Soviet Official Joins Chinese Leader in Supporting Bush
In the battle of big-name endorsements, senior officials of the United States’ major rivals have made it clear whom they favor--regardless of the policies George Bush and Michael S. Dukakis are espousing.
First, Deng Xiaoping, the venerable Chinese leader, sent word that he was rooting for his “old friend,” the vice president, in the U.S. presidential contest. Then, on Friday, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze gave Bush a rhetorical pat on the back.
“He has been involved in all high-level discussions here in Washington at our talks with the President,” the foreign minister said in diplomatically phrased remarks that were nevertheless indicative of support.
Endorsed by VFW
Curiously, Shevardnadze’s comments, which skirted an outright endorsement but which appeared to send a signal that the Soviets would be comfortable with a Bush victory on Nov. 8, were sandwiched between more formal, and more expected, endorsements of the Bush candidacy--on Thursday by Boston police officers and today by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Bush met with Shevardnadze early Friday before beginning two final days of preparation for his first debate with Dukakis, to be held Sunday in Winston-Salem, N. C.
The meeting with Shevardnadze allowed Bush to invite reporters and photographers to his home for a brief “photo opportunity” with the Soviet foreign minister at his side.
“If one were to single out the main theme of our conversation,” Shevardnadze told the reporters, “I think the vice president will agree that was that we want both to preserve the existing level in Soviet-U.S. relations and to go further on a course of stabilizing and normalizing our relations.”
Deng, China’s top leader, was less circumspect when he made his preference clear on Sept. 7 in a meeting in Beijing with Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci.
After noting that he had known Bush when Bush directed the U.S. Liaison Office in China from October, 1974, to November, 1975, Deng said: “I hope he will be victorious in the election.”
Although most nations generally refrain from direct indications of support for U.S. presidential candidates, Soviet leaders in the past have quietly let their preferences be known.
Arnold Horelick, director of the RAND-UCLA Center for the Study of Soviet International Behavior, said in a telephone interview that indications of support for Bush by Shevardnadze would apparently reflect a desire for continuity in U.S.-Soviet relations.
“They are more comfortable with what’s known and predictable than with uncertainty, and Dukakis is certainly a less-known quantity,” he said.
Similarly, Deng’s expression of support, he said, may have stemmed from a Chinese preference for a “comfortable, familiar, known quantity.” On the other hand, the remark may not have reflected an official policy, he said, noting that no such signal of support for Bush has been published in the official Chinese press.
Bush, meanwhile, has introduced a new theme into his campaign, promoting in a speech Thursday evening in Houston a theory of defense modernization intended to take advantage of American high technology to counter Soviet strength in numbers.
The vice president endorsed an approach known as the competitive strategies initiative, saying: “It is designed to ensure that we need not match the Soviets bullets for bullets and tank for tank.”
Bush’s support for the high-tech conventional weapons was the first indication that the approach is gaining backing within the Administration beyond the Pentagon.
The competitive strategies theory entails the development of, among other weapons, long-range, highly precise cruise missiles capable of striking deep into Soviet territory, hitting command centers and airfields with little risk to American forces.
According to a Pentagon official, it is difficult to defend against such systems and against others foreseen in the high-tech arena that would be capable of spewing land mines well behind enemy front lines.