R. In response to my query about the implications for the West if the Soviets agreed to the emigration of substantial numbers of their citizens, the Dane said that the U.S.S.R. would never permit such a development.

Another episode is particularly pertinent in my recollections of the Geneva phase of the CSCE. It occurred in the Cultural subcommittee (No.10), where the French delegation, as noted earlier, had taken the lead for the EC-9. The French proposals included a specific reference to the establishment of libraries in both West and East. The American delegation strongly supported this proposal, even though we wondered if the Soviets would agree to this idea. The Soviet delegation predictably opposed this proposal, but the French delegation persisted and was strongly supported by other Western delegations. Even the Romanian delegate on the Cultural subcommittee told me privately that Soviet opposition was holding up acceptance of the idea among at least one of the Warsaw Pact delegations.

Then, sometime in the spring of 1975 (as near as I can recall), the French delegation suddenly dropped the idea of libraries and reading rooms, catching all of the Western delegates in the cultural subcommittee by surprise. The Belgian delegate on the subcommittee (who spoke excellent English) informed me subsequently that no one in the EC-9 was aware of this major concession on the part of the French. About this time we in the American delegation received a highly classified telegram from the U.S. embassy in Moscow. It reported that Jacques Chirac (then the prime minister of France and now the French president)7 had recently visited Moscow and had become convinced that the U.S.S.R. would bitterly oppose the idea of Western libraries and reading rooms in the Soviet Union. He had therefore instructed the French delegation to the CSCE to drop immediately their insistence on this idea. I do not recall the Embassy’s source for this information, but it had to be a high personage in the French embassy in Moscow, if not Chirac himself.

Shortly after this incident, the French delegation took a redeeming step. They arranged informal sessions with the leader of the Soviet delegation in Basket III, Yuri Dubinin, one of the hardest hard liners in the Soviet delegation. The head of the French delegation spoke to Ambassador Sherer, who authorized me to join the informal talks along with other EC-9 delegates. I spoke minimal French, but it was enough to get by because the primary burden of negotiations was carried on between the chief French delegate to Basket III and Dubinin, who spoke excellent French. As a result of these informal discussions, the French delegation secured most of their proposals, minus the original French proposal for the establishment of reading rooms and libraries in the major cities of the U.S.S.R.


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