Moscow on the Potomac: The Soviet Embassy and Detente, 1969-1979 Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Paulauskas, Michael
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • This dissertation examines the role of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C., in conducting superpower diplomacy during détente, the period from 1969 to 1979 when the superpowers attempted to normalize the Cold War. This work revolves around four major themes. First, it explores the critical role played by Soviet diplomats on the ground in determining the nature of Soviet-American relations. Second, it analyzes the relationships of key diplomats, arguing that personal diplomacy bolstered détente in its initial years, but ultimately could not guarantee the long-term improvement of Soviet-American relations. Third, it complicates current understandings of Soviet foreign policy in this period, as it functioned not simply as an expression of the Kremlin's will, but as a complex bureaucratic process that frequently wreaked havoc on negotiations. In this sense, détente was not a monolithic policy undertaken by the Soviet government with a singular goal in mind, but rather a process negotiated by Soviet officials with different understandings of Soviet aims and strategies. Finally, by considering the expansion of cultural exchanges and trade negotiations during this period, it demonstrates the vital role played by economic and cultural interests in setting the parameters of détente. The first part of this dissertation focuses on the role played by Anatoly Dobrynin, who served as Soviet ambassador to the US from 1962 to 1986. It begins with a brief biography of Dobrynin and a study of the methods of diplomacy that made him an effective operator in Washington. In particular, it outlines the "Dobrynin school" of diplomacy, assessing the atmosphere promoted by Dobrynin at the embassy and his influence over a generation of young Soviet diplomats. Next, the dissertation explains the rise and fall of the backchannel, the site of secret negotiations for improved Soviet-American relations, and it describes the personal diplomacy established by Dobrynin and American National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. The second part of the dissertation serves as a case study of the embassy's Cultural Department, showing how lower-level diplomats promoted the image of the USSR as a dependable great power with whom the US should develop friendlier ties.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Bryant, Chad
  • Raleigh, Donald
  • Reid, Donald
  • McReynolds, Louise
  • Browning, Christopher R.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2012
  • This item is restricted from public view for 1 year after publication.

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