Defense Secretary Dick Cheney today played down an apparent disparity between his assessment of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's chances of implementing reforms and the opinion held by President Bush.
"The President and I were in a meeting yesterday and frankly chuckled at what has developed by way of press commentary on views that we have expressed. We do not perceive a significant difference in terms of our views of the situation with respect to the Soviet Union," Cheney told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The defense secretary, who has been on the job for less than two months, created a stir last week when he predicted that Gorbachev would fail at instituting reforms in the Soviet Union and would be replaced by a hard-liner.
He also said the United States should not take any unilateral steps, such as removing some of the U.S. troops stationed in Europe, in response to the Soviet changes.
Bush, Secretary of State James A. Baker III and White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu quickly offered more hopeful assessments about Gorbachev's efforts.
The defense secretary conceded today that he "responded previously the other day perhaps with more candor than was warranted about my view . . . somewhat pessimistic concerning Mr. Gorbachev's prospect for achieving his reforms."