WORLD

Aiming for the heights

The superpowers hail a new openness

HILARY MACKENZIE October 2 1989
WORLD

Aiming for the heights

The superpowers hail a new openness

HILARY MACKENZIE October 2 1989

Aiming for the heights

WORLD

THE UNITED STATES

The superpowers hail a new openness

It was an unlikely, rustic setting for an international East-West mini-summit meeting. Nestled in the Snake River Valley of Wyoming, amid the majestic, snowcapped Grand Teton Mountains—named by a French fur trapper in the early 1800s for their resemblance to three large female breasts— Jackson Hole played host last week to U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. Between an arrival ceremony on Thursday night at which Wyoming Gov. Michael Sullivan presented the two men with Stetson cowboy hats, bandanas and bucking bronco lapel pins, and an

outdoor barbecue at the Jackson Lake Lodge on Saturday night of western-style ribs, chicken and buffalo steaks, Baker and Shevardnadze engaged in intensive discussions on an unprecedented range of global issues.

Indeed, after two days of meetings, the two diplomats emerged at separate news conferences on Saturday with some encouraging reports. Commenting on his discussions with Baker on issues that included conventional armed forces, chemical weapons, nuclear testing, human rights, regional conflicts and possible economic co-operation between the superpowers, Shevardnadze alluded to the Grand

Teton Mountains. “We were looking at these summits,” he said, “and we were thinking about the heights and the altitudes we had to scale. We have now moved energetically and actively towards these summits and towards these heights.” For his part, Baker, too, used bucolic imagery in giving his assessment of the meeting. “The openness of this setting epitomizes the new nature of our talks with the Soviets,” he declared. “I believe U.S.-Soviet relations are entering a new phase. We’ve moved from confrontation to dialogue—and now to co-operation.”

Those inspiring statements seemed to set the stage for a new era in Soviet-American relations. Both diplomats announced that a superpower summit between President George Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev would be held as early as next spring or summer. But the most striking and unexpected announcement last week was that the Soviets had dropped their long-standing demand to link Star Wars—the controversial U.S. program for a space-based anti-ballistic missile system—with Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) aimed at cutting the superpowers’ arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons by up to one-half. Shevardnadze also announced that Moscow would dismantle its Krasnoyarsk radar facility in Siberia, which Washington claims is illegal under a 1972 treaty. With those two surprising Soviet concessions, military and diplomatic experts said that a START treaty was now within reach.

Following a brief meeting with Bush in Washington last week, Baker and Shevardnadze flew together to Wyoming aboard a U.S. air force jet. Standing beside Baker in the chill, pitch-black evening on their arrival Thursday night at Jackson Hole Airport, Shevardnadze made a strong, emotional plea for fresh ideas to break the stalemate that has characterized U.S.-Soviet relations in the past. Said the Soviet foreign minister through a translator: “Hopefully, the fresh mountain air of Wyoming will help them to emerge and to develop.” Then, over the next two days, the two diplomats and their 20-member U.S. and Soviet delegations alternated between the Jackson Lake Lodge, a resort hotel in the heart of the Grand Teton National Park 56 km north of Jackson Hole, and the nearby AMK Ranch, a nine-room log cabin set amid 130 acres of towering lodgepole pines, yellow aspens and cottonwood groves. State department spokesmen told reporters that the talks often went well beyond their allotted times.

Those talks began in earnest on a crisp, cloudless Friday morning. Baker and Shevardnadze posed briefly for the cameras before heading inside to the Explorers’ Room of the Jackson Lake Lodge for their first plenary session. Symbolizing the new spirit of co-operation, the Soviet Hammer and Sickle and the American Stars and Stripes flags stood side by side in the meeting room. On the table, brass nameplates jostled for space with specially ordered Geyser mineral water and note pads and pencils for the delegations. Simultaneous translation was provided through cumber-

some, old-fashioned black earphones. With a measured response to Shevardnadze’s urgent plea to act boldly, Baker welcomed the Soviet delegation. “There is a new openness and candor in our relationship,” he declared, “and I think, hopefully, we’ll be able to take some steps that are unprecedented.” But it was not until later that day, when the two diplomats retreated with smaller working groups of eight people each to the tranquillity of the AMK Ranch, 11 km north of the lodge, that Baker and Shevardnadze were able to seize that unprecedented moment.

In the log cabin, Baker bluntly asked Shevardnadze whether the Soviets still held the long-range nuclear weapons talks hostage to agreement on the interpretation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM). The Soviets have contended that the treaty, signed in 1972 and amended in 1974, outlaws anti-missile weapons—including Star Wars. And they have refused to sign and implement START unless the Americans agreed to a parallel text limiting Star Wars to a strict interpretation of the ABM treaty. But in a stunning change of tactics,

Shevardnadze told Baker that the Kremlin had abandoned its demand to link progress in START negotiations in Geneva, which have remained deadlocked since their birth in June, 1982, to the banning of Star Wars under ABM. He also dropped the Soviet demand that sealaunched cruise missiles be included in START talks, which are scheduled to resume in Geneva on Oct. 2.

Still, at his Saturday news conference, Shevardnadze indicated that a relationship between the two arms-control issues should remain. He said that if, after a START accord is signed, either side violates the 1972 ABM treaty and its prohibitions on space defences against incoming enemy missiles, the other side could unilaterally withdraw from the START treaty. Reminded by a questioning reporter that a difference over the interpretation of the ABM treaty was at the heart of a U.S.Soviet deadlock on START and space defences, Shevardnadze replied, “START will be signed if and when ready, even if there is a situation of no common ground on ABM with the U.S. side.”

