Skoug, Kenneth N., Jr. 1931–
Skoug, Kenneth N., Jr. 1931–
PERSONAL: Born December 2, 1931, in Fargo, ND; son of Kenneth N. (a sales executive) and Cecile (a homemaker; maiden name, Stevens) Skoug; married Martha Reed (a homemaker and artist); children: Reed Skoug-Roller, Kenneth N. III. Education: Columbia University, A.B., 1953; attended Georgetown University, 1955–56; George Washington University, M.A., 1957, Ph.D., 1964; attended National War College, 1973–74, and Foreign Service Institute. Politics: Independent. Hobbies and other interests: Humane and environmental causes, reading, gardening, swimming, jazz and classical music.
ADDRESSES: Home and office—8320 Fort Hunt Rd., Alexandria, VA 22308-1812.
CAREER: U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, foreign service officer, 1957–90, including assignments in security for the Caribbean, 1957–59, in Germany, 1959–61, and Mexico, 1961–63, in United Nations political affairs, 1963–65, in Czechoslovakia, 1967–69, deputy director of Office of German affairs, 1969–73, foreign service inspector, 1974–76, economic and commercial counselor in the USSR (now Russia), 1976–79, and Caracas, Venezuela, 1979–82, coordinator for Cuba, 1982–88, deputy chief of mission in Caracas, 1988–89, charge d'affaires in Caracas, 1989–90; writer and public speaker on foreign policy issues, 1990–. Military service: U.S. Army, Counter-Intelligence Corps, 1954–56.
MEMBER: U.S. Foreign Service Association, National Geographic Society, Concord Coalition, League of Conservation Voters, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, American Museum of Natural History, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Humane Society of the United States, World Wildlife Fund, American Humane Society, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Defenders of Wildlife, Fund for Animals, Earthjustice, Wilderness Society, Alumni of Columbia University, National War College Alumni Association.
AWARDS, HONORS: U.S. Presidential Meritorious Service Awards, 1988, 1991; Orden del Libertador, "gran oficial," from the president of Venezuela, 1990; two Superior Honor Awards and various Meritorious Service awards, U.S. Department of State.
Cuba as a Model and a Challenge, Cuban-American National Foundation (Washington, DC), 1984.
The United States and Cuba under Reagan and Shultz: A Foreign Service Officer Reports, Praeger (Westport, CT), 1996.
Czechoslovakia's Lost Fight for Freedom, 1967–1969: An American Embassy Assessment, Praeger (West-port, CT), 1999.
An Interview with Kenneth N. Skoug, Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (Arlington, VA), 2000.
Contributor to periodicals, including Foreign Service Journal.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Memoirs.
SIDELIGHTS: Kenneth N. Skoug, Jr., once told CA: "Why do I write about U.S. foreign policy in recent years? Not for the money! With thirty-three years of involvement as a professional diplomat in memorable events of the East-West dispute, and with advanced academic training, I felt both the inclination and the obligation to memorialize those unique times. Throughout my career I kept a daily journal that constitutes a focal point for addressing the themes about which I write.
"I feel motivated to contribute to public understanding of selected, important foreign policy issues to which I enjoyed privileged access and where my account could not easily be replicated by others. While the United States now faces very different world circumstances, I believe that elucidation of the recent past is instructive as well as interesting. My approach is neither to defend nor assail the foreign policy of any of the administrations between Eisenhower and Bush under which I served, but to provide an informed and honest account of what transpired insofar as I observed it.
"The United States and Cuba under Reagan and Shultz: A Foreign Service Officer Reports was based on my work as coordinator for Cuban affairs in the Department of State from 1982 to 1988. (I had also worked on Cuba between 1957 and 1959.) I felt that a balanced, eye-witness account of this period would be particularly useful in light of undiminished domestic controversy surrounding the U.S.-Cuban relationship, with active lobbies frequently hypercritical of, or apologetic toward, the Castro regime. Since most American diplomatic correspondence on this recent period was not available for publication in 1996, and since Cuban documents may never be available, my account provides readers with information they would otherwise not see until well into the next century. The narrative ranges over an adversarial, bilateral relationship, but it features negotiations on migration in which Ricardo Alarcon, a top figure in the Cuban power structure, was our chief interlocutor.
"The book Czechoslovakia's Lost Fight for Freedom, 1967–1969: An American Embassy Assessment is a first-hand account of the antecedents, course, and aftermath of the 'Prague Spring,' a courageous but seemingly vain struggle for a far-reaching popular reform of communism in Czechoslovakia. Although the Soviet Union crushed the movement by military force, it left an indelible imprint and contributed to the end of communism in Eastern Europe twenty years later. My dual focus is on the reform (or revolution) itself and the U.S.-Czechoslovak bilateral relationship in those thirty months. It is based on my involvement in events as first secretary of the embassy in Prague, diplomatic reporting, and other documentation in the National Archives and accounts like Dubcek's memoirs.
"In future years I would like to examine the role of Germany (particularly the impact of Bonn's Ostpolitik) in East-West relations and to describe the Soviet Union and U.S.-Soviet relations in the dangerous twilight of the Brezhnev regime in Moscow between 1976 and 1979. My diplomatic postings in Germany and the Soviet Union and my assignment as deputy director of the Office of German Affairs in the Department of State between 1969 and 1973, together with review of archival documents as they become available, will provide the foundation for these potential works. After that, I might address Venezuela, where I served two tours of duty and where I was the acting chief-of-mission for fifteen months in 1989 and 1990."
More recently Skoug added: "I am currently concentrating my writing on my personal memoirs, including accounts of the issues with which I dealt as a professional diplomat. This is a long-term project which I hope will some day be of use to scholars, especially with respect to Cuba in the Castro era, the period of affluent democracy in Venezuela, the impact of the Eastern policy of the German Social Democratic party on the cold war, Czechoslovakia in the crucial years 1967–69, the Soviet Union at the high tide of the Brezhnev era just before the decision to invade Afghanistan, and the operation of the foreign service and the Department of State as seen from within. Of course it will include ancestors, childhood, undergraduate education at Columbia, military service, and reflections after retirement."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Canadian Slavonic Papers, September, 2000, H. Gordon Skilling, review of Czechoslovakia's Lost Fight for Freedom, 1967–1969: An American Embassy Perspective, p. 417.
Choice, November, 1996, review of The United States and Cuba under Reagan and Shultz: A Foreign Service Officer Reports, p. 533.
Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, spring, 1998, H. Michael Erisman, review of The United States and Cuba under Reagan and Shultz, p. 87.
Reference and Research Book News, September, 1996, review of The United States and Cuba under Reagan and Shultz, p. 13.