Campaign: 2000s

Remembering EWI's First 30 Years - by Allen Lynch

Remarks by Allen Lynch at the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the East-West Institute, May 10, 2011, Prince George Ballroom, New York City [1]


 

Let me first remind us of the international atmosphere of the early 1980's, when I joined the Institute:

 

The Russians were truly afraid of Ronald Reagan, and this fear had very practical consequences. The KGB under Yuri Andropov had launched Operation "RYAN", which directed its operatives in Europe and North America to look for signs that the United States might be preparing to launch a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. KGB field agents dutifully returned reports to Moscow confirming this suspicion and in November 1983, during annual NATO military maneuvers in West Germany, the Russians placed their nuclear forces in East Germany and Czechoslovakia on high alert, as a precaution. Later, when Reagan was shown the intercepted KGB cables, he asked, "Do they really think that I would attack them?" To which an aide delicately replied, "Yes, Mr. President, they do."

 

In the spring of 1985, shortly after Gorbachev took power, U.S. Army Colonel Arthur Nicholson was killed by Soviet troops while on patrol in East Germany, a patrol that was legally covered by a Four-Power postwar agreement.

 

And let us not forget that in the 1980's Osama bin Laden--because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan--was a close and valued ally of the United States, a forceful reminder of what strange bedfellows the Cold War often made.

 

This was the atmosphere in which the Institute was founded and in which we operated throughout the 1980's.

 

John Mroz, together with his Vice President and Director of Studies Steve Larrabee, themselves created a remarkable atmosphere within the Institute, one that married intellectual integrity and an almost anthropological sensitivity to differences in national and political cultures with intense political and diplomatic relevance. This was an utterly unique environment, one that led Bob Legvold of Columbia University to state at the time that the Institute was the most interesting place in the world to be if you were concerned about East-West relations.

 

Indeed, any reasonable account of the Institute's record at that time has to recognize both the intellectual gravitas and political realism of the academic program, as embodied in the publications program, and the Institute's unique ability to translate this work to the level of policymakers in East and West.

 

Above all, this applied to our Gorbachev program. Our analytical work was already under way in 1985 and by summer 1987 the Institute issued its famous Gorbachev report, which was covered on the front page of the Sunday New York Times and in scores of newspapers throughout the world. The Institute was thus setting the terms of this crucial policy debate, and well before most governments-including the American government-were willing to admit that Gorbachev was for real.

 

John and Steve also created a remarkable network of kindred spirits-scholars, diplomats, policy entrepreneurs and statesmen-that has proved able to take root and grow far beyond the soil that gave rise to
it. (Of course, I have to say that they did all this with a work ethic that made that of the Puritans pale in comparison: we used to say at the Institute that we worked from 9 to 9: 9am to 9am!)

 

In closing, I hope that you will allow me a few personal anecdotes to convey the spirit of that era at the Institute:

 

First, about Ira Wallach: I recall addressing Ira's 60th anniversary reunion class from Columbia College, class of 1929 and remarking that Ira and his friends looked a lot better at 10 o'clock on Saturday morning than my own Columbia classmates of 1979 did! I wish in particular to emphasize Ira's vision, his determination as well as patience, his loyalty, and above all his willingness to put his money where his heart and mind were. Quite simply: No Ira, no Institute.

 

And then Hal Saunders, Institute Board member, who had helped to work out the Camp David Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1978 and with whom I was privileged to work on a Russia project in 2000 and 2001: Hal always reminded us to keep our eye on the relationship--in matters personal, political, and organizational--in all that we decide.

 

Adam-Daniel Rotfeld from Poland was the first Institute Resident Fellow that I got to know well in 1984. He was co-author of the first Fellows' monograph (with Norwegian diplomat Rolf Berg, on confidence- and security-building measures) and is today the Polish Chair of a Commission on Polish-Russian Reconciliation that meets in Warsaw and Moscow. The spirit of that era lives on.

 

Steve Larrabee carefully cultivated and encouraged his staff and always insisted on the highest intellectual standards in all that we did.

 

And of course, last and by no means least, John Edwin Mroz: who founded and refounded the Institute, who pressed us all to do more and to do it better, and in the process disproved the notion that rigorous thinking and effective policy advocacy cannot go hand in hand.

 

I end by remembering Silviu Brucan, Romanian, diplomat and scholar, several times a Resident Fellow at the Institute and who in December 1989 helped orchestrate the overthrow of the brutal tyrant Nicolai Ceaucescu. Silviu had a great sense of humor, and one of his anecdotes concerned a Soviet worker who was invited by the Communist Party to attend the next Party meeting. When the worker failed to show up, he got a call from the local Party Secretary, asking, "Comrade, why didn't you come to the last Party Meeting?" To which the worker replied, "Comrade if I had known it was going to be the last one, I would have
come!"

 

John: I am sure that this is not the last meeting of this party, and I am very glad that I came. Thank you very much.


 

[1] Allen Lynch worked as Research Associate and then Deputy Director of Studies at the Institute for East-West Security Studies between March 1984-July 1989.

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