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Georgi Bolshakov (1922-1989) was a Soviet GRU officer under journalist cover who was posted to Washington, DC twice, most significantly in the early 1960s. In this capacity, he played a major role in US and Soviet diplomacy during the beginning of the John F. Kennedy administration. President Kennedy’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, secretly met with Bolshakov on numerous occasions in 1961 in order to gain more information about Soviet intentions and convey messages from the administration to the top Soviet leadership, including Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
Bolshakov was thus a vitally important backchannel contact between the US and Soviet governments. The Kennedy administration utilized him to set up the Vienna Summit in June 1961 and, even more importantly, to defuse and resolve the Berlin Crisis in October of that year. Historians have implied that the Soviets benefited more from this exchange, as Bolshakov was not told the full scope and intentions of the Soviet leadership while the US transmitted its worries and concerns more completely and transparently.
A more precise evaluation of the level and impact of Bolshakov’s role in US-Soviet diplomacy awaits further release of archival records.
Notes and references
- Kempe, Frederick (2011). Berlin 1961. Penguin Group (USA). pp. Chapters 9 and 18.