Dr. Armand Hammer never practiced medicine. Instead, the son of an early Russian-American communist spent his life making money. He was particularly successful in wheeling and dealing with the Soviet Union. Even at the height of the Cold War he believed that business links could turn ideological enemies into mutual profiteers. He often cited Ben Franklin as having said, "Trading partners usually do not make war."
Dr. Hammer died Monday at 92, having seen the Soviet Union and the United States reach closer ties than ever before. Much of the credit must go to President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who when he was new to office was persuaded by Dr. Hammer, to reconsider the usefulness of talking to President Reagan, whom the Soviet had written off as a sworn enemy of his nation.
Throughout his career, Dr. Hammer enjoyed unparalleled access to Kremlin top leadership. He was perceived as a true friend of the Soviets because he stuck with them in bad times and good -- even after Stalin confiscated his businesses in Moscow in the 1920s. More importantly, Dr. Hammer was sanctified by an entry in Lenin's diaries in which he -- a capitalist! -- was referred to in a favorable way. All this made some Americans -- particularly diplomats stationed in Moscow -- suspicious of Dr. Hammer's ethics. But his advice was often sought in the White House.