If Mikhail Gorbachev was enjoying the prospect of his travels this week through New York and Havana, it was probably no accident. His tour, which was scheduled to take him to London next week, is merely the latest in a burst of international activity that allows the Soviet leader to play the role of world statesman that he so clearly relishes. It also provides a welcome opportunity to shift attention away from his increasingly intractable problems back home. “It’s very important for him internally,” said Prof. Adam Ulam, a Soviet scholar at Harvard University. “He needs to be seen at home as a leader promoting peace.”
Lately, Gorbachev has embarked on a hectic round of foreign policy ventures. In the past seven weeks, he has entertained West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, French President François Mitterrand and Brazilian President José Sarney. He also managed to sandwich in a quick trip to India to visit Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and is trying to arrange a breakthrough visit to Beijing some time next year.
The centrepiece of all that activity, however, was to be the Soviet leader’s three-day sojourn in New York City this week. There, he was scheduled to deliver a major address to the UN General Assembly on Dec. 7, the first by a Soviet leader since
Premier Alexei Kosygin visited in 1967. Afterward, Gorbachev was to attend a formal luncheon—on Governors Island, a U.S. Coast Guard station and former U.S. army installation in New York harbor—with President Ronald Reagan and president-elect George Bush. At a news conference last week in Moscow, deputy foreign minister Vladimir Petrovsky said that the Soviets wanted substantive talks on arms, Afghanistan, Central America and the Middle East. The meeting, he added, was “an important link in the development of dialogue.” But Gorbachev’s stop was also scheduled to include some typical Manhattan sightseeing. The Soviet leader and his scene-stealing wife, Raisa, planned to tour the city, including a visit
to that bastion of free enterprise, the Trump Tower. Real estate developer Donald Trump boasted that, by seeing the showcase of his empire, the Gorbachevs would get “a really great shot of what New York and the United States are about.”
In stark contrast, the second leg of Gorbachev’s tour was to take him to Cuba on Dec. 9. Soviet I support for the Castro re£ gime is running at about I $7 billion annually. It is ^ estimated that Moscow’s aid accounts for about 29 per cent of Cuba’s gross national product. But, said Harvard’s Ulam, national product.
“Castro must be extremely displeased by the Soviet rapprochement with the West. Gorbachev is going to Cuba to hold Castro’s hand and offer reassurance.”
After his careful balancing act in Cuba, Gorbachev will fly to London on Dec. 12 for a three-day stay. The Soviet leader and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher have long expressed mutual respect. A renewal of their acquaintance could provide a welcome interlude for the globe-trotting Gorbachev—before he returns home to a host of waiting troubles.
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