Obituary: Arnold Smith

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The Independent Online
CHIEF ANAYAOKU's warm tribute to Arnold Smith (obituary, 10 February) will command wide agreement here and abroad, writes Professor David Dilks. Smith came to the post of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth with an extensive experience of international affairs. As a young man, he had been the unacknowledged secretary of the Royal Commission which investigated the revelations by the Russian defector Gouzenko. Smith, who retained a lifelong affection for the Baltic states, never laboured under delusions about Russia. He regarded Stalin's as a dictatorship of deep cruelty and evil. 'Be friendly to them always, and don't stick out for points that don't matter,' he would say; 'but let's make sure we keep our powder dry.'

To his post at Marlborough House Arnold Smith brought in 1965 receptivity, enthusiasm, approachability, charm, and appreciation of others' cultures and languages. Some in Whitehall disbelieved in the Secretariat, or resented its taking over functions which the British had long discharged. Arnold Smith did not always enjoy strong support, even from his own government. But he knew how to get the best out of colleagues as different and distinguished as Sir Hugh Springer, Yusufu Lule, James Maraj and a host of others.

He moved at ease in the political, administrative and academic worlds. Prime ministers of the Commonwealth were, then as now, apt to ask much of the Secretariat without providing the resources; and the first Secretary-General did miracles in establishing the new institution and drawing upon the goodwill of friends who found it difficult to resist someone whose belief in the Commonwealth was patent and articulate.

To this country Arnold Smith was an affectionate, if not always uncritical, friend. His belief in the value of the Commonwealth remained undimmed to the end of his life; and those who share that conviction know how fortunate was the Commonwealth in its first Secretary-General.