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A Russian We Trusted : Anatoly Dobrynin remembers four decades as the calm center in the drama of Soviet-American relations : IN CONFIDENCE, By Anatoly Dobrynin (Times Books: $30; 672 pp.)

October 22, 1995|A. Craig Copetas | A. Craig Copetas, a former visiting scholar at the Harriman Institute of Advanced Soviet Studies at Columbia University, is a special correspondent at the Wall Street Journal Europe and the author of "Bear Hunting With the Politburo."

"The Soviet government was not amused," Dobrynin writes. "The State Department accused the Soviet Union of blowing the incident out of proportion. Perhaps. But of all the remarks I used in attempting to determine the President's genuine feelings and motives, it is unquestionably the one that everyone remembers most vividly."

According to Dobrynin, Reagan was the only American President who actually in his bones believed the Soviets were out to bury the world in communism. Yet Reagan's hatred of the U.S.S.R. ironically enabled him to see that the Kremlin wanted to defuse the threat of holocaust--a vision that sparked sheer fury among the hawks who circled around the Administration. Dobrynin's on-the-scene account of how America's coldest warrior de-iced to fly with the doves is moving, and it shows how Reagan--on his own initiative--unwrapped himself from the Yankee Doodle Dandy that got him elected to smother the nuclear nightmare.

Dobrynin warns that too many American and Russian leaders remain addicted to erecting ideological scarecrows in order to rouse popular sentiment and gain power. And it's that compelling and appalling message that Dobrynin wants boilerplated to the Contract With America and chiseled into the Kremlin wall.

But many--sadly--will chalk up "In Confidence" as the rambling of a Communist messenger, a retired political deliveryman now sitting in a crumbling warehouse of curiosity only to Soviet-era scholars. Don't be fooled. "In Confidence" is the parable of a man who risked his life to junk dogmatics and become the safety catch on the nuclear trigger when the scarecrows wanted to set the world on fire.

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