The Bush Administration, which was quick to hail the emergence of political pluralism in Eastern Europe, reacted with few words and a vow of non-interference today to signs of similar change in the Soviet Union.
As talk of historic reform dominated a momentous meeting of the Communist Party leadership in Moscow, the Administration seemed intent on doing nothing that could make things more difficult for Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
In the face of Gorbachev-engineered changes that could signal the end of a 70-year-old Communist Party political monopoly, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater refused to speculate on or judge the events in Moscow.
"The United States, as I guess you know, has always favored political pluralism and movement toward private-market economies," he said, "but we will not offer any comment on the course of this plenum meeting or on the move toward a multi-party system."
President Bush has done nothing in the last several weeks to hide his intensified hope that Gorbachev, whose own political and economic reforms gave way to a wave of freedom in Eastern Europe, will survive recent challenges from ethnic violence, dissident nationalists and conservative critics in the Kremlin.
However, the watch-and-wait attitude the Administration displayed today toward the start of the Communist Party plenum and Sunday's mass pro-democracy demonstration in Moscow appeared driven by sensitivity to Gorbachev's political crisis.