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Susan Eisenhower
Susan Eisenhower
Breaking Free: A Memoir of Love and Revolution
ISBN: 0374262462
Breaking Free: A Memoir of Love and Revolution
Ms. Eisenhower discussed her book, Breaking Free: A Memoir of Love and Revolution, published by Farrar, Straus, Giroux. The book is the story of her love affair and eventual marriage to a member of President Gorbachev's inner circle and head of the Soviet civilian space program. These events happened during the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of Soviet Communism.
Breaking Free: A Memoir of Love and Revolution
Program Air Date: October 8, 1995

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Susan Eisenhower, why did you call your book "Breaking Free"?
SUSAN EISENHOWER, AUTHOR, "BREAKING FREE": Well, I think it was designed to accomplish a lot of things. It certainly tells a bit of the story of what my own personal struggle was that all took place against a backdrop of huge political events, where the Soviet people were, in fact, breaking free of their past. So it has sort of multiple meanings. And actually, the concept of freedom is dealt with quite a lot in the book.
LAMB: What's the book about?
EISENHOWER: Well, the book is about my love affair and eventual marriage with a member of Gorbachev's inner circle, a man who was a member of the Communist Party and the head of the Soviet space program at the time. I should say the civilian program. But really, it's this story set against the backdrop of the end of the cold war and the collapse not only of the Soviet Union but the end of Soviet communism.
LAMB: What years did you write about?
EISENHOWER: Well, the main part of the story really takes place between 1986 and 1991, the very last years of Soviet rule.
LAMB: What were you doing in 1986?
EISENHOWER: Well, I was traveling back and forth quite a lot before I met the man who became my husband, and I was representing the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute at the time. I'd helped them put together a U.S.-Soviet program. I thought it would be a very appropriate area for the institute to focus on. So I was traveling there just not long after Gorbachev came to power and watching all of this change take place -- slowly at first, and then of course, much more quickly.
LAMB: Where do you live now?
EISENHOWER: Well, we are now married, and we live in the Washington area.
LAMB: You've got some kids.
EISENHOWER: Well, that's right. Between the two of us, we've got five. Mind you, three of them are really -- well, four of them are all but grown up. He has a son and a daughter who are in their 30s, and my oldest is 23 and 21. But I have a 14-year-old at home.
LAMB: Now, here's a picture that people will recognize right here on this side, we’ll get a close shot of it. You write a couple of times about your grandfather. How important was he to you?
EISENHOWER: Oh, I think he was very important to me. He was elected when I was about 18 months old, and so, certainly, in my early years, we had a very intense relationship due to the fact that he was in the White House. Sometimes people think that creates all kind of barriers. In fact, it brings many, many families very close together because families are the principal source of support and solace and friendship, really, even.

So then he moved up to Gettysburg in his retirement years, and my father worked with him on the writing of the two volumes on the White House. So that I think I saw him probably two or three days a week for many, many years. And I was extremely fortunate to have that opportunity, I think.
LAMB: What do you remember most about him?
EISENHOWER: Well, if I were to stand back and think about what he was like as a grandfather, he had one quality that I thought was absolutely marvelous, in retrospect. I always admire it when I find it in other people. And that is that you always knew where you stood with him. He wasn't a sulker. He wasn't a kind of guy who would get angry and then not express himself on the subject. You always had a sense of where you were with him. And he was extremely affectionate and engaged with us. And for grandchildren, that's very lucky.
LAMB: Your father is?
EISENHOWER: My father is John Eisenhower. He is my grandparents' only surviving child. They had a young son who died at the age of 3 back in the '20s, so my father ended up being an only child. And I think that consequently brought us much closer to my grandparents, too.
LAMB: Where is he today?
EISENHOWER: Well, he lives outside of Washington, D.C., in the -- on the eastern shore, and he is a professional writer, as you may know. He's written many distinguished books on military history.
LAMB: Your brother, David.
EISENHOWER: He's a writer, too. And he lives -- he and his wife, Julie, live outside of Philadelphia.
LAMB: Did you write this book yourself?
EISENHOWER: Oh, yes. Absolutely. Every word, I'm here to report. But you know, I have done a lot of writing now, like for publication that I wrote my husband's memoirs, and I've got another book in the works, so -- this, by the way, happens to be a family failing. You know, nearly -- I'd say, certainly, 50 percent of the family has written books and continues to so...
LAMB: There's a picture here of your husband. And I want to ask you to pronounce his name for us.
EISENHOWER: Well, his name is Roald Sagdeev. Sagdeev, of course, in Russian, you always put the syllable on the -- in the middle, the accent on the middle syllable. And his first name actually is Roald. We get all kinds of variations on that, everything from "Raoul" to "Ronald." But in fact, he was named for the man who discovered the South Pole, Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian man.
LAMB: How long have you been married to him?
EISENHOWER: Well, we just had our fifth wedding anniversary in February, so -- the years have gone very quickly.
LAMB: When did you first meet him?
EISENHOWER: Well, we met in 1987. And this was a return conference that was given by the American side as a follow-up to a conference I had chaired -- co-chaired the year before in the Soviet Union. This -- in 1986, we had put together the first open policy debate in the Soviet Union. It was the first time American officials had debated their Soviet counterparts in front of a televised audience. It really created quite a sensation at the time, in 1986. So we had envisioned this as being an ongoing kind of forum. So in 1987, it was the Soviets' turn to come to the United States, and Roald was on the Soviet official delegation and I was on the American official delegation.
LAMB: What do you remember about that first personal togetherness?
EISENHOWER: Well, Roald had already a pretty well established reputation in, certainly, arms control circles and circles that deal with U.S.-Soviet relations. He's a very funny man, and he was always known to be disarmingly open. So I'd heard about him, but I was quite unprepared for this meeting because he has a boyish, impish quality that is really very endearing. And he popped right up with, you know, the great opening line of all time. He asked me if I thought my grandfather was serious about the military-industrial complex, hardly a romantic opening, would you say?
LAMB: And what was the situation in your own personal lives at that time?
EISENHOWER: Well, he was legally married at the time, though separated. And I was a single parent. I had been on my own for almost seven years, at that point, raising three kids and doing -- you know, holding down a full-time busy Washington job.

