Brezhnev: Too scary to meet?
In the US presidential debate the issue came up: Should the president of the United States be willing to talk to foreign dictators like Iran’s Ahmadinejad?
Arguing against such direct diplomacy, John McCain said:
The point is that throughout history, whether it be Ronald Reagan,
who wouldn’t sit down with Brezhnev, Andropov or Chernenko until
Gorbachev was ready with glasnost and perestroika.
Or whether it be Nixon’s trip to China, which was preceded by Henry
Kissinger, many times before he went. Look, I’ll sit down with
anybody, but there’s got to be pre-conditions.
Here is an account from Time magazine Time magazine from April 26, 1982:
In an interview with Pravda, the Communist Party newspaper, Brezhnev rejected President Reagan’s proposal, made earlier this month, that the two leaders meet informally in New York this June after the disarmament talks at the United Nations General Assembly.
The larger point is that America presidents have always been willing to sit down with foreign leaders no matter how terrible they might be, ranging from Franklin Roosevelt’s meetings with Stalin (an ally in the war against Hitler!) to Nixon’s dealing with Mao.
The whole purpose of international relations is trying to work with countries that have different values and interests. If every country in the world had the same values and interests, diplomacy would be virtually unnecessary, aside from perhaps trade agreements.
What makes McCain scary is that he doesn’t seem to understand the very meaning of diplomacy. He thinks moralistic blustering about American values is all the foreign policy you need.