Soviets Accept U.S. Policy Review, Kissinger Says
President Bush met Saturday for more than an hour with Henry A. Kissinger, who told him that Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and his colleagues “are very relaxed about the procedures and purposes” of the new Administration and are not concerned about delaying further summit meetings until after Bush has completed a review of U.S. foreign policy.
Some Bush critics have suggested that the Administration’s go-slow approach could squander an important opportunity for progress in U.S.-Soviet relations. But, speaking to reporters after the Oval Office meeting, Kissinger said he told Bush that “nobody in Moscow said that” to him during his recent trip there.
Will Gain ‘Coherence’
The Soviet leadership “understands that a review has to be undertaken,” he said. “Whatever time we spend now in studying the problems” facing the two superpowers, “we will gain in the coherence with which we can pursue them.” But Kissinger added that he personally “would be amazed” if Bush and Gorbachev did not hold a summit “at some point within the next 12-month period.”
Separately, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said Bush hopes to make a decision on how to bail out the troubled savings and loan industry in time to announce his plans in a Feb. 9 speech to a joint session of Congress.
For the last several days, the Administration has been under fire over a proposal to pay for the bailout by levying a tax of 25 cents to 30 cents per $100 on all checking and savings accounts. Despite widespread criticism of the idea, which critics call a new tax and Administration officials insist is a non-tax “fee,” Fitzwater insisted that the plan “remains an option” that Bush may consider. He also denied reports that Administration policy-makers have assured savings and loan officials that the plan has been abandoned.
The meeting with Kissinger was only the latest signal of the influence that the former secretary of state has with the new Administration. Several longtime associates of Kissinger have received senior Administration posts, including retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Bush’s national security adviser, who sat in on the Oval Office meeting then met separately with Kissinger for about an hour.
By contrast, many of former President Ronald Reagan’s most conservative supporters were suspicious of Kissinger, which limited his role over the last eight years.
There have been rumors that the Administration might appoint Kissinger as a special envoy to represent Bush in a global trouble spot, such as Central America. Asked about those rumors, however, Kissinger declined to comment. Prior to Kissinger’s trip to Moscow, Bush gave him a letter to present to Gorbachev, Kissinger said, adding that the Soviet leader gave him a letter of greetings to return to Bush. He declined to tell reporters what the letters said, joking that Gorbachev’s missive “was in Russian . . . I couldn’t read it.”
Fitzwater also declined to release the text of the letters, saying only that Gorbachev’s letter contained “greetings (that) were general in nature.”
Bush, Fitzwater said, was “interested in Dr. Kissinger’s views” and “appreciated his report.”
The “basic point” that he made, Kissinger said, was that U.S. officials should resist the temptation to try to influence events within the Soviet Union, either to assist or hinder Gorbachev’s attempts at restructuring the Soviet system.
Soviets Face ‘Huge Task’
“We should concentrate on our foreign policy and let the Soviets worry about their domestic policy,” he said. Gorbachev’s policy, which the Soviets refer to as perestroika , “creates a significant problem for the Soviet Union,” Kissinger added. “To change a system from a Stalinist kind of planned economy to a market economy is a huge task.”
But, he added, “Gorbachev is a big boy who can take care of his domestic affairs” and “I don’t think we know enough about his domestic problems” to try influencing them.