Quoting Richard M. Nixon and speaking in conciliatory tones reminiscent of the era of U.S.-Soviet detente, President Reagan said Monday that his objective in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev will be to make Moscow recognize that “we have to live in the world together.
“That doesn’t mean that we have to love each other or that we have to change each other’s system,” Reagan told 75 visiting reporters and editors at a White House luncheon. ". . . We’re the only two nations in the world, I think, that could start another war. We’re also the two that could prevent one from starting. And we’re going to try to find a way to deal practically with them.”
Reagan said he has talked with former President Nixon during early preparations for his Nov. 19-20 meeting with Gorbachev in Geneva, and he heartily endorsed a recent Nixon observation on the current state of U.S.-Soviet relations: “ ‘We want peace. The Soviet Union needs peace.’ “There’s one thing you have to recognize,” Reagan added. “There are great differences between our two systems. And they’re not going to like ours, and we don’t like theirs. But we have to live in the world together.”
Reagan’s remarks were similar to those often voiced by Nixon during the height of detente in the early 1970s. But although Reagan used noticeably moderate rhetoric, he did not pass up the opportunity to reiterate his belief that the Soviet Union cannot be allowed to gain clear military superiority over the United States.
“We have augmented our forces,” the President said, “and, I think, have given them (the Soviets) reason to believe that we are not going to allow them to get such a superiority in weapons that they can some day lay down an ultimatum.”
In response to a question about his contacts with the former President, Reagan said: “I have frequently talked to President Nixon. He had great experience and is most knowledgeable on international affairs.”
Reagan also observed that Nixon “had a number of meetings both in this country and there” with former Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev.
Before holding his first meeting with a Soviet leader last year, when he conferred with then-Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko, Reagan met secretly with Nixon in New York. In addition, Reagan’s political advisers have said they met and spoke frequently with Nixon to discuss political strategy during the 1984 campaign.
Reagan’s more positive tone was echoed by White House national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane, who spoke to the annual convention of the Air Force Assn. The President sees the upcoming summit as “an occasion on which we may see a Soviet leadership more open to change, where we may have the possibility for better stability,” McFarlane said.
In preparation for the meeting, he said, U.S. positions already have been formulated in the areas of arms control, regional issues, bilateral relations and human rights, the four subjects that Reagan plans to bring up with Gorbachev.
Reagan and McFarlane previewed the summit as the Administration played down an episode in East Germany earlier this month in which two U.S. servicemen were detained by Soviet forces at gunpoint for nearly nine hours.
The incident, potentially disruptive to planning for the Geneva meeting, was disclosed Sunday by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger. It occurred in an unrestricted area about 175 miles southwest of Berlin on Sept. 7.
Weinberger said that the Soviets deliberately bumped a U.S. Army vehicle before detaining the soldiers.
Entangled in Wire
A statement issued by the Defense Department on Monday said the episode began after the Americans’ vehicle became entangled in some discarded wire hidden by tall grass. While efforts were made to extricate the vehicle, the Pentagon said, “a Soviet truck approached at a high rate of speed” and grazed it.
“At this point,” the Pentagon added, “several Soviet soldiers, including a lieutenant, jumped out of the truck and surrounded the tour vehicle, directing U.S. personnel to remain inside.”
The episode was said by Weinberger to have been the third or fourth involving members of the U.S. Military Liaison Mission based in Potsdam. It occurred about six months after U.S. Army Maj. Arthur D. Nicholson Jr., another member of the U.S. liaison mission, was shot and killed by a Soviet sentry, triggering warnings to Moscow from the Administration.
But on Monday, there appeared to be little desire for an escalation of exchanges over the latest incident.
The State Department refused to give any details of the U.S. vehicle’s precise location or to say how it became entangled in the barbed wire, and spokesman Charles Redman refused to comment on any Soviet response to the U.S. protest of the incident.
One indication of the U.S. view of the matter was the fact that the protest was lodged through military channels, by the U.S. commander at Potsdam, rather than by the State Department.