And so -- but I must say very quickly, Brian, that there is -- there was no notion of romance in the beginning at all. I mean, relations between our countries were so tense at that time, it would be a concept that wouldn't even cross your mind. At that time, you know, the Soviet Union was still engaged in Afghanistan. We had huge fights over Strategic Defense Initiative and related issues to the ABM treaty. There were refuseniks all over Moscow. Andrei Sakharov had just been -- actually, in 1987, he'd not been let out of captivity just yet. So I mean, things were very tense.

The fact that we struck up a friendship immediately was extremely surprising and unusual and rare and, frankly, I thought, uncomfortable.
LAMB: What's the difference in your age?
EISENHOWER: I think 19 years. Another thing to add to the long list of many differences between the two of us.
LAMB: What's he doing right now? Your husband.
EISENHOWER: He teaches physics. He's a -- his title is distinguished professor of physics at the University of Maryland. He teaches plasma physics for the controlled fusion topic and also space science issues, an area that he spent more than 15 years in.
LAMB: Is he still a Russian citizen?
EISENHOWER: Yes, he is.
LAMB: Think he'll ever become an American?
EISENHOWER: Well, I think that's a highly personal decision. I have an ex-husband who was an Englishman and I was under tremendous pressure to -- when I was just married -- under tremendous pressure to become a British citizen. And I just didn't want to do that.

In his case, I think he always had many differences with the regime and was extremely outspoken. He had become a Communist Party member under real duress and coercion because he was already running the space program by that time, and basically, they kind of linked his ability to continue to do scientific projects to his becoming a member of the party. So he was never an apologist for his country. But you know, loving your country and being attached to your country is quite different than who is in power at any given time. People are very attached to Russia as a concept, as a land mass. And I really don't think it’s appropriate for him to be pushed by anybody.
LAMB: When was the last time you were in Russia?
EISENHOWER: Well, it was this year. It was earlier this year. And part of that is because the book came out, and then I started the book promotion and I'm meeting a deadline on another book. But he's actually in Moscow right now. And after that, he'll be going to Central Asia.
LAMB: Which language do you speak to one another?
EISENHOWER: Well, we speak in English, largely because he had a head start on the -- he spoke pretty good English when we met. I mean, of course, it's much better now. I've helped him. He's got all the slang down now, which certainly makes conversation entertaining.
LAMB: I want to show this picture and ask you to tell us who's in it.
EISENHOWER: The top...
LAMB: That one right here.
EISENHOWER: Oh, the bottom one? Well, you know, this picture was taken just after our first meeting at the opening session of the Chautauqua conference, and you'll see these -- the woman who is actually standing, Colleen Dewhurst, the late actress. She was quite involved in U.S.-Soviet exchange, mostly in the theater area. And there were many such people at this particular conference. They were not part of the official delegation that was actually debating publicly, but they were part of the larger cultural and citizens' audience.
LAMB: Your husband's over here?
EISENHOWER: Yes, over there, shamelessly focusing attention on me. I must say, I thought -- I was so frightened about the picture, let alone anything else. After it came back from the developer, I thought, Gee whiz, I'm going to have to lock this up someplace because he was very obviously focusing tremendous attention on me that was certainly unwanted at the time.
LAMB: What year was that?
EISENHOWER: Well, that was 1987. This was during this very, very difficult period. And I should say that because of his position in the Soviet space program, he was involved in a very -- well, he was involved in the most highly secretive sector of all Soviet society. That is, the so-called military-industrial complex. Most of the space program, in fact, was part of the military program. And although he was the head of the civilian program, he worked -- you know, worked and knew the people who made up the military side. So it might have been one thing, perhaps, if a Russian, or I should say a Soviet theater director had lavished such attention on me, but it was quite another thing to have the man who was advising Gorbachev on arms control and SDI system and mission to Mars and topics like that be making such a fuss.
LAMB: Was there ever a time in your early relationship where you thought you had a problem -- you know, you wanted to say, I don't want this to go any farther?
EISENHOWER: Oh, I think we had constant problems in the beginning -- actually, all the way through until our marriage. At first, I mean, we were both utterly aware of the futility of developing any kind of a friendship. I certainly felt that way very strongly. So I think he'd come to rely on me, in certain ways. It's interesting. He and others admitted to me privately that they felt they could trust me because they didn't think a member of the Eisenhower family would work for the CIA. And because of that, because he, I don't know, seemed to have an instinctive sense that what he told me would stay with me, he confided to me – really right from the beginning about his feelings about the regime and what was happening inside of his country and the pressures he was under personally.
LAMB: How long did you -- when did you know that he was romantically interested?
EISENHOWER: Well, I would say that there were hints that I probably ignored, but he -- I would say probably I knew it by the end of the Washington summit in 1987. This was -- he was serving as an adviser to Gorbachev during that summit and spoke out on the usual issues there on the table. But he -- you know, he talked to me in certain ways.

