Back To the Berlin Wall

Reagan rallies with a strong speech

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Reagan professed to consider the summit a success, but he had little to back up his claim. On the subject of the Persian Gulf, for example, the seven issued a general statement championing "freedom of navigation." There was not a word of specific support for the U.S. plan to register Kuwaiti tankers under the American flag and have U.S. warships escort them through the gulf. The Americans made much afterward of the warships that Britain and France for some time have maintained in the gulf, but the U.S. got nothing new from its allies. In a joint statement on a topic new to summit communiques, AIDS, the seven never mentioned any need for expanded testing, despite Reagan's advocacy of it at home. At one of the dinners, Reagan thought he heard Kohl tell him that West Germany would not extradite Mohammed Ali Hamadei to the U.S. for trial. Hamadei, arrested in Frankfurt in January, is suspected of the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jet and the murder of one of its passengers, U.S. Navy Diver Robert Stethem. Aides later ascertained that Kohl had actually said no decision had been made and coupled that with an assurance that if Hamadei is tried and convicted in West Germany, he will get a stiff prison sentence. That was not the rebuff Reagan thought it was, but neither was it what the President wanted to hear.

On economics, the ostensible subject of the summit, Treasury Secretary James Baker remarked, "I can't think of any major item . . . that we came here wanting that we did not get." True, but only because the U.S. knew better than to press the other six for any strong action. Washington had hoped that Japan and West Germany would move to stimulate their domestic economies to ward off a growing threat of world recession and, not incidentally, reduce their towering trade surpluses, which are the counterpart of the U.S. deficit. Japan did announce a stimulative package before the summit, but Britain's Thatcher judged it insufficient. Kohl, harking back to a metaphor from past summits, declared flatly that West Germany "will not be the locomotive" for world economic growth.

The U.S. did win agreement that the seven would keep close watch on a set of economic indicators in each country and consult when growth in any of the seven appeared to be veering far off target. Although Reagan hailed this as a victory, the agreement contained no commitment for anybody to do anything.

The U.S. fared better at a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, that immediately followed the summit. The 16 countries approved the so-called double-zero plan under which the U.S. and the Soviet Union would scrap all intermediate-range (600 miles to 3,400 miles) and short-range (300 miles to 600 miles) nuclear missiles in Europe. Their communique did not even hint at the agonizing intra-European debate over whether this move would make the Continent more vulnerable to Soviet invasion.

The NATO decision brings closer the first agreement to reduce nuclear arsenals. But Secretary of State George Shultz remains cautious. "Problems of verification are very complex," he said in Reykjavik. The U.S. and the Soviets, he added, "are both into discussing things that haven't been done before."

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