WE WILL PREVAIL
IT WAS HARD to miss the symbolism of the plane Albright used for that long flight to Moscow: an air force E-4B, known as the "Doomsday Plane." The air force actually has four of these converted Boeing 747s, each equipped to be a flying presidential command center in case of a catastrophe, such as nuclear war, that would render the White House untenable. According to the air force, "In case of national emergency or destruction of ground command control centers, the aircraft provides a modern, highly survivable, command, control and communications center to direct U.S. forces, execute emergency war orders and coordinate actions by civil authorities." In other words, this is the plane from which the president could administer whatever was left of the United States after a Soviet nuclear strike. Hence the appellation, Doomsday Plane. It makes for depressing travel, because its bright fluorescent lights are on at all times, and it has no windows. It is outfitted for work, not for comfort.
The enemy the air force had in mind when the Doomsday Plane was built had ceased to exist. Albright was flying to Moscow at a time when a nuclear strike by an ICBM from the central Asian steppe was no longer a real threat. But in many ways relations with Moscow were more complicated than they had been in the era when doomsday seemed imminent.
Yeltsin was so enfeebled by illness--and perhaps by alcohol--that he seemed no longer able to run his country. At the time of Albright's visit, he was hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer. She spoke to him by phone but did not see him. The grim joke among