There was an unforgettable moment when he was leaving New York to go back to Moscow, and he told me that he had gone to a Chinese restaurant and that he had picked up a fortune cookie that he thought was deeply significant. So I said, What’s that? And he said, Well, it says it's better to be respected than to be loved. But then he said, I'm looking for both. And I thought, well, OK, here we are.

I knew at the end of the Washington summit that we were going to have to probably put an end to this because we're only talking about a friendship, after all. But in that context, appearances are every bit as important as what was going on in reality because he had things that he could tell me about that obviously the authorities wouldn't want to be conveyed. And he had always been known as a bit of a troublemaker anyway. So I was -- you know, having been in the field for a couple of years, I was very cognizant of the dangers. And of course, he was even more aware of them, though he didn't like to talk about them.
LAMB: When did others notice that there was something going on between the two of you?
EISENHOWER: Oh, I think pretty early on. As a matter of fact, after the Chautauqua meeting, the chairman of the Soviet side, a woman named Valentina Tereshkova -- and by the way, she's known in the West as being the first Soviet -- first woman in space, as a matter of fact. But she -- whenever I would see her after that meeting in September, she would tease me unmercifully about what she called Sagdeev's great affection for me.

Well, she had her, you know, well-established ties in the Soviet hierarchy, but I think the first notice that I took very seriously was during the Washington summit period. A man named Yevgeny Primakov -- who, by the way, is now director of the Russian foreign intelligence service -- told Roald that this friendship would have to stop. Roald, of course, conveyed that to me, and I took it pretty seriously.
LAMB: Now, this picture, I think, has Mr. Primakov in it.
EISENHOWER: Yes. He is next to the last, as a matter of fact.
LAMB: Here?
EISENHOWER: No, on the other side.
LAMB: On the other side? Oh, I see.
LAMB: Yes. Next to Roald.
EISENHOWER: He's leaning back. That's right. And actually, they were personal friends. They had been at Moscow State University at exactly the same time. They had known each other for quite some time. It's just that there's no doubt that even at that time, we knew that Primakov was a rising star within the Soviet establishment, and when he said that this thing had to stop, you know, I personally was not absolutely convinced he was speaking for himself.
LAMB: When did it become public that there was a relationship, other than just friends?
EISENHOWER: Well, it really -- it really didn't all the way up until the time we announced our engagement because we'd had a number of tremendous hoops to jump through. First of all, Roald was holding a very important position within the Soviet Union. Two, as a matter of fact. He was a member of their parliament, the old Supreme Soviet. And he was also the head of the Space Research Institute. And he told me early on that there would really be no way that he could hold those official positions and be involved with me.

So he said that since this was what he wanted to do, he would have to undergo a very complicated job of trying to resign from his positions and to go into so-called private life. I have to tell you, by the way, there's no such thing as private life. There wasn't in the Soviet Union. You didn't resign from things. There was no culture for it. You just continued to serve, be promoted or demoted, but there was really very little personal choice involved in many of these things.

So when he, in fact, handed in his resignation, it created an absolute firestorm. This was the first time anyone had suggested that he wanted to do something else with his life, so -- knowing at the time what that specific thing was.
LAMB: You mentioned earlier Chautauqua, and you also mention a fellow in the book by the name of John Wallach. Our audience has seen a lot of him. Where is Chautauqua? What is it? And who's John Wallach?
EISENHOWER: Well, Chautauqua is an institution that is more than 100 years old. It's located in New York state, near -- well, in the sort of southern tier area near Jamestown. And they have been holding these summer forums for, you know, as I say, a century or more.

John Wallach at the time was the foreign editor of Hearst Newspapers, and he was here in Washington and had been serving as a program consultant to Chautauqua for some time. And he had this brilliant idea of bringing the Chautauqua process to the Soviet Union, to create this town hall meeting.

The interesting thing is now, you know, you look back from the perspective of all this change -- you know, we're only talking about less than 10 years ago. And it was unheard of to put Americans and Soviets on television together in the Soviet Union. It had never been done before. The people who organized the conference, in fact, evaluated the project as a huge success for the simple fact that no one lost his job.
LAMB: Your organization, again, is called the Eisenhower Institute?
EISENHOWER: Well, that's where I was at the time. In fact, now I chair the Center for Post-Soviet Studies, which was started in 1991. But I must say that as my relationship with Sagdeev deepened, here I was, as president of the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute, an organization named in my grandfather's memory, and just as Roald thought he would have to leave his positions, I didn't see how I could in good conscience stay in my job and allow myself to cavort with a Soviet citizen, and not any Soviet citizen, at that.

