SOVIET UNION: The View from Moscow

  • Share
  • Read Later

"When they treat you with great courtesy, it is not an accident," said Henry Kissinger last week after his return from a secret four-day mission to Moscow—and Kissinger had been treated royally. After landing at Moscow's Vnukovo airport, he was whisked to a compound of official VIP guest houses in the Lenin Hills. There he was fed caviar ("I'd do anything for caviar, and probably did," he cracked later), entertained with films, taken on limousine tours through Moscow, and shown the guest apartments in the Kremlin where President and Mrs. Nixon will stay when they visit Moscow on May 22. More important, he talked with Soviet Party Chief Leonid Brezhnev for a total of 14 hours—longer than any other Western diplomat.

Brezhnev's warm welcome for Kissinger, and evident determination to carry on with the approaching summit despite the hotter war in Asia, provided a fascinating measure of how the Soviets adjust the priorities of their often conflicting foreign policies. To a large degree, of course, the Russian eagerness for the Nixon visit reflected Moscow's fears that Peking and Washington could become allies, to its disadvantage. But it also showed a fundamental emphasis in Soviet policy upon a detente with the industrialized West, from which Russia urgently needs help for its own development.

Delicate Act. The Soviet interest in summitry does not mean that the Kremlin will alter its policies elsewhere. Despite an apparent Washington-Moscow understanding on the resumption of the Paris peace talks (see THE NATION), the Soviet Union is certain to go on supplying the arms to North Viet Nam that drain the U.S. by keeping the war alive in the South; in fact, there are reports of increased Soviet arms shipments to Hanoi. The Russians will also continue to gladhand their way through much of Asia in an effort to isolate China and establish a Russian influence in areas where U.S. power is receding. Moscow is engaged in a delicate balancing act, opposing the U.S. and China simultaneously in Asia, while trying to reach an accommodation with Washington in some other spheres. Hence, the Soviets have just about everything to gain, and almost nothing to lose from their initiatives toward the U.S.

Kissinger returned from Moscow with the impression of Brezhnev as tough, elemental, shrewd and in command of his material. He also came back convinced that the Russians are interested in progress with the U.S. in three basic areas.

> The control of strategic nuclear arms. The Soviets apparently want to reduce the economic burden of the arms race by an interim agreement that would set a ceiling on the number of ABMs (antiballistic missiles) which each side may have in its nuclear arsenal. A preliminary agreement will probably be signed during Nixon's stay in Moscow. In addition, the Moscow communique at the close of the summit is expected to include a statement of intention to freeze the number of ICBMS.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2