Andrei Vladimirovich Kozyrev

Andrei Vladimirovich Kozyrev (born 1951) became the Russian minister of foreign affairs a year before Russia became independent. He later became one of the more liberal, pro-Western figures in Boris Yeltsin's cabinet. He was forced to resign in January 1996 as pressures mounted from hard-line nationalists.

Andrei Kozyrev became Russian foreign minister in 1990 when it was by no means obvious that it was advantageous for him to accept the appointment. He had just been promoted to head of the department of the Soviet Foreign Ministry where he had spent all of his career. His position was secure and his prospects for further advancement were good. Russia was still a part of the Soviet Union; it would not become an independent state until December 1991.

Soft-spoken and sophisticated, with a command of English, French, and Spanish, Kozyrev was consistently among the more liberal members of the Russian government. He was often a target for the attacks of conservatives who found Russian foreign policy to be too pro-Western and too little concerned with nationalist issues such as the status of ethnic Russians in neighboring countries or the status of the Crimea, which they believed should be returned to Russia.

Kozyrev resigned in January 5, 1996 as Yeltsin move to take a more hard-line approach to foreign policy. Officially, Kozyrev stepped down because he had been elected to the state Duma a month before and Russian law did not allow simultaneous service in the executive and legislative branches

Kozyrev was born in Brussels in 1951, the son of a Soviet diplomat. He was educated at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, a school for diplomats operated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before beginning his studies there in 1969 he spent a year as a fitter in the Kommunar machine-building factory in Moscow.

He completed his studies in 1974, earning a graduate degree in historical science. He then entered the U.S.S.R. Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a speech writer and researcher in the Department of International Organizations, which was responsible for issues concerning the United Nations and arms control, including biological and chemical warfare issues. Over the next few years he published several books on the arms trade. In the 1980s Kozyrev simultaneously held an appointment on the United Nations permanent staff.


Kozyrev's career in the Foreign Ministry marked him as a promising young Soviet diplomat. He became an attaché in the Department of International Organizations in 1979 and third secretary the next year. Promotions came regularly: he became second secretary in 1982; first secretary in 1984; counselor in 1986. Following the reorganization of the ministry by Gorbachev's foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, he became deputy chief of the renamed Administration of International Organizations in 1988. The next year Kozyrev became chief of the administration, replacing a man 20 years his senior.

He became Russian foreign minister at the age of 39 and gained and kept the confidence of Boris Yeltsin as Russia became an independent state and in many ways the successor to the Soviet Union. Kozyrev tried to make Russia a partner with the West in the formation of the post-Cold War world. He emphasized cooperation over conflict with the United States while insisting that Russia be treated as a great power in international politics rather than as a fallen superpower. He favored major arms control agreements with the United States and the nonproliferation of nuclear arms.

In December 1992 Kozyrev underlined his opposition to conservative, nationalistic forces in Russia with a dramatic and unprecedented diplomatic maneuver. He stunned the foreign ministers of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) with a speech that echoed many of the positions of the conservative opposition in Russia and seemed to threaten a return to the Cold War. The speech surprised even the Russian delegation. But an hour after giving the speech he retracted it, announcing that the speech was intended to draw attention to the dangers that would come if the opposition took power from President Yeltsin.

In the December 1993 elections Kozyrev ran for a seat in the lower house, the State Duma, as a candidate on the list of the liberal Russia's Choice bloc and as a candidate in the Murmansk region. He took a seat as a representative from Murmansk when the State Duma met in January 1994, having won 60 percent of the vote in a field of 10.


Elections Threaten Reforms

Communists and extreme nationalists such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky also did well in the elections. Consequently, the pressure to make Russian policy more conservative increased, and some changes did occur, notably in regard to the approaches taken to the status of Russians in the former republics of the Soviet Union. Kozyrev's departure came after three years of opposition. Although he had no reported role in the Kremlin's decision to attack Chechnya in December 1994, he had been blamed for the international controversy over the conflict. He had also been targeted as a scapegoat for failing to stop North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombing of the Bosnian Serbs and of NATO plans to expand into Eastern Europe

Even after his firing, Kozyrev appeared loyal to Yeltsin and was described by a writer as having the "rational acceptance of injustice befitting a martyr." When asked if he had been fired to pacify anti-reform forces, Kozyrev told the Los Angeles Times, "I wouldn't say that I was necessarily a scapegoat. I think it was real divergence of opinion. It was a genuine political conflict. I lost. I was overruled. I believe that my time will come again, that my policies will be brought back, sooner or later. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose."


Further Reading on Andrei Vladimirovich Kozyrev

At the Highest Levels: The Inside Story of the End of the Cold War by Michael Beschloss and Strobe Talbott is a well-written account of the final years of the Cold War and American relations with Russia and the Soviet Union. A comprehensive description of Soviet foreign policy is Richard F. Staar's Foreign Policies of the Soviet Union. Authoritative and accessible analyses of recent events in Russia and in Russian foreign policy can be found in the weekly RFE/RL Research Report produced by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Articles of interest include The Los Angeles Times Interview with Andrei Kozyrev (March 10, 1996) offers insights into his leaving office. See also The New Republic, "Andrei the Giant," (April 11, 1994)