American Diplomacy | May, 2019

Diplomacy, to my mind, is a thoughtful, patient, and long-term approach to international relations, a constant building of relationships, leading eventually and hopefully to trust, cooperation and mutual benefit.   It is not merely a negotiation, no matter how successful. Without the foundation of the relationship, you might “win” once, but not so easily the second and third time. In my more than 25 years in the State Department, I worked with many statesmen and diplomats who understood this, and some who did not.

Ambassador Jack Matlock, for whom I had the privilege of working in Moscow 1990-1991, saw clearly that mere tough talk was generally not the best recipe for successful conclusions. Those heady days of perestroika offered a chance to set the relationship with the Soviet Union and then Russia on a new footing. As a new officer, I witnessed how respect and interest shown for the country to which you are accredited is anything but naïve; rather, it serves as the underpinning of the sensitive work of diplomacy and achievement of U.S. goals. This approach takes on added significance when one country is a super-power and the other is struggling.

The newly established Duke University archives of Ambassador Jack and Rebecca Matlock’s papers now give researchers and practitioners a direct window on this kind of diplomacy, practiced during a career that spanned 35 years, including a pivotal time of U.S. relations with the Soviet Union.   The papers, for example, include Matlock’s revealing notes of the candid and far-reaching discussions between Secretaries of State Schulz and Baker, counterparts Anatoly Dobrynin and Eduard Shevardnadze, Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush, and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Sara Seten Berghausen, Associate Curator of Collections at Duke, introduces this treasure trove of information and how it can be accessed.

Renee M Earle, Publisher of American Diplomacy