This, of course, was -- the drama of this for me was underscored by the fact that I was virtually the sole financial provider for my three children. So I really had to think through how I would support myself if it turned into a huge scandal. And that was a very complicated process, as a matter of fact.
LAMB: Where were you born?
EISENHOWER: I was born in Ft. Knox, Kentucky, one of those marvelous Army posts that my parents seemed to do with great frequency. My father was at the Armor School there at Ft. Knox when I was born. And you know, we continued to live in places like that until he resigned from the Army.
LAMB: What places did you live in that you most remember now?
EISENHOWER: Well, I would say mostly Gettysburg, of course, because those were very formative years, and also the area outside of Philadelphia, where my parents have lived ever since. My mother has. I remember Gettysburg just because I think everybody has an indelible impression of those golden years between the age of 6 and 12, and they were particularly vivid for me because my grandparents were alive and living within walking distance of our house.
LAMB: What year did your grandfather die?
EISENHOWER: He died in 1969.
LAMB: And at that year, you would have been how old?
EISENHOWER: I was about 17-and-a-half, almost 18. So I feel like I had quite a long time with him. The problem is, of course, that now I have so many questions I'd like to ask him.
LAMB: What would you ask him if he were alive?
EISENHOWER: Oh, I -- you know, the list is so long, I can -- and frequently, I ask my father, hoping that he might have picked something up along the way, but it's really no substitute. I think I would ask him first a lot about his relations with the Soviets. It's just an irresistible topic. But I'm fascinated by many of the approaches he took about U.S. domestic policy, too, and there are many things I'd like to ask him on that score because I am intensely interested in the domestic situation in this country. And he had a very strong personal philosophy. I know this from doing other research. You know, I'm just intrigued by that. But of course, he died before I had the opportunity to really delve into certain things at great length.
LAMB: When did you begin to search for what he was about in history? And how did you go about that?
EISENHOWER: Probably when I first became involved in the Soviet field because, you see, I came to that area from the business community. I had been part of the public affairs community here in Washington for some time. I'd been actually in the marketing and public affairs area for 12 years or so.
LAMB: Go back, before we get the -- you left Gettysburg and you went where to school, college?
EISENHOWER: Well, I went to -- my parents moved to the Philadelphia area, and I went to a school called Westtown. And then after graduating from there, I went to the American College in Paris. Then, of course, after that, like many people of my age, I got married, had children and didn't really start to think about a career until it was perfectly obvious that part-time work would no longer suffice because I was going through the middle of a divorce.

I had been -- you know, I entered the communications area, which is really, after all, what public affairs and marketing is all about. And it was really John Wallach -- back to John Wallach -- who got me involved in this. I had agreed to give a new marketing direction for the Eisenhower Institute when John approached me at a party and said, I want you to be involved in a project I'm doing in the Soviet Union. And I said, I think it'd be better if the institute does it. It's more appropriate. He said, Well, whatever it is, I can guarantee you that it'll change your life. Well, whenever I'd see John, we'd have a laugh about that because that may be one of the most prophetic things he's ever said.

But certainly, once I took that two-year position at the institute, and then I started traveling in the Soviet Union, I read avidly about the Eisenhower record there because, first of all, one thing I didn't want to do was to disgrace myself in any fashion. I certainly didn't want to darken my grandfather's name, which, after all, was his. I mean, it's mine, too, but he was the one who gave it the luster that it has.
LAMB: Have you always kept the name?
EISENHOWER: Yes. Well, not -- not during my marriage, no. I didn't because people didn't then. But it's interesting. One of my kids said after my divorce, Why don't you go back to your maiden name? And I was absolutely floored by that. So I thought, If it's OK with the kids, I'll definitely do it. And I haven't changed it since because it seems natural to me, and it solves a lot of social problems, too, which I could go into in some length.
LAMB: When was the first time you ever set foot in the Soviet Union?
EISENHOWER: That was 1986. I had -- John Wallach had gone over to negotiate the protocol because I -- it was right after the Chernobyl accident, and I didn't feel utterly comfortable going there just then. That shows you what a ninny, frankly, I was. I was really very overwhelmed by the prospect of getting involved with this country -- that is, the Soviet Union.

I had read a lot about it. I knew what my grandfather's record was in that field. But I was absolutely aware of the risks associated with going there -- the risk, that is, to be used against your will. And believe me, as sharp as I got in that area, even years later, you still had to watch out for them at every moment. Even all the way up to until the period after the cold war was over, they're still capable of getting you sometimes just out of sheer enthusiasm -- but sometimes getting you in positions you don't want to be in.
LAMB: Explain that.
EISENHOWER: Well, for instance, there are a couple of examples in the book that were very dramatic to me. The first was a meeting that -- I was part of a small group that had a meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in January -- January of 1988. And we -- it was a historic occasion. No one really realized the whole significance of it until it was over. But it was the first time Gorbachev ever met Andrei Sakharov. He had just brought Sakharov back from internal exile, but it was the first time they'd ever met. And of course, Gorbachev, as much as the West would like to think that he was an admirer of Sakharov, that certainly was not the impression we were given. There was a kind of coldness and standoffishness between the two of them, but they were obviously trying to have a conversation.

At the end of the meeting, it was interesting. Gorbachev said to Sakharov on the way out, you know, some words of good-bye. And Sakharov said, I'd like to come meet with you soon to talk to you about the ideas baring nuclear power plants. And Gorbachev said in a very sarcastic way, Well, why don't you do that. Why don't you do that instead of holding -- why don't you come see me before you hold another press conference for the Western press. There was kind of electricity in the air.

