Gorbachev Has New Proposals : Summit: He arrives in Washington after saying he expects the U.S. to be flexible on German reunification. Don’t try to ‘fish in troubled waters,’ he warns.
Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, after declaring earlier in the day that he will offer new proposals for dealing with German reunification but expects the United States to be flexible as well, arrived here Wednesday evening for a summit with President Bush that is certain to be dominated by that explosive issue.
During a stopover in Canada to meet with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Gorbachev offered the carrot of new Soviet proposals but brandished the stick of possible intransigence with scathing comments on U.S. insistence that a unified Germany remain a member of NATO.
Saying the United States sounds “like an old record,” he told reporters in Ottawa, “The West hasn’t done much thinking. They try to dictate.
“I will disappoint you if you think the Soviet Union is so busy with perestroika that you can fish in troubled waters,” he said on the eve of four days of talks with Bush.
U.S. officials sought to turn aside Gorbachev’s harsh remark but acknowledged that the question of Germany will overshadow all others on the summit agenda.
“These meetings are going to focus so heavily on Germany that just about everything else is going to be peripheral,” declared a senior U.S. official. While arms control and regional issues are important, he said, “they are all going to be tied into what Gorbachev can try to get in terms of assurances about German reunification.”
With the Soviet empire crumbling and the Warsaw Pact evaporating as a military force, Gorbachev has little leverage to exert in his negotiations with Bush, as U.S. officials see it. About the only card he has to play, they say, is the continued presence of Soviet military forces in East Germany, which the United States insists must be removed.
Nonetheless, the Administration is sensitive to Moscow’s concern about Germany and intends to address it.
“What happens will hinge on what kind of assurance we can give the Soviet Union that will reduce the level of their paranoia about an economic and military behemoth alongside them,” said a key U.S. official.
“In the end they will probably go for Germany being in NATO but they will not hand off that chip (removing troops stationed in East Germany) without getting important concessions that provide them with reasonable security.”
On the eve of the summit, Bush was described by officials as hopeful that his sessions with Gorbachev will help bolster the Soviet leader at home, where he has been under severe political pressure and where his program of economic reform so far has failed.
“The President wants to help Gorbachev and won’t be too hard-nosed in his approach,” said one official.
At the same time, the official said, “the President is not going into the summit feeling that no matter what happens, we don’t want Gorbachev to go down the tubes.
“We hope he doesn’t use that argument the way he did at the Malta summit and the way it has been conveyed at some of the ministerial meetings,” the official continued. “He certainly won’t make that argument in a public way, but he may do it at the White House.”
Gorbachev’s white Aeroflot Ilyushin-62M jet landed at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington at 6:50 p.m. EDT, 20 minutes behind schedule because the Soviet president’s news conference delayed his departure from Canada.
The air base had been closed to visitors. About 150 Soviet citizens and 400 or so U.S. Air Force personnel and family members gave the Gorbachevs a restrained reception. Some waved the red Soviet flag decorated with a yellow hammer and sickle.
Alighting onto the customary red carpet, Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, were greeted by Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Joseph Reed, the U.S. chief of protocol. Raisa Gorbachev was given a bouquet of long-stemmed roses.
Gorbachev, in a brief arrival statement, said through a translator that he looks forward to the talks with Bush, adding, “A lot will depend on their results in determining how things will work out, not only between you Americans and us but also other states. . . .
“This summit stands out in its importance, first of all, for the promise it holds of the first major step to reduce strategic, nuclear arms,” he said. “Both sides have worked painstakingly together to prepare it.”
The Soviet president, who donned a pair of metal-frame eyeglasses to read from prepared notes, said that the meeting also would be important because it will give the leaders the opportunity to sit down in informal surroundings to discuss, “one-on-one, all questions either of us might have that fall within our responsibilities.”
In addition to their relatively formal meetings in Washington, the two will talk at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland on Saturday. In his remarks at Andrews, Gorbachev made no mention of the German problem and his comments contained none of the bite of the remarks he made in Canada barely two hours earlier. That came as no surprise to a senior American official, who said: “You can expect him to look relaxed and comfortable during this summit. He’s a past master at taking bad situations and making them look good.”
Before leaving Canada, Gorbachev said that the United States and the Soviet Union must find a course of action “that will support, rather than do damage to, those very important changes that are happening in Europe and in the world.”
“I have not yet heard any alternative from the West,” he declared. “It seems that is just like an old record that keeps playing the same notes again and again. I would like us to . . . find a new melody.”
He said that he has “two or three” new proposals on the German issues that he plans to put before Bush, but he offered no details.
