The Foreign Service Journal - March 2014 - page 31

MARCH 2014
And he took the text out of his pocket and gave it to the Chi-
nese. And so they had it.
Later Ji Chaozhu, who did the interpreting, consulted with
me on a number of points before he did it. Indeed, it did contain
some of Chairman Mao’s poetry, and it would have been cata-
strophic for me to do it.
So my first act as interpreter of Chinese (this was my debut as
interpreter; I had never interpreted except in a classroom) was to
refuse to interpret. …
As we sat through the banquet, I was at the head table with
Nixon and Zhou Enlai and Henry Kissinger and Ji Dengfei and Li
Xiannian, later president of China, and, I think, Qiao Guanhua,
who was, in fact, the brains in the Foreign Ministry, and [Secre-
tary of State] Bill Rogers, of course, and Mrs. Nixon—interpreting
for them. I could see the president glaring at me across the table,
with his jowls down and a grim expression on his face, obviously
mighty annoyed that I had pulled this stunt.
I have thought a lot about why he might have wished to con-
ceal the fact that there was a text. The fact is that he had a habit
of memorizing speeches, and he liked to appear to be ad-libbing
them, giving them extemporaneously, which is what Dwight
Chapin had told me he planned to do. And I think he was afraid I
would stand up there with the text, which I wouldn’t have done,
of course.
In any event, he also had a predilection for using the other
side’s interpreters, because they wouldn’t leak to the U.S. press
and Congress. So all these things came together.
Two days later, after some other things had happened, Nixon
apologized to me. He called me over and said, “I’m sorry. I made
a mistake. That was wrong. I shouldn’t have done that.” And
there were tears in his eyes. Then he did some other things that
were by way of making amends. It was odd.
I did not smoke at that time. I had given it up nine years
previously, when I was in law school. I remember Li Xiannian,
then the sort of economic planner of China, later the president,
offering me a cigarette. I took it, and I have smoked ever since. I
was terribly nervous.
Stranded in Siberia
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty marked a turn-
ing point in relations between the U.S. and the USSR. Signed in
December 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier
Mikhail Gorbachev, the treaty came into force on June 1, 1988. It
was the first treaty ever to destroy nuclear missiles, rather than
just cap the number each side could possess.
Eileen Malloy
was posted to Moscow right after the treaty
was signed and worked directly with the Soviet government to
the dead of winter.
hen I arrived in Moscow in January 1988 to take on this
huge challenge, the Soviets were not very good about
dealing with women—and I was a pregnant female. They just did
not know what to do with me at all.
I was there for two years, working with the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and the Soviet Nuclear Military Center to make sure that
the American teams who would land at the portal entries to
conduct surprise inspections were able to reach their sites. …
The teams had to be able to land either in Moscow or the portal
that was in Siberia, Ulan Ude; announce where they wanted to
go anywhere in the Soviet Union; and reach that location within
a certain number of hours. So it was very complex.
We were the ones who translated, met them at the airport,
made sure that the U.S. military plane was serviced, just got the
whole thing going, and then, whenever there was a dispute, we
would conduct negotiations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
But it was all virgin terrain. Nobody had ever done this before so
we were making it up as we were going along. …
Once, when I had to go to Ulan Ude [in 1990] to meet an
unannounced inspection, Captain Sandy Schmidt went with
me. The two of us were responsible for all the diplomatic escort
duties, which involved getting up an hour before we had to go to
the airport to thaw out the Jeep, which was frozen solid because
it was minus 30 degrees in the garage. And then Sandy had to do
all these complex things to get this Soviet Jeep running. I never
learned to drive a stick shift, but fortunately she had.
We got ourselves out to the airport and planned to get the
team off to their inspection site, hand them over to their Soviet
handlers, and be done with work for two days until the team
returned to Ulan Ude. Or so we thought.
The Air Force plane came trembling in over the horizon, this
enormous C-130, the big transport plane. It was so cold and the
I could see the president glaring
at me across the table, with
his jowls down and a grim
expression on his face.
–Chas Freeman
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