WORLD

THE FALL OF A STATESMAN

Anthony Wilson-Smith October 10 1988
WORLD

THE FALL OF A STATESMAN

Anthony Wilson-Smith October 10 1988

THE FALL OF A STATESMAN

He has been the ultimate political survivor, offering loyalty and quiet counsel to six Soviet leaders and negotiating face-to-face with nine American presidents. When Andrei Gromyko sat at the right hand of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in meetings with Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, Mikhail Gorbachev was attending high school. In 1964, Nikita Khrushchev

ter, to Western reporters, saying, “If I ask Gromyko to take his trousers off and sit on a block of ice, he will obey—and he will stay there until I tell him to move.” Henry Kissinger, who as secretary of state in the late 1970s frequently negotiated with Gromyko, said that his eyes often appeared “slightly wistful, like those of a dog that has to endure some intolerable affront from his master.”

But few politicians exercised as much influence on world events as Gromyko, who, as foreign minister from 1957 to 1985, was the principal architect of Soviet foreign policy. Often portrayed in the West as a stone-faced hard-liner, he is remembered for such incidents as the time in the

late 1970s that he sat snapping pencils in half while listening unhappily to President Jimmy Carter’s position on disarmament, He frequently took a tough stance against the United States and was largely responsible for his country’s decision to break off diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967.

Still, Western negotiators regarded him as a shrewd and pragmatic diplomat, and he was once described in a background document of the United States Information Agency as "hardly an ideological fanatic.” One of the few Soviet officials before Gorbachev to travel frequently and publicly with his wife, Gromyko demonstrated a gruff manner that often disguised personal kihdness. Once, in January, 1974, he publicly scolded an American diplo-

mat for standing in the biting Moscow cold without a hat.

Appointed a full mem-

1973, Gromyko played a key behind-the-scenes

first Yuri Andropov and § later Gorbachev to the position of secretary gener| al. In his speech to fellow ® Politburo members endorsing Gorbachev, Gro----------------juyko described him as

Shortly after, Gorbachev appointed Gromyko to the largely ceremonial post of president. Said one Western diplomat: “It was a nice way of moving him up—and out.” In his farewell address last Friday, 79-year-old Gromyko was characteristically pragmatic. “Of course, I am sad that my situation within the Central Committee is changing,” he said. “But age is a stubborn thing, and there is no getting away from it.” Added Gromyko: “I deeply believe that the tasks facing the country must and will be resolved. I thank you all for our common work and for your trust.”

ANTHONY WILSON-SMITH in Moscow