THE SUMMIT AT GENEVA : Reporter’s Notebook : Summit Veteran Gromkyo Not Even a Spectator Now
Of all the Americans and Soviets who attended the last summit conference in Geneva 30 years ago, only 76-year-old Andrei A. Gromyko, now president of the Soviet Union, is still active in public life.
But it is common knowledge that the veteran of practically every major U.S.-Soviet encounter was pushed upstairs from his longtime job as foreign minister because Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev regards him as out of tune with the new image of a dynamic Soviet government.
The depth of his fall from any position of influence was made clear at the opening day of the summit when Kremlin spokesman Leonid M. Zamyatin was asked Tuesday why Gromyko had not come to Geneva. “We are dealing in policy here,” said Zamyatin, “not protocol.”
When the microphones went dead several times at the start of the Soviet briefing at the Swiss government press center, Vladimir B. Lomeiko, a Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman, had some sarcastic words for Western technology. “Here we are,” he said. “Western technology is supposed to be so marvelous. And it’s Western technology that is supposed to be so much better than Soviet technology. But it’s the hardware that is letting us down.”
Zamyatin, who has been spokesman for the last four Kremlin leaders, apparently believes the best defense is a good offense. When an Israeli reporter challenged him on a human rights issue, Zamyatin fired back:
“Look what’s going on with the Arabs in Israel--you’re destroying them. It’s genocide.”
Although Reagan Administration officials insist they are not showing any favoritism, the accredited reporter for Playboy seems to show up in rather favored places. Ronald Prescott Reagan, the 27-year-old son of President Reagan, was spotted, for example, talking with his father inside a lakeside villa just before Gorbachev arrived for the start of the conference.
Also, reporters covering the tea that Nancy Reagan gave Tuesday for Raisa Gorbachev and Nancy Reagan were surprised to find Ronald in their midst. Although he lacked the special pass required for covering this event, he was allowed to watch his mother greet Mrs. Gorbachev. Another reporter asked him how he was coping with the news blackout on the conference imposed by both sides. “It’s been really tough,” he replied.
Reagan and Gorbachev, as custom dictates, will exchange gifts. Soviet officials have not disclosed their leader’s choice of a gift, but American officials said Reagan will give Gorbachev a Geochron Globaltime Indicator. That is a clock that, among other things, tells what time it is anywhere on earth.
President Reagan may have offended Latvian exiles in the United States by entering the Soviet Mission compound in Geneva on Tuesday night for a dinner hosted by the Gorbachevs. The grounds housed the Latvian delegation to the League of Nations before World War II and is still registered in the Geneva real estate register as Latvian property.
Switzerland, like the United States and many other countries, has never recognized the Soviet Union’s annexation of Latvia and two other Baltic countries at the end of World War II. But, while keeping to this legality, Switzerland still allows the Soviet Union to use the grounds.
The U.S. government is so hesitant about offending Baltic exile pride that its official maps of the Soviet Union do not include Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. For this reason, the World Federation of Free Latvians, in a recent press release, said Reagan’s acceptance of the Soviet Mission compound as a meeting site was “a paradox.”
Times staff writers William J. Eaton and Betty Cuniberti contributed to this notebook.