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Williamsburg's gain is Moscow's loss: allies cannot be split apart

By Joseph C. Harsch / June 3, 1983



Nearly two years of a vigorous, sustained, Soviet diplomatic and propaganda offensive to split the NATO alliance over nuclear weapons has failed in its major objectives.

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The leaders of the Western community, gathered in Williamsburg, Va., did not split over the issue. They agreed to continue on their -ordained course, including the deployment of new weapons in Europe unless there is some new arms control agreement with the Soviets by the end of the year.

In other words, if the Soviets want to head off the full planned deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles in West Europe, they will have to bargain for it and will have to give something in return. It cannot be done by propaganda alone.

Their campaign has not been a total failure. There will be more antiweapons demonstrations in the coming months. They may be the largest yet and give governments serious street control problems.

But the leadership at Williamsburg included German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who owes his recent election victory in part to the heavy-handedness of the Soviet propaganda campaign against him. It included British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose pro-NATO stance seems to be one of many reasons that her Conservative Party is heading toward election day with excellent prospects of a clear victory. It included Italian Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani, whose Christian Democrats continue to survive politically on a pro-NATO platform.

Of course, Williamsburg was not all sweetness and light. The relative harmony of this meeting was procured by careful advance melding, compromising, or papering over of sometimes conflicting positions.

In effect, President Reagan had bought support for his arms program in advance. To soften criticism of his weapons buildup and to encourage his allies to push ahead with the new NATO nuclear weapons, he had already agreed to modify his original arms control offers to the Soviets. And he played down his previous effort to line up the allies in a campaign of economic sanctions against Moscow.

Economic recovery - and some skilled diplomatic footwork - helped smooth over discussions about economic matters among the leaders gathered in Williamsburg. But the deep differences on how to climb permanently out of recession were tucked away out of sight.

While primary world attention during the past week was focused on Williamsburg, President Reagan signaled his intention to plunge deeper into the political and military jungles of Central America.

He sacked his two top professional advisers on the area - Thomas O. Enders, his assistant secretary of state for Central America, and Deane R. Hinton, his ambassador in El Salvador. He is replacing Enders with a political associate. He announced a stepped-up training program in Honduras for Salvadorean forces. He lobbied Congress to head off a possible ban on further covert aid to Nicaraguan insurgents.

Reports from the area indicate that the left-wing rebels in El Salvador are at least holding their own despite Mr. Reagan's increased efforts against them. Reports also would seem to indicate that US-backed insurgency in Nicaragua has so far failed to rally significant local public support against the left-wing regime. Certainly there was no end in sight this week for Mr. Reagan's Central American venture.

Nor was there any end in sight this week for the venture that Israel set forth upon one year ago. The invasion of Lebanon began on June 6 of last year. It was intended and expected to bring a quick victory over PLO forces, to be followed by effective control over southern Lebanon leading to security for Israel's northern frontier.

But Syria has refused so far to join in the arrangements which US Secretary of State George Shultz worked out with Israel and Lebanon for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon. Instead of joining, Syria increased its military forces in Lebanon and refused even to talk to Washington's special Mideast negotiator, Philip Habib.

More than that, guerrilla fighting has continued along the margins where Syrian, PLO, and Israeli forces watch each other in the Bekaa Valley. Shooting goes on daily. Soldiers get hurt. And domestic pressure on the government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin grows as the toll of Israeli fatalities in Lebanon rises toward the 500 mark