Canadian leader Mulroney said it is time for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies to look for a way to bring Germany into the alliance that would also meet Soviet concerns.
On the question of reducing conventional forces in Europe, Gorbachev said: “In spite of everything, there has been some progress there, too, and this confirms that it is a viable process. . . . What’s important is that the process is moving ahead.”
Gorbachev arrived on a sun-drenched afternoon that was as crisp and clear as Malta was windy and soggy last December when the two presidents last met, at the hastily summoned meeting on the Mediterranean island.
This week’s Washington summit will be the sixth between U.S. and Soviet leaders in this country since Nikita S. Khrushchev and Dwight D. Eisenhower opened the era of superpower summitry in 1959.
Gorbachev has visited the United States twice before, in December, 1987, when he met with then-President Ronald Reagan, and a year later, when he addressed the U.N. General Assembly and had lunch with Reagan and then-President-elect Bush in New York.
The 1988 trip was cut short when Gorbachev returned to the Soviet Union in the wake of a devastating earthquake in Armenia.
If the Washington meeting lacks the tension over arms control that has hung over superpower summits in the past, a large measure of uncertainty is provided by what one senior Administration official called “the molding of Europe.” in the wake of the winter of upheavals there.
Originally, Bush had hoped that he and Gorbachev would be able to sign a treaty to cut in half the U.S. and Soviet arsenals of nuclear weapons--missiles and bombers--but negotiators have been unable to complete the pact. Instead, the two leaders expect to sign a joint statement listing the overall principles of an agreement, with a final treaty signing still expected later this year.
They will also sign an agreement to cut the two nations’ stockpiles of chemical weapons to 20% of the United States’ current arsenal--a first step in a plan advanced by the President at the United Nations last September to rid the world of the poison gas supplies entirely.
As he undertook final preparations for the approximately 24 hours he will spend with Gorbachev over the next four days, Bush spoke by telephone with Mulroney and with Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany.
“The President sees a new horizon in this meeting, an horizon of opportunity,” White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said. “And after these discussions, we should have a much better view of a new day in East-West relations.
“The President approaches this summit as a very serious meeting in which very specific and meaningful agreements will be achieved. As we move from conflict to cooperation, agreements reached on Thursday and Friday will provide for a realistic foundation for the growing and changing U.S.-Soviet relationship,” the spokesman said. “There will be a flow of accords designed to foster economic reform and democratic change in the Soviet Union.”
Reflecting the Administration’s concerted pre-summit effort to portray the meeting primarily as an opportunity for the two leaders to explore each other’s views of the rapidly changing relationship between East and West, Fitzwater took the safe political route Wednesday of seeking to lower expectations of tangible progress.
“It’s not going to result in our ability to say, ‘O.K., here’s a boxful of accomplishments and a boxful here and another bucketful over here.’ It’s going to be in the general discussion and their impressions and where they think this is going, how the CFE talks (on reducing convention forces in Europe) might progress. . . . And they’re just going to be very hard to put in narrow lines.” he said. “We’re not looking for agreements. We’re just looking for understanding.”
Times staff writers Doyle McManus and Maura Reynolds also contributed to this report.
BAY AREA BLUES--San Francisco has some qualms about a visit by the Soviet first couple. 43
SIDELINED WAR--Afghanistan appeals for superpower help to end its civil war, but that nation’s plight will likely be near the bottom of the summit agenda. A12
QUIET RECEPTION--Gorbachev, arriving in Washington, is met by Secretary of State Baker and a ho-hum reaction from many capital residents. A13
PEACE MEDIATOR--Bush and Gorbachev may look to an obscure international group to provide a European security framework that both sides can accept. A13
EXPERT ADVICE: THE GERMAN ISSUE
As a price for German reunification, should the United States and other NATO members accept the Soviet demand for a limit on the size of the German army?
This is an area in which the United States could help Gorbachev. More than most foreign policy issues, the German question does have a domestic political reverberation in the Soviet Union--in this case a negative one. Given their powerful historical memory, there are concerns about what a strong reunified Germany may mean in terms of Russia and the Soviet Union.
The summit should address those concerns. The fact is, the United States has so far not been responsive. We have been sort of bouncing it from one basket to another but aren’t ready to pick up the ball.
The United States should not give in to the Soviets on the size of the German army. Although it’s very important that the Soviet Union be satisfied that the reunification of Germany does not constitute a threat to the U.S.S.R., it is also very important that Germany not feel that it has been deprived of its natural entitlements by some Soviet veto.
There should be an ongoing process of negotiation and accommodation which satisfies both the Soviet Union and other countries, like France and Poland, that have concerns about Germany, and also that satisfies the Germans themselves.