Any leader of the Soviet Union is inevitably and rightfully an object of worldwide curiosity. That interest is only increased by the secrecy and mystery that traditionally shroud the Kremlin. In the case of Mikhail Gorbachev, the world's attention is intensified still further because he represents a new generation of Soviet leadership, a new attitude and a new style. But until last week, the General Secretary of the Communist Party had never met with Western journalists for a face-to-face interview. Now he has granted that first interview, a remarkably detailed, frank and far-ranging one, to a group from TIME: Henry A. Grunwald, editor in chief of Time Inc.; Ray Cave, managing editor of TIME; Richard Duncan, chief of correspondents; Moscow Bureau Chief James O. Jackson; and the Moscow Bureau's Felix Rosenthal. Their report:
Newly back from a vacation on the Crimean seashore, Mikhail Gorbachev looks well tanned, just a bit ruddy in the cheek. He conveys an image of robust | health and naturally controlled energy. He is solid but not fat. He laughs easily.
He dominates a meeting with three extraordinary tools: eyes, hands and voice. The eyes go into action first. They are an intense dark brown. During conversation they will lock onto a listener and not let go until the listener gives some sign of acknowledgment, agreement--or flinches. The eyes are neither harsh nor kind. They are big and strong, and sometimes quick, too.
The hands have a variety of specific functions. The right often holds the steel-rimmed glasses, occasionally manipulating them when Gorbachev pauses to search for a word. The left hand talks. It can lecture, pointing with one finger, or declaim with the palm up, or thump with its edge on the table, karate style, but always quite gently. It is seldom still. Sometimes both hands work together, the fingers clasped, drumming the table for emphasis.
The voice is extraordinary, deep but also quite soft. Sometimes Gorbachev talks for several minutes in a near whisper, low and melodious. Then, without warning, his voice can cut across the room. It is not angry or bullying, just stronger than any other sound in the room. Occasionally the eyes, the hands and the voice reach peak power at the same time, and then it is clear why this man is General Secretary.
Resplendent in a well-tailored blue pinstripe suit, diagonally striped tie and gleaming white shirt, Gorbachev ushered the interviewers into a large, spare third-floor office lined with cream-colored silk wall coverings. On the walls hung portraits of Marx and Lenin. The center of action was a table flanked by 18 chairs, covered with green baize and amply supplied with plates of sweet pirozhki (bite-size pastries), mineral water, lemon soda and cut- glass vases filled with colored pencils. Extensively briefed by his aides, Gorbachev had brought along typewritten notes ruled in red, blue and green. He also brought an expert: seated next to him was Georgi Arbatov, Moscow's best- known Americanologist. Viktor Sukhodrev, who has served as the top-level Kremlin interpreter since the Khrushchev era, again acted in that role.