qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

The Reality Distortion Field

Book Review: Memories, by Andrei Gromyko
This was a serendipitous find in the local Oxfam bookshop a couple of years ago. To be honest, the only thing I remember about Gromyko was his leaving office; at the time I thought he had been pushed (though without thinking that was necessarily a bad thing), though this volume suggests it was a straightforward decision to retire.

In all honesty, the aspect that comes through most strongly in Gromyko's writing is the fact that he was a Party man. There's absolutely no discussion of the Great Terror; Gromyko was transferred to the diplomatic service in 1939, but from where, there is little mention. There's nothing more than token criticism of Stalin, but there's a healthy dose of disdain for Khrushchev. During the Cold War, the Soviet position was absolutely consistent and apparently never in error. In discussing some of these areas (even where I have some sympathy with Gromyko's position), the text degenerates into the stale and clichéd language of the Left.

Mostly, the book is written in a homely style and offers some insights into (quite literally, global) Soviet foreign policy throughout most of the twentieth century, as well as some of the more unexpected encounters a diplomat and foreign minister might make during their career. The relationships between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill are discussed at length and this does provide a genuinely interesting perspective, with warm relations between Stalin and Roosevelt and frosty ones with Churchill. Following on, the history of relationships with different US presidents is also interesting (intriguingly, a very positive impression of Nixon, and a distinctly negative one of Carter). The book closes with an extremely rosy assessment of the future of Socialism. Gromyko died in 1989, the same year as the English language version of the book was published; the USSR followed a couple of years later.
Tags: books, history, politics
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