Belgrade — During President Carter's visit here today, Tito's successors will be trying to convince him that the policy of nonalighment established by the late Yugoslav leader has not changed.
Yugoslav policy, they will tell him, remains independent nonalignment and a wish for good relations with both power blocs.
They will also convey to Mr. Carter the hope that the "personal" rapport established with the late President Tito's own visit to the White House in March 1978 will be continued though Marshall Tito himself is no longer on the scene.
Significantly, the news media have been stressing the frequency with which the two presidents exchanged views by personal letters in the subsequent two years. It is evident the new Yugoslav leadership would like such a correspondence to continue.
The US visit will last little more than 24 hours. Mr. Carter arrives early today and takes off at about the same hour Wednesday.
In that short time there can be only a broad exchange of views, with the international situation, especially Afghanistan and its effect on detente, obviously in the forefront.
The trip is viewed by many as a fence-mending mission on Mr. Carter's part. The Yugoslavs felt slighted last month when he did not attend President Tito's funeral.
At present there are no major problems in bilaterial relations between the United States and Yugoslavia. Both say contacts during the Carter administration have produced the best atmosphere between the two since World War II.
It might be said that Afghanistan seems to have brought Belgrade and Washington closer to accord in the international arena. Despite Yugoslavia's staunch commitment to nonalignment, the two agree on who is at fault and what has to be done to reduce tensions between the superpowers.
Despite Cuban objections and Indian qualms, the Yugoslavs are attempting to promote a nonaligned initiative based on the UN vote condemning the Soviet invasion.
The Yugoslavs still regard the Olympics boycott and other American moves to bring pressure on the Russians as unlikely to help. Indeed, they fear they may prove counterproductive.
But from the start they brushed Soviet criticisms and polemics aside, and they have not altered their stand that the invasion is an unacceptable interference with Afghan independence and that the prerequisite for repairing detente and working out some political solution in the region is Moscow's total withdrawal of troops.
The invasion of Afghanistan has, in fact, brought Yugoslav-Soviet relations to their most sensitive point in many years. Neither Mr. Brezhnev's assurances when he was in Belgrade for President Tito's funeral nor a Pravda article recalling the Kremlin's acceptance 25 years ago of Yugoslavia's right to choose its own "path to socialism" have removed doubts here about future Soviet intentions in the region.
At this writing, Belgrade is as skeptical as Venice or Washington about the Tass announcement that certain Soviet units are to be pulled out of afghanistan.
Also noticeable is the way the Yugoslav view the missile controversy between the United States and West Germany. They may agree with Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, as some have remarked to this writer, that a Soviet-US standstill until the deployment date for missiles in Western Europe could conceivably be a step toward trying to slow the arms race.
But they are aware of the argument of other NATO members that the question of NATO missiles was settled when the Soviets upset the existing balance by deploying more SS-20s.
Considering the present confrontation between the superpowers the Yugoslavs will be glad to hear President Carter reaffirm on their soil US concern and support for this country's continued independence and territorial integrity.
They don't want more -- except in terms of trade.
Neither Yugoslavia nor the US, comments the newsmagazine Nin, sees "friendly relations and cooperation" as meaning being closer in any bloc sense. Tito always sought to hold a prudent balance between the superpowers. His successors will do the same.