JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -- Foy David Kohler, a career diplomat and the U.S. ambassador to Moscow during the height of the Cold War, has died at age 82.
Mr. Kohler, who was present for the 1959 "kitchen debate" between Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and then-Vice President Richard Nixon, died Sunday at Jupiter Hospital. The hospital said Mr. Kohler died after a long illness, but it did not release details.
"His loss is a great loss," said former Secretary of State Dean Rusk. "Foy Kohler was one of our greatest professional diplomats. He was a lifelong member of the Foreign Service."
Mr. Kohler was ambassador to the Soviet Union from August 1962 to November 1966.
He was considered a member of the realist school of international politics, which emphasized the importance of military, economic and political power in world affairs.
Mr. Kohler took his first post as vice consul in Windsor, Ontario, in 1931. Later assignments took him to Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece, Egypt, England and Turkey. He also toured Vietnam, Pakistan and Bolivia on fact-finding missions for U.S. aid programs, and he served as director of the Voice of America.
From 1941 to 1945 he served as assistant chief of the State Department's Division of Near Eastern Affairs.
Mr. Kohler first went to Moscow in January 1947 as first secretary of the U.S. Embassy. He was there when Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Nixon toured a model U.S. kitchen during a 1959 U.S. exposition in Moscow. Mr. Khrushchev became angry, and the "kitchen debate" between him and Mr. Nixon drew international attention.
President John F. Kennedy tapped the Russian-speaking diplomat -- then assistant secretary of state for European affairs -- to become ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1962.
Shortly after he arrived in Moscow in his new post, the Cuban missile crisis erupted and brought the world to the brink of war.
Nonetheless, Mr. Kohler respected Mr. Khrushchev.
"You couldn't help but like him just as an individual," he once said. "He was a shrewd peasant, and he loved to trade repartee. He had a quick wit. It's true that Khrushchev -- especially with his de-Stalinization speech -- shook up the society and greatly eased the terror that had prevailed under Stalin."