The next day -- this was what nobody could believe -- the picture in "Pravda" showed all of us sitting around a table, but Sakharov -- it was very clear that the picture had been taken so that Sakharov's face could not be seen. And amazingly, they had airbrushed his white hair black. There was a man sitting in Sakharov's place, obviously the Sakharov figure, hunched over and his hair had been air-brushed black.

I was humiliated by that. I don't like being put into situations where I'm helping somebody else advance their propaganda agenda. And the same thing happened again at a meeting we had with Gorbachev just after the Baltics crackdown. Everybody was, you know, shown to be part of this group, and then they used our presence at this meeting for a whole set of messages that did not represent the opinion of anyone there.

So you know, one had to be on alert all the time. And all of this seems terribly old-fashioned, in a way, but I didn't want to be used, and I still don't, frankly.
LAMB: How often did you come into personal contact with Mr. Gorbachev?
EISENHOWER: I would say about six or seven times in the course of those years. There is one fact, actually, that is -- did not make the book just because you can't include everything. But after he had been removed from office, he made a trip to the United States, and he asked me to be on his welcoming committee, along with some very distinguished Americans. And I wrote him back and said I was sorry, I couldn't do it.

The thing is, I knew that Boris Yeltsin was now the Russian president, and he needed all of the West's focus -- that U.S.-Russian relations, you know, are not a casual thing. We have to be working on it all the time. And I knew that it would -- that it wasn't appropriate.

And here's an example -- back to what you said about my grandfather's influence. I mulled that over very, very deeply for several days, and then suddenly, I remembered that after my grandfather left the White House, he did not go back to Europe for two years because he wanted the Kennedy administration to have an opportunity to establish foreign relations with European leaders. I mean, he could have justified going to Europe, too. He'd worked with all of those people during the war. But he understood, as a patriotic American, that it was Kennedy's show, and he should stay home. And that's what I thought Gorbachev should have done.
LAMB: What do you think of Mr. Gorbachev?
EISENHOWER: Well, I think he's actually rather a tragic figure. I think he probably shouldn't worry too much. His place in history is secure. He will always be remembered by history, I think, chiefly for bringing about the end of the cold war and beginning the important task of arms reduction with the United States.

I think his record inside the Soviet Union, though, is much more complex, and he does not come across as the same uncomplicated Gorbachev that the West had come to love. In that respect, I think he has no current political future. And while I, you know, have respect for the man, you know, we all in life have to keep our eye on the big ball. The big ball was U.S.-Russian relations, not trying to make somebody feel better he's no longer in power.

By the way, my reaction to all that, you know, did not go down universally well among the others who'd been invited. But anyway...
LAMB: Why?
EISENHOWER: Well, because I wrote to several people who'd been invited also to be part of this welcoming committee, and they wrote back and said, Oh, if it's good for Gorbachev, it's good for us. One person said that. I couldn't believe it. I just -- I just felt that, you know, Gorbachev coming within, you know, a couple of months of his ouster was really a way to stick it to Yeltsin, and I didn't want to be part of those, you know, internal domestic games in the Soviet Union, which continue to this day and are really very unpleasant.
LAMB: What did your dad say when you told him you were going to marry Dr....
LAMB: ... Sagdeev? Like "day off" or "day of"?
LAMB: "Day of."
EISENHOWER: Well, my father -- I was amazed at his reaction. I think he was very open-minded. He started out by saying, Wow, a couple of times, and then he said, Isn't it wonderful that such a thing is possible? And I said, Well, Daddy, you know, the problem is I'm not sure such a thing is possible. At that particular time, we had already notified the Politburo that we were intending to marry. Roald had no permission to be engaged in such crazy ideas, and you know, it was very clear that the regime could have taken any kind of steps it wanted to. I think we were very lucky, though. I think we took them by surprise. I think that worked to our advantage. And I honestly think that telling them before the KGB filed a report to them was a huge help.

When my father understood that Roald might have serious difficulties in marrying me, he immediately volunteered to come to Moscow for our wedding and do all the things that would be necessary to provide protection.

It has to be remembered -- maybe I'd like to add this here, that at the time of our marriage, there were many, many divided families, American-Soviet families that could not be reunited because of bad relations between the two countries. In fact, just prior to the announcement -- the secret announcement to the Politburo that we were planning to marry, an American and Soviet -- I should say the American -- the male American chess champion married the Soviet Union female chess champion, and she had to defect to do it.

But the point is that she didn't have security clearances and she wasn't working within the military-industrial establishment. So Roald and I said, My goodness, if she thinks she has to defect in order to marry an American, we could be in bigger trouble than we think.
LAMB: Got a couple of pictures here on your wedding time right here. Where was this taken?
EISENHOWER: Well, that was taken in Spaso House, actually. I must give tremendous compliments to Jack Matlock, who was the American ambassador then. Roald and I will always owe him a huge debt of gratitude. I told him about our impending plans, and -- it's interesting. I told him this over the telephone in a kind of code, and Jack, being a good old Moscow hand, understood everything without any necessity for additional details.
LAMB: Where was this picture taken of your father?
EISENHOWER: This -- oh, that was taken at Spaso House, as well. When we finally decided to go ahead with our marriage, with or without permission -- it was without permission, as a matter of fact -- we had the civil ceremony at what was called Wedding Palace #1. And Wedding Palace #1 was the place that Soviets were -- the only place that Soviets could marry foreigners in the capital. So after that, at 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon, we had a religious ceremony at Spaso House.

