WORLD

Coming under the umbrella

MARCI MCDONALD December 3 1984
WORLD

Coming under the umbrella

MARCI MCDONALD December 3 1984

Coming under the umbrella

WORLD

The menu featured quail eggs, pheasant and trifle. The price tag was $1,500 a head. And among the hosts of the gala fund-raising dinner—to finance the $1.3-million renovations to the office of Secretary of State George Shultz—was Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. In Washington, where shifts in public policy are often signalled less by public pronouncement than by who dines with whom, that

hospitality provided telling evidence of the new thaw in East-West relations. Indeed, two days after Dobrynin’s diplomatic gesture, the Kremlin offered one of its own. In a message delivered to the state department, the Soviet leadership agreed to a meeting between Shultz and Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. That session, slated for Geneva Jan.7-8, will likely lead to resumption of the arms control talks.

For the Soviets, the decision to meet in Geneva implicitly confirmed that cruise and Pershing lí missiles stationed in Western Europe by the North Atlan-

tic Treaty Organization were, despite Moscow’s efforts, not going to be withdrawn. The Soviets had last year broken off two sets of arms control talks, insisting that there could be no resumption until the new weapons were dismantled. But when Reagan issued his invitation to “umbrella talks” at the United Nations in September, the Kremlin showed wary interest. In two rare interviews with U.S. newsmen, Soviet President Konstantin Chernenko recently called for a return to the détente era of the 1970s, without listing conditions for a return to the bargaining table. That veiled hint was followed up in private diplomatic exchanges in Moscow and in Washington. In effect, Reagan’s umbrella formula provided a face-saving rationale for restarting talks even while NATO’s missiles remain in place.

The announcement was JÈj warmly welcomed in NATO capitals, which have been urging both sides to resume the arms control dialogue. But what remains uncertain is whether the President can resolve the bitter power struggle that has characterized his administration’s arms control policies. That contest, which may prevent him from forging a viable negotiating stance, pits Pentagon hard-liners who are skeptical about the 9 value of arms control treaties

1 against state department

2 moderates who are convinced I that, whatever the outcome,

9 diplomacy demands a sincere £ effort to reduce nuclear arsenals on both sides.

The split has been so pro-

found that, to break the stalemate, White House aides recently floated the idea of an independent “arms control czar,” responsible only to the President. Instead, Reagan’s postelection vow to make arms reduction his new foreign policy priority suggests that Shultz has temporarily triumphed in the power struggle. That verdict was underlined last week when UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick —whom conservatives had been pushing to succeed National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane—announced her resignation.

Complicating the East-West rap-

prochement is the fact that neither side understands just what the “umbrella talks” will include. Said one senior Soviet diplomat in Washington: “You introduced something new in the history of Soviet-American relations —the umbrella. What is it? This must be studied.” Added a U.S. arms control official: “We’re as confused about it as they are.”

Moreover, while championing Shultz

on arms control, Reagan has also committed himself to the Pentagon’s pet “Star Wars” scheme. That program, officially titled Strategic Defense Initiative, is anathema to the Soviets, whose main impetus for returning to negotiations is to secure a treaty limiting the militarization of outer space. In fact, with so many questions still unresolved, it was clear that the January summit in Geneva would represent only the first stage in what is bound to be a long and arduous negotiation.

-MARCI MCDONALD in Washington, with Keith Charles in Moscow.

MARCI MCDONALD

Keith Charles