Like calculating chess players, Gorbachev and his chief negotiators, Shevardnadze and First Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Karpov, appear to have lost little in that gambit. After five years of research at a cost of $20 billion,

Star Wars, officially called the Strategic Defence Initiative and announced by then-President Ronald Reagan in March, 1983, has proven unfeasible. Reagan said that the envisaged space-based shield, employing particle and laser beams and satellite-based rockets to intercept incoming enemy missiles, would render nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete.” But

the project, dubbed Star Wars after the 1977 George Lucas science-fiction movie, won only lukewarm support from the public and the Democrat-controlled Congress. This year, the Bush administration’s budget for Star Wars research was slashed by $1.7 billion to $3.7 billion. As the Soviets well know, without strong backing on Capitol Hill the possibility of a U.S. space-based defence system being employed in the near future appears increasingly unlikely.

On Saturday afternoon, sitting outside at a log table against the spectacular backdrop of the Grand Teton Mountains, Baker and Shevardnadze signed a number of agreements as they laughed and bantered with attending reporters. In what was perhaps their biggest accomplishment, the two men signed a twostage chemical weapons agreement that provides for an exchange of data by the end of the

year and on-site inspections of U.S. and Soviet stockpiles and plants beginning next June 30. More detailed inspections would be held later. That agreement alone could increase prospects for the global ban on chemical weapons that the West has called for.

In a significant step toward verification of arms-control treaties, the two men signed an umbrella agreement that would allow on-site monitoring of dozens of previously top-secret nuclear weapons sites in the two countries. Both sides agreed to authorize their negotiators in Geneva to work out details of trial-verification procedures that could be carried out before the ratification of a START treaty. And Shevardnadze called an agreement to exchange advance information on military exercises involving strategic missiles and heavy bombers “a tremendous step.” He and Baker also agreed to the monitoring and regulation of underground nuclear tests. A senior Soviet official disclosed that Canada has agreed to host an international meeting on verification measures early next year.

Baker and Shevardnadze also agreed that U.S. and Soviet legal experts would visit each other to exchange views on legal guarantees for human rights. And they signed a symbolic agreement to shatter the so-called Ice Curtain that has divided the Yupik and the Inupiat Eskimos of Siberia and Alaska across the Be_ ring Strait since 1948. But o the most powerful and enduring symbol of the Wyoming meeting was the sight of the two men, whose countries have been divided by an ideological chasm for the past 40 years, talking so frankly and openly. “Neither of them pull their punches,” said a senior Bush administration official. He added, “When they disagree, they say so.”

Reflecting the new spirit of openness in superpower relations, the Soviets responded positively to a U.S. so-called open skies proposal, under which both nations would allow surveillance flights over their territory. Baker and Shevardnadze also discussed the possibility of abolishing tight travel restrictions placed on each side’s foreign diplomats—a vestige of the Cold War era of suspicion and tension. As well, Shevardnadze endorsed Bush’s goal of achieving a conventional arms-reduction treaty by June, 1990, and suggested that a conference be set for later that year to sign an accord.

In another development, while Baker and Shevardnadze were meeting in Wyoming, Brit-

ish Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher flew to Moscow for talks with Gorbachev in the ornate Catherine Hall of the Kremlin. Emerging from a four-hour meeting, Thatcher told a news conference that Soviet proposals announced by Shevardnadze during his talks with Baker in Jackson Hole had taken arms-control matters

forward. She added that she and Gorbachev had been “at one” on wanting a conventional arms agreement. Declared Thatcher: “The prospects of getting a conventional forces agreement before the end of next year are good.”

The spell of timeless majesty evoked

by the Grand Teton Mountains masked a sense of urgency that Baker and Shevardnadze brought to their negotiations. Anxious for a foreign-policy success to bolster his international reputation and to stifle growing criticism at home, Gorbachev sent along with Shevardnadze a nine-page letter detailing Soviet

responses to a June 21 initiative by Bush to revive the arms-control talks. Hunkered down in his spartan, dacha-like cabin at Jackson Lake Lodge—with its communications aerial poised for quick two-way conversations with Gorbachev—Shevardnadze and his top advisers were also given a free rein

to cut deals where they could.

For the Americans, the talks came at a time when Bush was under increasing pressure to show that he had a policy for the post-Cold War era and could seize the opportunities presented by the enormous changes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Some political observers complained that Bush had painted those changes as destabilizing for the West. Indeed, deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger told a Georgetown University audience in Washington, D.C., last week that the old, deep divisions between the East and the West may have produced a safer world. Said Eagleburger: “For all its risks and uncertainties, the Cold War was characterized by a remarkably stable and predictable set of relations among the great powers.” But in a stinging attack on the Bush administration’s foot-dragging towards the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Senate majority leader George Mitchell, a Democrat, accused Bush of being “nostalgic about the Cold War.”

Still, for Baker and Shevardnadze, as they strolled in the woods outside Jackson Hole on Saturday admiring the magic of the Tetons, nothing appeared to be further from their minds. Looking at the mountain peaks and the necklace of lakes at their base, Shevardnadze remarked, “It’s a miracle.” The next morning, the two diplomats went fishing for trout at nearby Cattleman’s Bridge on the Snake River, before flying separately to New York City for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25. There, said Baker, Bush would keep the momentum going by offering a new initiative to “bring the world closer to a ban on chemical weapons.” If the spirit of the Jackson Hole mini-summit persists, that seems a likely prospect.

HILARY MACKENZIE in Jackson Hole