Of course, we had organized this wedding like negotiating an arms control agreement. I felt it was very important that we have part of the ceremony on American soil, and we did the other half on Soviet soil, so...
LAMB: Go back to -- let me -- before I lose this picture here -- you had Mr. Lenin looking down on you there?
EISENHOWER: Yes. Well, you know, a friend of mine took that snapshot. The picture of Lenin and Dzerzhinsky and Sverdlov and all those wonderful people in the back, actually, were depicted on this huge portrait that was hanging in the Communist Party guest house. And somebody said, Oh, why don't you have a kiss right in front of Lenin. And the picture was just marvelous because it really looked like he was looking at the service.
LAMB: You tell a story in the book about a long ride one night out to a hidden dacha with someone that was involved with the coup eventually. Refresh our memory as to the dramatic times back in those years. When was the coup?
EISENHOWER: The coup was in August of 1991. Now, just to give you the chronology here, Roald and I told the Politburo that we were going to get married in September of 1989. This was literally just as Eastern Europe was trembling on the brink of collapse. The regimes were beginning to fall by the wayside. And of course, we weren't sure whether the Soviet authorities were going to act against Eastern Europe or whether they were going to orchestrate a crackdown to keep the same thing from happening inside the Soviet Union.

Then we got married in February of 1990, and this hardening of the political situation in the Soviet Union took place throughout that period, from really the fall of the Berlin Wall all the way up to that coup in August of 1991. Many of the hard-liners felt that the disintegration of the Soviet Union had gone too far. There were ethnic disturbances all over the Soviet Union, as we remember, in the Baltics and in Georgia and Moldova and everywhere. And it was very clear that the regime was either going to move their way or they were going to react eventually in some fashion.

This particular man I went out to that dacha with was, in fact, the czar of the military-industrial complex. He had come out of the space industry, but at the time I met him was Gorbachev's right-hand man on the Defense Council, which organized all of military and military-industrial affairs.

This man, by the way, was one of Roald's most dedicated enemies. And it was just -- it was a very bizarre, surrealistic encounter because I had a project I was working on that needed that kind of high-level approval, and I think Roald said to me, Why don't you see if Oleg Baklanov would meet with you. It was kind of a test to find out, really, what his standing was in the Soviet Union after our marriage.

Well, we went out to this dacha. It was like having a meal with the Godfather because one knew perfectly well that he represented in every way, shape and form all that the Soviet establishment believed. And he was a very quiet, sober man. Anyway, at the end of the thing, I said -- now, remember, this is in May of 1991 I had this meeting with him. He said that he would agree to look at a formal proposal. And I said, Well, I'd like to bring it in August and when Roald and I are coming for the summer. And Baklanov said, Don't come in August. He was very firm about that.

In fact, I took such a detailed diary. I feel so fortunate that I put that and other details in because when the coup came in August of 1991 and they said that this very man, Oleg Baklanov, was one of three people who actually signed the decree to establish the State of Emergency Committee, it was very clear that he was the key player. And of course, on the basis of that evening, it was pretty obvious that the coup was in planning stages as early as May.
LAMB: Where were you when it came in?
EISENHOWER: We were actually in Washington. Baklanov had said, Don't come to Moscow in August, and I wasn't going to go over and spend a lengthy period of time there without being able to accomplish business. So in a very odd sort of way, the very man who was deeply distressed about Roald's marriage to me was maybe the man who might have saved his life because had that coup been successful, there's no question that in order to bring about a restoration of Soviet power, they would have had to eliminate the liberal intelligentsia. And clearly, Roald was very much at the top of that list due to his association with Sakharov and all of the other extremely radical positions he took at the end of that Soviet period.
LAMB: You also talk about General Akhromeyev and Pugo and -- Kruchina is it?
EISENHOWER: Kruchina, and all of the...
LAMB: Those are the three suicides, but you say that they may not have been suicides?
EISENHOWER: Well, you know, it's very strange. We tend to believe absolutely everything that comes out of the Soviet Union at face value, and one of the things I've had to learn just traveling there is that it's often best to look just a little bit beyond what you see because it isn't necessarily what you get.

If you'll allow me to digress here for a second, that's the case with Baklanov. When that coup took place and Baklanov's name was published along with the head of the KGB and the head of internal ministry, that's Pugo and others, everyone said, Well, who's this guy? We've never heard of him. So they all assumed that Baklanov was the least important of the group. In the Soviet context, the guy who is the least visible is often the guy who's the most important. They put, you know, the front people out there, and then the real power sits behind, the "gray cardinal."

