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William G. Hyland; Editor, Advised Ford On Security

William G. Hyland was known as an expert on U.S.-Soviet relations during the closing days of the Cold War. He worked at the National Security Council during the Nixon and Ford administrations.
William G. Hyland was known as an expert on U.S.-Soviet relations during the closing days of the Cold War. He worked at the National Security Council during the Nixon and Ford administrations. (Family Photo)
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By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 28, 2008

William G. Hyland, 79, former deputy national security adviser to President Gerald R. Ford and former editor of Foreign Affairs magazine, died of an aortic aneurysm March 25 at Inova Fairfax Hospital. He lived in Vienna.

Mr. Hyland, an expert on U.S.-Soviet relations during the latter days of the Cold War, worked for the Nixon administration at the National Security Council and the State Department as the head of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He returned to the NSC during the Ford administration.

"He was one of the best public servants I have known, and one of the finest human beings," said former secretary of state Henry Kissinger. "He was a superb analyst, especially of Russian and European affairs. . . . He was with me at practically every negotiation we conducted during the period. He was an integral part of our group."

As a low-profile aide who was the CIA's Berlin desk officer, Mr. Hyland frequently briefed the agency's legendary director Allen Dulles. He later moved on to the CIA's Soviet desk, where he learned to estimate the Soviet threat. Those jobs led to the executive branch, which led to several years at think tanks and the editorship of Foreign Affairs from 1983 until 1992.

Mr. Hyland also wrote more than a half-dozen books on international affairs and popular music. After devoting his career to foreign policy, he "rattled the teacups" of the diplomatic corps in 1991 when he publicly urged the United States to turn inward.

"The U.S. has never been less threatened by foreign forces than it is today," he wrote in an op-ed article for the New York Times.

"We may now be trying to perpetuate something from the past, to give urgency to [international] issues that are no longer all that urgent," he told former Post diplomatic correspondent Don Oberdorfer.

Matters certainly were urgent while he worked at the NSC in the White House and grappled with the collapse of d¿tente, through Moscow summit meetings and the shaping of strategic arms limitations as well as the formation of the SALT I treaty.

"He was a very sagacious Soviet analyst in a very difficult time during the Cold War," said Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush. "Even more than that, he had a very judicious mind and approach and played a critical role in managing the interagency process in the White House at the NSC."

"Clearly he was one of three or four people who shaped our policy toward Soviet Union and arms control," said Winston Lord, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations. "He had a fierce intelligence and was non-ideological. He wouldn't be swayed. "

Born in Kansas City, Mo., Mr. Hyland graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and received a master's degree from the University of Missouri at Kansas City in 1954 in history. He served in the Army's 2nd Armored Division from 1950 to 1953, stationed in Germany.

He joined the CIA after his discharge and, while on the Soviet desk, wrote a memo in 1960 predicting that Nikita Khrushchev would find a pretext to abort the planned summit in Paris with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Days before the summit, the Soviets shot down an American U2 spy plane over its territory, and Khrushchev showed up at the summit only long enough to storm out.


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