What is bewildering is the conviction-and it is becoming more and more general-that in all the perils that confront us, the direction of affairs is given over to a way of thinking that has no longer any understanding of itself. It is like being in a carriage, descending an increasingly precipitous slope, and suddenly realizing that there is no coachman on the box." The lines were written in 1854 by Fyodor Tiutchev, poet and diplomat, in a letter to his wife. The image is frightening and many seem to have experienced similar fears as the year 1983 drew to a close.
It was the year of Korean Air Lines Flight 007, of Beirut and Grenada, of the breakdown in arms talks and the escalation in the shouting war. It was also the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther, a great believer in the educational value of inducing fear among his audiences, proclaiming that the Judgment Day was at hand. But at least some of the thunder was of the variety produced on the stage, and there is reason to believe that those who feared to have lost Tiutchev's coachman, thought the ground had disappeared under their feet, felt a new ice age coming or saw Sarajevo and 1914 written in giant letters all over a blood red horizon, will look back at some future date to that annus horribilis with greater composure.
Soviet-American relations, to be sure, were in an appalling state-but not exactly for the first time: in fact, the very word "appalling" was used in the same context by one of my predecessors in these pages only three years ago.1
Leonid Brezhnev died on November 10, 1982; two days later Yuri Andropov was made his successor. Within the next eight months Andropov also became President of the Soviet Union and was identified as Chairman of the Defense Council, thus combining in his hands all three main functions of his predecessor. Much had been written earlier on in the West about Andropov's intelligence,
Loading, please wait...