Falklands: so much for the superpowers
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And that left the British with no effective option. Their territory had been invaded, some 1,800 British citizens held captive by the invaders. London was left with no choice but to send most of what is left of the once-mighty Royal Navy off to the South Atlantic, thereby subtracting a significant naval force from NATO's order of battle in European waters. That was, of course, of some advantage to Moscow which Moscow could and did encourage by backing Argentina at the UN.Skip to next paragraph
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However, Moscow was hardly in a position to capitalize in other ways on the British-Argentine situation as it did with the British, French, and Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956. In that case the Soviets used the Suez crisis as a cover for their own violent, and successful, recapture of Hungary.
This time Moscow is restrained from fresh adventures by uncertainty in its own leadership. The signs have multiplied that Leonid Brezhnev is not at present able to exercise control over the Soviet power system. Maneuvering over the political succession has begun. It is taken for granted in Western diplomatic quarters that Mr. Brezhnev's 18-year reign in Moscow is drawing to its close.
In Washington President Reagan expressed the hope that Mr. Brezhnev would be coming to New York for the United Nations debate on arms control scheduled for late June and early July. Mr. Reagan said he would speak at that meeting for the US. He said he hoped Mr. Brezhnev would speak for the USSR and that the two might have an informal talk together.
From current reports about Mr. Brezhnev's physical condition, it seems unlikely that the Soviet leader will be able to travel to New York in June. It seems more likely that a meeting of the Central Committee now rescheduled in May will witness the resignation of Mr. Brezhnev and the announcement of his successor.
At times like this, when the Soviet leadership is going through an internal struggle over the succession, Moscow is unlikely to take any new steps on the world stage. But there is just a possibility that during the final weeks of the Brezhnev reign he might, if he is still capable of doing it, like to move his government's policy a step or two further toward an arms limitation agreement with the US.
The Reagan remark recognizes the possibility and clears the way, should Mr. Brezhnev be willing and able to do something in that matter.
The American President's own attitude toward dealings with the Soviet Union has obviously been pushed into a sea change by the explosion of antinuclear sentiment through the American political scene. The American public mood has shifted radically from a readiness for more guns and military power to a yearning for reassurance that Washington is not heading toward nuclear war.
Mr. Reagan has recognized the change both by speeding up American proposals for a new nuclear arms limitation agreement and now by saying he would like to meet Mr. Brezhnev. This is a far cry from the early Reagan days when the new President was calling the Soviets liars and suggesting by his various posture statements that he would have no dealings with them.