BRIEFING TODAY’S TALKS : Old Issues of Arms Control, Germany Top Agenda


When President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev open their summit talks this morning, two of the oldest issues in Soviet-American relations will top their agenda: nuclear arms control and Germany.

The first step should be easy: quick agreement on the outlines of a strategic arms treaty. Similarly short work will be made of several relatively minor pacts, all of which are scheduled to be signed Friday afternoon: agreements to expand air travel, coordinate tax enforcement and set up a joint program to study the oceans.

Then, on to the hard work: Germany. Bush says he will start with rhetoric, simply trying to persuade Gorbachev that membership of a reunified Germany in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would not threaten Soviet security.

Behind the scenes, however, several more concrete ideas are in play.



At the end of World War II, the four victorious allies--the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France--agreed to divide occupied Germany into four zones. In the early days of the Cold War, the three Western powers united their separate zones into West Germany, which was allowed to rearm as part of NATO’s defense against the Soviet army. Moscow, meanwhile, turned East Germany into its most powerful ally in the Warsaw Pact.

Now, although about 340,000 Soviet troops remain in East Germany, the two Germanys are moving rapidly toward becoming one nation--Western, capitalist and a member of NATO.

U.S. Position

The Bush Administration argues that a united Germany should have all the rights of any other country. The four wartime allies would lose their automatic right to station troops in Germany and would give the Germans full control of Berlin, the still-divided former capital. Full sovereignity would also give Germany the right to decide the international alliances to which it should belong. Bush has adopted this policy knowing that the Germans plan to stay in NATO.

Soviet Position

The Soviets keep changing their ideas about the specifics of what they do want, but they have remained constant on what they do not want: Germany, their traditional adversary, united and a part of NATO.

In the end, the Soviets might have to yield to what most Western analysts see as inevitable. Once the Kremlin finishes withdrawing its forces from Poland and Czechoslovakia, it cannot keep troops forever in East Germany, isolated and cut off from supply lines.


First, while the Administration and the Germans used to resist all talk of negotiations to limit the size of the German army, Bush now will promise Gorbachev to get such negotiations started.

Second, Gorbachev says he cannot pull troops out of Germany quickly because no housing exists for them at home. So, the Germans may decide to help build housing for them simply to get the Soviets out.

Third, NATO plans a full “strategic review"--new plans for the new era in Europe. Bush likely will brief Gorbachev on the new plans, which would move NATO forces further from Soviet borders.

Fourth, for more than a year, Gorbachev has been pushing for an expanded role for the 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Bush is expected to embrace that idea.