I knew this. I knew that frequently, the most powerful people are the ones that have no name recognition in the West, so I sort of applied that same kind of notion to these suicides. I thought, Well, maybe this isn't exactly the way it looks, either. And Roald and I were walking across Red Square -- this is only, you know, four or five days after the coup had shown itself to be unsuccessful. And I said, You know, I wonder. I wonder if those murders were really suicides. Well, Roald laughed and said, Oh, sure, what a wild idea. But then we got to a dinner party that evening, and Roald told everybody that they had to listen to my theory. And I just casually advanced it again. And then it was very clear that, actually, most people thought that, in fact, those suicides had, in fact, been murders. There were very strange things about the murders themselves.
LAMB: What did you think?
EISENHOWER: Well, I'll tell you. Kruchina -- now, he's a very key person. He was in charge of the Communist Party assets. He was the sort of secretary that took care of all the logistical affairs, all the property, all the money and everything. And of course, he left a suicide note. So what? I mean, it's just -- first of all, Roald knew Kruchina very well personally. I knew him moderately well. And Roald was very disturbed about his death because he didn't think Kruchina was at all suicidal.

But think about it. I mean, who would have wanted him to be around to testify, you know, at any hearings that were going to be brought about by the new regime? But I think the argument which is pure Soviet logic, and I think, frankly, when you think about it, rather compelling, is that if the guy wanted to commit suicide, why would he jump out of a five-story window? You want to commit suicide, you jump off a bridge, where it's got a decent drop, and you'll actually kill yourself.
LAMB: We saw General Akhromeyev. He came here and testified. We carried those hearings. And then he -- didn't he hang himself?
EISENHOWER: He hung himself, which also made everybody believe there was something strange about it. In fact, I talked to people who were close to Akhromeyev after this, and there were some very strange happenings. He, in fact, had invited -- I found this out later. But he had just invited his family that had come back from the country the morning of his so-called suicide. Well, that's a rather inconsiderate thing to do if you know you're going to commit suicide.

But I think, again, the compelling argument there is, is that if anything, Akhromeyev saw himself as an officer. And officers don't hang themselves. That's a traitor's death, even in the Soviet Union. Many people were very surprised, if it had been a suicide, that he hadn't used a sidearm, which would have been typical.
LAMB: On a maybe happier note, where is this picture of Mama?
EISENHOWER: Oh, Mama. Mama is in Kazan, as a matter of fact, which is the capital of one of the autonomous republics inside the Russian Federation. And that was a picture that was taken just two days after our wedding. I decided I -- it was very important to go out and meet Mama and Papa, and you'll see in the lower picture there Papa smiling, probably still pinching himself that he had an American daughter-in-law now.
LAMB: Like it?
EISENHOWER: Oh, I think -- well, at first, according to family members, they both went into a complete tailspin. I mean, you have to remember -- and I had to remind Roald, after all, he'd joined the party in the early '20s. You know, he'd lived through the purges, the great famine. He'd live through the Great War. He lived through all of the trials and tribulations, which -- you know, Soviet happenings, was essential.

And to come home not only with an American daughter-in-law but, you know, Dwight Eisenhower's granddaughter, must have been a terrible shock. I think they both, as I say, were quite upset about it for a while, but they got talked out of it. And by the time we arrived there and that picture was taken, they had decided that it was OK.
LAMB: Let me ask this question as softly as I can -- I can envision somebody watching this, saying, Why does this -- and I think it's a 43-year-old woman -- want to marry, first of all, a 62-year-old man who...
EISENHOWER: It's a good question!
LAMB: ... with three children that she has to support, and he, obviously, has to come here and adapt...
EISENHOWER: Start again.
LAMB: ... himself to a new country and adapt to a new environment and all that kind of stuff, language problems, cultural problems? What was the attraction? Or what is the attraction?
EISENHOWER: He's shorter than I am, too! (LAUGHTER)
EISENHOWER: Which, by the way, he thinks is one of the reasons the KGB could never imagine it could be that serious between us because this is a very macho society where such a thing would be unlikely.

What was the attraction? That's a very good question. First of all, having described him, of course, in such onerous terms, he was a very brave man. First off, I admire him enormously. He took some very, very dangerous steps at the end of this period in his country, I should say the end of the Soviet Union. And I admired his bravery. We're extremely good friends, first and foremost. And I don't know. There's something -- maybe people who have experienced this before would understand that we couldn’t not be together in some fashion – maybe this…
LAMB: You even talk about separation anxiety.
EISENHOWER: Oh, yes, we still have it. He’s in Moscow at the moment. And we call each other every day. The notion that somebody might make it impossible for us to be together is simply a terrifying and dreadful thought. Strangely enough though Brian, I would like to go back to this point. He was a birthright Muslim, of course, I was christened -- well, an Episcopalian, as a matter of fact. He's a member of the Communist Party. I was a registered Republican at the time of our marriage -- all these huge differences.

But in fact, we, strangely enough, disagree on very little, especially politically. He managed, I think, the cultural change better than almost anybody coming from that country would because he'd been traveling to the United States for more than 30 years in space cooperation. He had many, many friends in the West because he had been the chairman of the international mission to Haley's Comet. As you may remember, he did the mission -- the Venera missions, they were Soviet missions to Venus. But he was always exchanging his data with Western scientists. Also the Mars missions. Apollo-Soyuz, he worked on that -- he did the scientific payloads for that. And so he had deep ties, you know, in this area. We're very fortunate.

But you know, in retrospect, there's nothing very logical about love, and we were just extremely fortunate that events went our way. I guess the only other thing I would add is that I was -- I was capable of taking a risk because I'd taken many other big risks before. I did not have a lot of job experience at all. When I -- my ex-husband and I got divorced, I had to start from the beginning. I knew almost no one when I came to Washington, you know, in the early '80s and started a -- you know, one of those exacting Washington careers here. I had to financially support my kids.

