American Diplomacy

Highlight map


Support American Diplomacy RSS Mailing-list Subscription Email American Diplomacy Facebook

Warburg 2000 ConferenceCollective Security—Posse or Global Cop? 

AT ABOUT THIS TIME, we followed Secretary of State Kissinger’s direct role in working out a complex issue involving the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the U.S.S.R. Early in the Geneva phase of the CSCE, a delegate from the FRG had told me privately that a satisfactory resolution of the problem of a peaceful reunification of the two German states, at some future point, was absolutely essential for his delegation. The issue involved acceptable language in the Basket I “Declaration on Principles.” Because the American delegation held regular staff meetings, I was keenly aware of this prolonged issue. In the end, it was resolved only after one of the periodic meetings between Secretary of State Kissinger and Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko (February 17-18, 1975) and subsequent negotiations between the heads of the two delegations in Geneva. Finally, on March 17, 1975, the agreed text was tabled, reading “The participating States consider that their frontiers can be changed in accordance with international law, by peaceful means and by agreement.” The language was finally incorporated in the Principle of Sovereign Equality. It is noteworthy that the Soviet side assumed — wrongly, as it turned out in the march of historic events — that this concession would be overridden by the assurances in Principle 3 regarding the “inviolability of frontiers” and in Principle 4 concerning the “territorial integrity of states.” Similarly, the U.S.S.R. leadership in Moscow also incorrectly assumed that the broad assertions in Principle 7 on human rights would, in practice, be overridden by Principle 6 on “nonintervention in internal affairs.”

By the time Secretary Kissinger met with Gromyko in Vienna, on May 19-20, 1975, much had changed in the climate of U.S.-Soviet relations. This change was brought about by a number of factors, including the collapse of the U.S.-supported regime in South Vietnam and the economic and energy crisis then underway. These events had taken place far from the CSCE, but their impact was promptly felt in Geneva.

On the occasion of the May meeting between Kissinger and Gromyko, Kissinger for the first time was more informed about the details of the CSCE than was the Soviet foreign minister. Kissinger pressed Gromyko to accept the Western package on human rights, recently proposed by the Western delegations to the East at the CSCE. He thereby made it clear that this package was a firm proposal with which the Soviets would have to deal. 8

There remains little to be written about my experiences in the Geneva phase of the CSCE. It is perhaps worth adding that in his study, Maresca asserts that “Eventually, a team of U.S. linguists was brought to Geneva to check all language versions to ensure agreement among them.”9 As a Russian speaker who twice served in the American embassy in Moscow, I might note that most of the team’s efforts were concentrated on ensuring, to the maximum extent possible, agreement between the English- and Russian-language texts. In this effort, the team was ably supported by a Russian-speaking linguist sent to Geneva by the FRG Foreign Ministry in Bonn.

Two final thoughts are definitely noteworthy. First of all, both Kagan and a number of writers, including Kissinger, have overrated the importance of the provisions of Basket III, as compared with the sweeping language of principle no. 7 in Basket I. I have already noted the Kremlin’s miscalculation in this regard, but it is worth repeating at this point.

Secondly, although the stiffer U.S. position in 1975 should certainly not be overlooked, it is the West European delegations that bear equal if not greater responsibility for whatever success has been achieved as a result of the Geneva phase of the CSCE. We in the United States owe them a debt of gratitude. But even the West European delegations and their leaders, as well as the U.S. side, were unaware that they were among the factors, however slight, leading to the eventual demise of the U.S.S.R. None of the delegations at the Geneva phase of the CSCE could have realized this, and other factors certainly played a more prominent role in the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, including the special circumstances surrounding the actual event in 1991.

