Musings, Thoughts & Commentaries
Détente came to the world with the signing of the SALT agreement in Moscow in 1972. It was the end of the Cold War.
Living in Vienna at the time, I was in the unique position of being an American Army officer and a West Point grad still in the active reserve spending most of my time behind the Iron Curtain. The intelligence communities on both sides must have thought I was up to something funny. They did not know what I was really doing—selling tires.
I knew some people at the American Embassy in Vienna and when Astronaut Tom Stafford came through promoting Détente and cooperation with the Russians on the joint US-Soviet Union space mission, Apollo-Soyuz, I was asked to have him stay over at my home as his “Safe House” so he could stay out of the limelight when he was not in the limelight at the big events honoring him.
We had some interesting discussions about what he saw from outer space and noticed we both wore Rolex watches. Mine was an Oyster Perpetual Datejust (an Army buddy had recommended I buy a Timex at the Canadian Air Force PX in Baden Baden, but I misunderstood him). Stafford’s Rolex was a one-of-a-kind made especially for him and his space journey. It not only showed the time in gold, jewels and precious metals but also the phases of the moon and the orbits of all the planets around the sun.
By the early ‘90s I had started my own tire company headquartered in Akron, Ohio. A good personal friend, Fred, was the Vice President of Goodyear Aerospace who thought I should get to know Major General Vladimir Dzhanibekov, one of the crew now preparing for the Earthwinds around the world balloon project. Fred thought General Dzhanibekov and I would have a lot to talk about as former military men, adversaries during the cold war but with common interests. And we were the same age. I think I was the only guy in Akron then he could really relax with and we shared stories. The “civilians” left us alone.
I was President of the West Point Society of Cleveland then and invited General Dzhanibekov to join us at our annual Founders Day celebration. I will never forget what he said when asked to speak to our group. “Gentlemen I do not owe my rank to leading armies in combat as you have done, but rather to my fame as an astronaut. Let us be thankful today that we meet here in peace. With my access to control centers in Russia, I could see on our computer screens maps of your country targeted by our missiles. I am sure you had the same. Now I am honored to meet together with you in the spirit of coexistence and the hope that neither of our countries will use those weapons—we would all lose.”
Having my perspective from personal connections to US and Soviet astronauts of the Apollo Soyuz mission in the 1970’s-so long ago-I fear history may be forgotten. It is time again for coexistence and commerce.
Picture below: Vladimir Dzhanibekov and my son, Christopher.
Tom Anthony is a West Point Graduate and combat veteran who spent his professional civilian career in global business all over the world. He has lived and worked in Austria, Italy, Spain, England, Iraq, Israel, and throughout Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Anthony also lived in Mindanao for seven years.
Copyright 2017 Tom Anthony.