And frankly, you know, I had -- because of what had happened to me earlier – really felt that the worst had happened to me. I never expected to be a divorced woman. And in that sense, not only did I survive, I had survived and prospered. And I think it's -- it was that earlier experience that had liberated me, in a sense, to make another -- take another big risk because I firmly believed that if we could hold on long enough, the regime would find it very unproductive to keep him incarcerated in any fashion.

I guess the only thing that really ever worried me deeply was that they would try to eliminate him in -- you know, by using a car accident or something, for which I would have no control.
LAMB: You say that you had a diary all through this time. Why?
EISENHOWER: Well, first of all, I'd been a diarist for decades. I think that would be fair to say. I had at least 10 years of a diary before I started keeping this one. And I still keep it as a matter of fact.
LAMB: How much do you write a day?
EISENHOWER: I don't write it every day, and unfortunately, one has a tendency to write in it less when everything's going well. But since I was absolutely scared to death throughout large portions of this five-year period, I was an avid writer in my journal. I really didn't feel I could confide in other people because there was a trust factor. If gossip got around, it could be positively life-threatening. So I did, in large measure, keep my own counsel, and the journal helped me to keep my sanity.
LAMB: Anybody else ever read your diary?
EISENHOWER: No, and they're not invited to, either! (LAUGHTER)
LAMB: Where do you keep it?
EISENHOWER: I keep it under lock and key.
LAMB: What do you plan to do with it when you're gone?
EISENHOWER: Probably burn it. I was thinking about it the other day because I was updating some aspects of my will, and I thought, Gee whiz, this ought to be put in a box and left to my daughter to torch at the end of all this. I'm kidding. I think -- I have absolutely nothing to hide, as I think this book will illustrate. But it is a deeply personal journal. And you know, maybe it would be OK if my daughters read it, but I don't feel a big need for, you know, the public to be in on absolutely everything I ever thought about. It'd bore them to death, anyway. (LAUGHTER)
LAMB: What's the toughest thing about being married today to a man from Russia? And I don't mean Russia, but what's the toughest thing about this relationship?
EISENHOWER: I think that's an extremely good question. I would say that there's just one thing, and we've recognized it now and we have gotten over it, in large measure. But it is in the Soviet nature to keep everything to yourself. And during this period, if I had known half of what he knew, I probably would have been even more frightened than I was. He told me a lot of the details that are in this book, actually, after it was over, like some very ominous meddling with his automobile. He didn't tell me right away that his apartment had been broken into -- all of these things.

And I think many Soviets -- and I guess the Russians, too, because they come from that background -- have a tremendous capacity to keep their innermost selves private. This is what has, I think, been so remarkable for the two of us, and it may be the reason he wanted to sacrifice as much as he did, is that he feels he can be open with me, and he told me so many times. He's never had that opportunity in his whole life to be like that with anyone.

For myself, though, that even still takes a little bit of work because I may be even more open than many Americans are. So that always provides that kind of challenge. But it's gone extremely well, and I have to say that I think that's testament to his own flexibility and to his tremendous intelligence that he has been able to kind of figure out this system as well as he has in such a short period of time.
LAMB: What do you think of Russia today?
EISENHOWER: Well, I'm deeply concerned about U.S.-Russian relations. I think the situation in Bosnia and the issue of the expansion of NATO, especially when they're tasked together, are going to exacerbate relations that are already not terribly good anyway. I think we have to expect all kinds of things, that Russia may well pull out of Partnership for Peace. They've already voted in the Duma to unilaterally abandon sanctions against Yugoslavia. And I think this country was so deeply humiliated by their loss of superpower status that they've gotten to the point where they think they don't have too much to lose.
LAMB: What's the best thing about Russia, when you go back?
EISENHOWER: Our friends, without any question. These people love us, and we love them. Many of them helped us pull off this wedding, you know, at some at least political risk to themselves. And you know, the thing that distresses me so is that they are still in a situation where they have to live under just terrible political and economic circumstances. For many of these people, I wonder how they look at their lives, wondering how it is that they should have ended up in this period of history at this particular time.
LAMB: What's your next book?
EISENHOWER: Well, the next book I'm doing in spare time. It is not related to the field in which I work. I'm doing a book on my grandmother, a biography of my grandmother for her centennial, which is coming up in November of 1996. So I've had an opportunity, through vast quantities of letters she wrote her parents between 1911 and 1951, to have a completely different insight not only into this woman, but of course, into the life of her husband.
LAMB: I assume you're talking about Mamie Eisenhower.
EISENHOWER: Yes, I am. And what a surprise it is to my father, too. I call him about every other day and say, You won't believe what I just found in this letter! (LAUGHTER)
EISENHOWER: So it's been a lot of fun for the two of us to, you know, touch base.
LAMB: When is it coming out?
EISENHOWER: Well, it will certainly be out in time for the centennial of her birth, which is November of 1996.
LAMB: This is the book that we've been talking about, "Breaking Free: A Memoir of Love and Revolution." Susan Eisenhower has been our guest. And we thank you for joining us.
EISENHOWER: Thank you.

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