A Walk in the Woods

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The place is a "pleasant woods on the outskirts of Geneva," where two superpower arms negotiators, a Russian and an American, meet informally after long, frustrating hours at the bargaining table. The Russian, Botvinnik, a seasoned veteran who has mastered the Soviet "hard line," is urbane and humorous but, at the same time, profoundly cynical about what the current sessions can accomplish. His young American counterpart, Honeyman, a newcomer to the arms-control talks, is a bit stuffy and pedantic, but also fervently idealistic about what can—and must—be achieved through perseverance and honest bargaining. They continue their informal meetings as the talks drag on and the seasons change, and through their absorbing and revealing conversations we become aware both of the deepening understanding between these two wise and decent men and also of the profound frustration that they increasingly feel. In the end, when Botvinnik announces that he is leaving his post, Honeyman is genuinely regretful, not only because of the friendship that has grown between them but also because he knows that he must now confront again the deep-seated mistrust and misconceptions which a "new man" will bring with him—and that the elemental differences in their two systems of government will continue to exacerbate as long as the real power rests in the hands of those burdened by the bitterness of the past.

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