The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

84 MARCH 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL The Austrian State Treaty negotia- tions, with four participating powers, were even more daunting. At stake were the end of the Allied occupation and return of Austrian autonomy, in exchange for that country’s neutrality. All concerned had come to the point of agreeing to the return of Austrian sover- eignty, but as always the devil was in the details, with the Soviets holding out for various advantages. Through a combination of creative proposals and some audacious bluffing, Thompson was able to nudge the nego- tiations toward a successful conclusion. As a result, the Soviets for the first time actually departed from foreign territory that they were occupying. Thompson’s most important diplo- matic contribution, and perhaps the most difficult one to document, was his role as President John F. Kennedy’s chief adviser on Premier Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviets during the Cuban mis- sile crisis. Thompson had come to know the Soviet leader well during his first tour as ambassador in Moscow (1957- 1962), and he deployed that knowledge effectively in urging Kennedy to answer the first (and ignore the second) of Khrushchev’s famous letters. He also undercut the arguments of those who were advising an all-out mili- tary response. Thompson believed that a cornered animal is the most danger- ous, and that without compromising on principle, one should always leave an opponent a graceful way out. Secre- tary of State Dean Rusk summed up Thompson’s role most succinctly when he called him “the unsung hero of the Cuban missile crisis.” The pall of Vietnam clouded Thomp- son’s last years before retirement, rendering progress with the Soviets on nuclear disarmament and other issues difficult to impossible. While Thompson did not actively oppose Lyndon John- son’s Vietnam policies, they made him uneasy and were, he came to believe, doomed to failure. In addition to being a biography, the book serves as a description and expla- nation of the importance of professional diplomacy, practiced by those who possess area expertise, cultural aware- ness, balance, empathy and the ability to present and defend their country’s interests in a civilized manner. Thomp- son exemplified those qualities, com- municating directly with leaders both at home and abroad, providing insights, analysis and policy recommendations that were usually on the mark. The book is also an extended tribute to the authors’ father and his career. Fluidly written, the narrative is rich in family his- tory and personal anecdotes. One wishes that the authors had been given access to Soviet security services archives and that the CIA had been responsive to their Freedom of Information Act requests, but the story stands up well even without that material. Ambassador Thompson would have been proud of the skill, thorough- ness and evenhandedness with which his daughters compiled this biography. n Retired Senior Foreign Service Officer Jona- than B. Rickert spent the majority of his 35- year career in or dealing with Central and Eastern Europe. His final two overseas posts were as deputy chief mission in Sofia and then Bucharest. He served as Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson’s staff aide at Embassy Moscow from 1967 to 1968. Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson arriving in Vienna with his family, 1952. COURTESYOFTHETHOMPSONFAMILY