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Nixon's Back Channel to Moscow: Confidential Diplomacy and Détente, Richard A. Moss

Reviewed by Azusa Katagiri



In American Democracy (1835), Alexis de Tocqueville indicates that American democracy experiences difficulties in the conduct of foreign policy, which often requires confidentiality, flexibility, and patience. Diplomatic negotiations in the shadow of democratic control and public purviews pose paramount challenges for democratic leaders and policymakers. Confidential negotiation channels, therefore, have been used to guard against shifting domestic influences and damaging information leaks in U.S. foreign policy.

Richard A. Moss's book on President Richard Nixon's back-channel diplomacy successfully addresses this perennial issue. Although Nixon's foreign policy has been studied at great length, his back-channel diplomacy is largely untouched in previous literature. Moss conducts comprehensive research on declassified document collections in the Nixon administration, including the Nixon tapes and Henry Kissinger's telephone conversations. With a focus on the confidential meetings between National Security Adviser Kissinger and Soviet ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin, his work demonstrates that Nixon's back-channel diplomacy worked effectively for reducing tensions between the two superpowers. 

In the book, Moss traces the evolution of back channels along with major Cold War events during Nixon's presidency. The r

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