To sum up, with the modifications suggested above, Kagan is on target in his criticism of Henry Kissinger’s latest book so far as the Geneva phase of the CSCE is concerned. It may also be said that to compare the Kissinger of 1973-74 with the Kissinger of 1975 is rather unfair, once again so far as the CSCE is concerned. Finally, to jump from the long-ago gathering of the CSCE in Geneva to the present time, it is difficult to underestimate the current influence and power of the United States on the world stage. Nonetheless, it remains both necessary and important to recognize the limits to American efforts abroad as we enter the new century.  



1. The New Republic, June 21, 1999.

2. New York, Simon & Schuster, 1999.

3.To the best of my knowledge, the only book in English devoted exclusively to the CSCE is John J. Maresca, To Helsinki, The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe 1973-1975 (Duke University Press, 1985). Maresca played an important role in the Helsinki Process, and his book gives an excellent review of this Process. For a summary of the reasons underlying the failure of the American delegation to receive written instructions in 1973, see pp. 44-45 of Maresca’s book. Nonetheless, Maresca did not regularly participate in the Basket III negotiations until the Spring of 1975, when he took over from a departing delegate, Guy Coriden, the Human Contacts and Information subcommittees. He understandably gave little or no attention to the negotiations in Subcommittees 10 (Culture) and 11 (Education) where I represented the small American delegation until the conclusion of negotiations in these bodies.

4. Following the early departure of the first head of the American delegation, George S. Vest, his place was taken by Davis Eugene “Gene” Boster. He served as the Delegation Chief until early 1974, when he was named to be the American Ambassador to Bangladesh. Boster is treated, in my view, rather unfairly in Maresca’s book. He is described as Vest’s successor who “arrived with no prior experience in multilateral diplomacy and no expertise on the CSCE.” Boster was an able diplomat and successfully carried on as head of the American delegation.

5. After the final luncheon of the Soviet and American delegations in the spring of 1975, I recall waiting with Ambassador Albert “Bud” Sherer, Jr., the head of the American delegation, for a car to take us back to the U. S. mission in Geneva. My recollection is that we were both relieved that the lengthy luncheons with the Soviet delegation had drawn to a close. Ambassador Sherer was an outstanding leader of the American delegation and he richly deserves the plaudits given him in Maresca’s book.

6. Vestnik, a joint venture of the Soviet foreign ministry and an Austrian firm, was published during the Gorbachev era when Eduard Schevardnadze was the foreign minister of the U.S.S.R. As for Kovalev’s reference to the Solzhenitsyn case, I recall well the tense period in the CSCE before the Kremlin’s decision to expel the author to the West. For a good description of this period, see Maresca, To Helsinki, pp. 89-91.

7. For a rather negative view of President Chirac, see “Jacques Chirac, out of steam,” The Economist (London), July 31, 1999, p. 44.

8. In his latest memoirs, Kissinger gives credit for this insight to the then assistant secretary of state for European affairs, Arthur Hartman. The latter was a very able career diplomat who was subsequently ambassador to France and to the Soviet Union. Kissinger states that Hartman “mastered all the details” of the CSCE negotiations in Geneva. Henry Kissinger, Years Of Renewal (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999), p. 641. It should also be noted that in this book, Kissinger admits that “I for one was initially skeptical about the possibilities of Basket III. We did not expect the Soviet empire to collapse so quickly;” ibid, p.663. Kissinger does not, in this citation, mention the sweeping language of principle no. 7 in Basket I.

9.Maresca, To Helsinki, p. 136.

    Charles Stefan spent thirty years, 1947 - 1977, in the U.S. Foreign Service, specializing in Soviet affairs. He had assignments in the Soviet Union and several East European countries, as well as the Department of State. Stefan holds a degree from the University of California at Berkeley and is a graduate of the Russian Institute at Columbia University and the National War College. Since retirement in Gainesville, Florida, he has written extensively on U.S.-Soviet relations.

Charles G. StefanAbout the Author
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."


Send email to
American Diplomacy
American Diplomacy
by ordering books online at:

Search the American Diplomacy website

white starAmerican Diplomacy white star
Copyright © 2012 American Diplomacy Publishers Chapel Hill NC