Llewellyn E. "Tommy" Thompson Jr. (August 24, 1904 – February 6, 1972) was an American diplomat. He served in Sri Lanka,[1] Austria, and for a lengthy period in the Soviet Union, where his tenure saw some of the most significant events of the Cold War. He was a key advisor to President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis.[2] A 2019 assessment described him as "arguably the most influential figure who ever advised U.S. presidents about policy toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War."[3]

Llewellyn E. Thompson
United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union
In office
January 23, 1967 – January 14, 1969
PresidentLyndon B. Johnson
Preceded byFoy D. Kohler
Succeeded byJacob D. Beam
In office
July 16, 1957 – July 27, 1962
PresidentDwight David Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
Preceded byCharles E. Bohlen
Succeeded byFoy D. Kohler
United States Ambassador to Austria
In office
September 4, 1952 – July 9, 1957
PresidentDwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byWalter J. Donnelly
Succeeded byH. Freeman Matthews
United States Ambassador At Large for Soviet Affairs
In office
October 3, 1962 – December 26, 1966
PresidentJohn F. Kennedy
Personal details
Born(1904-08-24)August 24, 1904
Las Animas, Colorado
DiedFebruary 6, 1972(1972-02-06) (aged 67)
Bethesda, Maryland
SpouseJane Monroe Goelet
Alma materUniversity of Colorado at Boulder
Awards President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service (1962)

Early life edit

Thompson was born in Las Animas, Colorado,[1] the son of a rancher.[4] He studied economics at the University of Colorado at Boulder.[5]

Diplomatic career edit

In 1928, he joined the foreign service. He was the first US representative to the International Labour Organization of the League of Nations. He was the second secretary at the US embassy to the Soviet Union from 1941 and remained in Moscow with a skeleton staff after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, which forced the US embassy to withdraw to Kuybyshev in October 1941.[4] He was present at the first conference of the United Nations and participated in the discussions that resulted in the Truman Doctrine.

Thompson was the High Commissioner or U.S. Ambassador to Austria from 1952 to 1957. There, he negotiated the settlement of the Free Territory of Trieste between Yugoslavia and Italy. In 1955, he represented the United States in the final negotiations for an Austrian State Treaty, which returned Austria's sovereignty after the country's occupation.

He served as ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1957 to 1962 and again from 1967 until 1969. In his first term there, he developed a unique relationship with Nikita Khrushchev, which helped to contain the Berlin Crisis. He was the first American to give an address on Soviet television.

Gary Powers's ill-fated U-2 high-altitude spy flight took place during his tenure, as did the American exhibition and the famous "kitchen debate" with Richard Nixon. He participated in both the Camp David summit between Dwight Eisenhower and Khrushchev and the Vienna summit between Kennedy and Khrushchev.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Thompson served on Kennedy's ExComm (Executive Committee of the National Security Council) when the US received two messages from Khrushchev, one quite conciliatory and the other much more hawkish. Thompson advised Kennedy to react to the first message and said that the second had probably been written with Politburo input. Thompson's belief was that Khrushchev would be willing to withdraw the Soviet missiles from Cuba if he could portray the avoidance of a US invasion of the island as a strategic success.[6] Thompson also testified before the Warren Commission, which investigated the Kennedy assassination.

On August 7, 1962, he was awarded the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President John F. Kennedy.[7]

He held a number of other positions throughout his foreign service career, including Ambassador-at-Large for Soviet Affairs[8] and Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs. In his second term in Moscow under President Lyndon Johnson, Thompson was present at the Glassboro Summit Conference between Johnson and Alexei Kosygin to discuss US-Soviet relations with the Soviets. Thompson was a pivotal participant in the formulation of Lyndon Johnson administration's non-proliferation policy on nuclear weapons and was instrumental in beginning the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks process. After Thompson's retirement, he was recruited by President Richard Nixon to participate in the SALT I negotiations.

Family edit

Thompson's wife, Jane Monroe Goelet, an artist, brought art from the US State Department's Art in Embassies Program to the ambassador's residence at Spaso House, Moscow. The program exhibits original works by US citizens in the public areas of ambassador’s residences all over the world.[4]

His daughters have written a biography published in March 2018 by Johns Hopkins University Press: "The Kremlinologist: Llewellyn E Thompson, America's Man in Cold War Moscow" (ISBN 978-1421424095).

Death and legacy edit

Thompson died of cancer in 1972 and is buried in his hometown of Las Animas.[1]

U.S. Route 50 through Las Animas was renamed to Ambassador Thompson Boulevard.[1]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Thompson, K to N". politicalgraveyard.com.
  2. ^ "The Kremlinologist: Llewellyn E. Thompson - America's Man in Cold War Moscow" JHUP 2018 - Chapter 27: Thirteen Days in October pp. 298-333
  3. ^ Goldgeier, James; Simons, Thomas W.; Pechatnov, Vladimir; Zubok, Vladislav; Caldwell, Dan; Thompson, Jenny; Thompson, Sherry (2019-08-01). "Cold War Adviser: Llewellyn Thompson and the Making of U.S. Policy toward the Soviet Union". Journal of Cold War Studies. 21 (3): 222–257. doi:10.1162/jcws_c_00899. ISSN 1520-3972. S2CID 199465404.
  4. ^ a b c "U.S. Ministers and Ambassadors to Russia". United States Embassy, Moscow. Archived from the original on 18 December 2005.
  5. ^ "Hall of Alumni" Archived 2007-02-03 at the Wayback Machine, University of Colorado Alumni Association website, URL retrieved November 4, 2006
  6. ^ Robert McNamara, interviewed in The Fog of War
  7. ^ "AR7400-G. President John F. Kennedy Presents President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service to Career Ambassador, Llewellyn E. Thompson".
  8. ^ Zelikow, Philip; Allison, Graham (1999). Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (2nd ed.). New York [u.a.]: Longman. p. 110. ISBN 0-321-01349-2.

External links edit

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Austria
1952 – 1957
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union
1957 – 1962
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union
1967 – 1969
Succeeded by