On this day in history, Andrei Gromyko was born to a poor “semi-peasant, semi-worker” (i.e., politically correct) family in the Belarusian village of Staryja Gramyki. Gromyko rose to become Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs (1957–1985) and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1985–1988). He was responsible for many top decisions on Soviet foreign policy until his retirement in 1988. Western pundits called him Mr. Nyet (“Mr. No”) or “Grim Grom,” because of his frequent use of the Soviet veto in the UN Security Council.
Dr. Henry Kissinger spoke fondly of Gromyko (who died in 1989) at remarks delivered at UN Headquarters during a round table dedicated to the centennial of Andrei Gromyko, calling him “adversary, colleague and friend, all in one.” He added:
The impression that Andrei Gromyko made was of a very dour individual, very professional, very correct, and that is true. That’s what he was. But I would like to add to that: highly intelligent, always prepared, never lost his composure. He had a terrific sense of humor, which was not obvious right away, but once one got to know him, it was of extraordinary help in conducting our dialogue.”
As an example of his sense of humor, Kissinger offered this anecdote:
When we were in Moscow in the summit of 1972, I said to him, ‘Mr. Foreign Minister, our Xerox machine broke down. If I hold these documents up to the ceiling, would you give me a copy of what you photograph?’ And he said, ‘I’d like to, but the cameras were installed by the czars. They’re good on people; they’re not good on documents.’”