When French President François Mitterrand flew to Moscow last week for three days of talks with Mikhail Gorbachev about arms control and the prospects for a second U.S.-Soviet summit, there was speculation that some new initiative might soon be forthcoming from the Soviet leader. Mitterrand’s previous international stop had been in New York, where he met with President Ronald Reagan during the July 4 rededication of the Statue of Liberty. But late last week, at the end of the Moscow talks, the French president’s message was not positive. If there is to be a 1986 summit, Mitterrand said, “diplomacy still has a lot of work to do.”
Candor: The inconclusive atmosphere of the Mitterrand-Gorbachev meeting reflected the uncertainty that surrounds the Soviet leader’s approach to foreign affairs. Since Gorbachev achieved power 16 months ago, his genial public manner and his apparent candor have encouraged the development of friendlier EastWest relations. But there have been few concrete achievements in arms control, over Soviet military involvement in Afghanistan or on power rivalries
between Moscow and Washington in the Middle East, Africa and Central America. Most Western observers say that the chief difference between Gorbachev and his predecessors so far has been one of style, not substance.
Ambitious: Still, some analysts claim to see real change—or at least the promise of it. Oxford University political scientist Archie Brown argues that Gorbachev has reassessed Soviet foreign policy to find out how it might be changed in order to advance his ambitious plans for domestic economic reforms. By spending less on arms,
Gorbachev would be able to divert resources to the improvement of Soviet living standards. Brown,
writing in the current issue of the journal Foreign Affairs, concluded, “Thus far, the military has been kept in a very subordinate position.” As evidence, Brown cited the diminished role in the Politburo of Defence Minister Sergei So-
kolov and Gorbachev’s “expressed willingness to compromise in arms control and public acceptance of monitoring and verification.” U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz is said to be among those who believe that Gorbachev has so raised Soviet hopes for a better standard of living that he is, in fact, under great pressure to shift the emphasis from guns to butter.
Opposition: Others are more skeptical of Moscow’s stand on arms control. West German foreign office aide Reinhardt Bettzuege told Maclean’s that recent Soviet disarmament proposais—including a moratorium on nuclear tests and a reduction in medium-range missiles in
Europe—were “highly substantial.” But, added Bettzuege, there was “often a gap between Gorbachev’s proposals and what Soviet negotiators are prepared to put forward. This could indicate either there is opposition within the Kremlin to his initiatives or that the communication lines are faulty: in sum, that he is trotting too fast for the cart to keep up.” Commented Dutch foreign ministry spokesman Jan Jonker-Roelrints: “He has created a feeling that something has changed, but we are still waiting for proof that the Soviets have dropped their old apple: to drive a wedge between Europe and the United States.” While Reagan has said that the latest Soviet arms control posture made him optimistic that there would be a summit “where we can reach
agreement on some the goals we share,” U.S. observers have reacted coolly. “I haven’t seen any evidence of real change,” said James Townsend of the Georgetown University Soviet studies program. “I wait for things to percolate into action and not much has happened.” That view was shared by Christopher Coachem, a Soviet expert on the staff of the U.S. congressional house foreign affairs
committee. “In terms of style, Gorbachev is remarkably different,” Coachem told Maclean’s. “He uses the tools of public relations, and he is more dynamic and forceful in terms of repartee with the press. In substantive issues, there
has been a spate of arms control proposals, and this is quite different from the historical norm. But in other respects, policy has yet to become clear.”
In its policy toward Canada, Moscow has been candid. A Soviet foreign affairs official noted that Canada has special interest in Moscow because it is the Soviet Union’s “neighbor to the north.” The official added that, while the Mulroney government’s push for improved relations with Washington was no surprise in Moscow, the Soviets “took a dim
view” of Ottawa’s support for the U.S. attack on Libya in April. “Canada’s position in the world would be enhanced if it were more outspoken and did not always fear an adverse reaction on the part of its southern neighbor,” the spokesman said. “We dislike seeing Canada under a U.S. shadow.”
Divided: Western observers are divided in their opinions of Gorbachev’s policy toward the satellite nations of Eastern Europe. Cord Meyer, a Washington political analyst, consultant and former Central Intelligence Agency senior officer, said the Soviets were forcing the Eastern Bloc to pay more for oil than world market prices while at the same time demanding high-quality manufactured goods. This, said Meyer, put Eastern Europe in the kind of economic squeeze that had caused trouble in the past. Added Meyer: “There is a high probability of a blowup somewhere
in Eastern Europe during Gorbachev’s tenure.” And if that happens, said Meyer, the Soviet leader will respond “with brutal force.”
Flexibility: On the other hand, Munich-based analyst J.B. de Weydenthal said in a commentary on last month’s Warsaw Pact meeting in Budapest that Gorbachev looked as though he would emerge “as a much more effective manager of the alliance than any of his predecessors.” At Budapest, said de Weydenthal, Gorbachev appeared
willing to tolerate different economic approaches by the Soviet Union’s allies, particularly Hungary, East Germany and Czechoslovakia. Added De Weydenthal: “In addition to being a demonstration of good management, this implied a degree of flexibility in his judgment.”
But there is remarkable agreement among Western analysts about Soviet foreign policy toward Latin America: there is not much that is new. The U.S. house foreign affairs committee’s Coachem said Gorbachev continues to supply arms to the leftist regime in Nicaragua “because it is a cheap way to irritate and distract the United States.” He added, “But it is a limited commitment with no guarantees to save Nicaragua should it find itself in a real fix.” Raymond Garthoff, former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria and now a Soviet studies scholar at the Brook-
ings Institution, told Maclean's: “Gorbachev is continuing old policies with new vigor but he is avoiding new commitments of resources. For example, the Soviet role has been quite restrained with respect to Central America and the Caribbean. He believes the best way to support révolutionary change in the world is to develop the Soviet Union’s own system—he wants to set the example at home.”
At home, Gorbachev probably has
made the moves that will have the most profound effect on Soviet foreign policy. Earlier this year he recalled the Soviet Union’s 66-yearold ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Dobrynin, after 24 years. Gorbachev appointed Dobrynin, Moscow’s primary expert on the United States, as head of the international department of the Communist Party. U.S. experts say that, in effect, Dobrynin has become Gorbachev’s national security adviser. Mark Garrison, former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and now head of a foreign policy research centre at Brown University in Providence, R.I., told Maclean's: “Soviet foreign
policy has changed compared to the Brezhnev era. Gorbachev is taking a hard look at national
priorities in making sure there is no nuclear confrontation.” Because of that, said Garrison, Dobrynin’s appointment was significant because it meant that overall Soviet policy would now be weighed in the light of its probable impact on U.S.-Soviet relations.
Unrivalled: Oxford’s Brown agreed on the importance of Dobrynin’s appointment. Said Brown: “Dobrynin not only believes in doing business with the United States but also sees the Soviet relationship with the United States as central. Dobrynin carries into the inner circle of Soviet foreign policy formation an unrivalled knowledge of what might play in Washington.” But it will likely take another Reagan-Gorbachev summit to find out what Moscow does with the advice of its man from Washington.
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