When Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko entered the White House last September, he paused to sign the guest book. "Aha," he joked, "my first concession." Gromyko doesn't enjoy making concessions; he much prefers demanding them. In fact "Old Stone Face," as former Secretary of State Dean Acheson dubbed him, likes to win a concession or two even before the bargaining begins. "Whenever possible, Gromyko would...demand a concession as a price for sitting down at the bargaining table," Henry Kissinger wrote in his memoirs. "He knew every shade of a subject. It was suicidal to negotiate with him without mastering the record."
Secretary of State George Shultz is probably studying the record right now, cramming for his January 7 arms control agenda talks with Gromyko. In Geneva Shultz will be bargaining with perhaps the most experienced, wily and deft diplomat in the world. In his 45-year career, Gromyko, 75, has dealt with nine American Presidents and 14 Secretaries of State. In those years he has seen much and forgotten little. "I admire him as a professional, seasoned diplomat," says Malcolm Toon, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union. "He has total recall and is a fierce defender of Soviet interests. He attended all the wartime conferences and every important conference since World War II. He would say to me and to Secretary Vance, 'I know, I was there.' "
Gromyko's diversions do not stray too far. For light reading he peruses Czarist foreign ministry archives and for exercise he hunts outside Moscow. Says Helmut Sonnenfeldt, a former State Department counselor who has trudged the woods with Gromyko: "He is a very methodical hunter, stalking his prey and enjoying himself." Substitute "negotiator" for "hunter" and the statement is still true.
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