From his country dacha, the Soviet Union's top America-watcher discusses Putin's Russia, US foreign policy and nuclear proliferationby Jonathan Power / February 29, 2008 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2008 issue of Prospect Magazine
Georgi Arbatov, the éminence grise of the Soviet foreign policy apparatus, was waiting for me at the bus stop an hour out of Moscow. A little bowed at 84, he grabbed me by the arm and leant on his homemade walking stick, cut from a nearby birch, and led me through the wood I had arrived in to a clearing in which stood a small, shabby block of flats, paint peeling in the entrance, a year’s dust and leaves on the staircase. Like his mentor, Yuri Andropov, the former KGB chief and later head of the Soviet Union, Arbatov has always shunned many of the perks of the apparatchiks, content with a modest flat in the city and this “dacha” in the countryside.
We talked, as we did 30 years ago, over vodka, coffee, cucumber and beetroot. The adviser to every Soviet president from Brezhnev to Gorbachev remains as lucid as he was when he told me in 1978 that if the west pursued a closer relationship with China, turning China “into some sort of military ally to the west”… then there would be “no place for détente.”