A Sherpa's guide to successful East-West summits
(Page 2 of 2)
Any regular ''adversarial'' summits should be coordinated with leaders of the seven Western nations who meet in ''friendly'' summits each year. And, just as the friendly summits need to be reformed to end their circus atmosphere, a US-USSR event would need to be kept from excessively raising or dashing world hopes. Forethought should be given by both sides to the risk of a later break-off. What would Washington do about a future Afghan invasion or Polish crisis? Moscow about US troop moves in Central America?Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
One Soviet affairs specialist who served in the White House and is now an academic suggests that if a tradition of annual summits is built up, it should be a tradition in which some years heads of state meet, and some years their foreign ministers, defense ministers, or finance ministers meet. With that system, there could be continuity even in time of frosty relations. The head of state could express his disapproval by not going personally, but business could be carried on by the appropriate Cabinet officials. A relationship of this sort existed informally during some of the worst years of the Vietnam war. The Russians carried on so-called ''compartmentalized'' relations even while US bombs fell near Russian advisers in Hanoi and Russian ships carrying weapons to Haiphong.
Brent Scowcroft - the widely respected general who was President Ford's national-security adviser - sees annual summits as hard to start, but easier to sustain once started. General Scowcroft headed Mr. Reagan's strategic weapons commission, and carried a secret message from Reagan to Mr. Chernenko (rebuffed) in March.
''It's one thing to have regular meetings after you have established the precedent,'' he says. ''It's another thing to start them. I don't think you can start them without raising expectations. Had, for example, the meetings of the early '70s (Nixon and Brezhnev) become annualized affairs so that nobody expected too much from them, then . . . you could change the whole character of the meetings. That was one of the blessings of the early Western summits. At Rambouillet, (French President) Giscard wanted the heads of state and one adviser. Nobody else. Now, the last picture I saw, they were wall-to-wall. It changes the whole complexion.''
General Scowcroft, now vice-chairman of the international consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, is also cautious about a type of subsummit meeting often proposed: parleys of the US and Soviet joint chiefs of staff.
''I think it's all right,'' Scowcroft says. ''But I think such meetings are overrated as being fruitful. We've only had one. That was in 1979. . . . I don't see a great deal coming from (such a military parley). But it does little harm, and it could help.''
On the subject of regular, low-key, low-expectation summits for the American and Soviet heads of state, one former White House aide suggests the UN as a site. Every September and October, many heads of state come to New York to speak to the UN General Assembly. They, or their foreign ministers, engage in a round robin of informal talks in national missions or hotels in Manhattan.
It would be easy for Mr. Reagan and Mr. Chernenko to join this crowd and see each other with perhaps less hoopla than in each other's capital or in Geneva or Vienna. It would also be easier for this to become a yearly event of considerable flexibility. Some years the meeting could be at the top level. Other years it could be carried out, as has been the practice, between the two foreign ministers. Popular hope would not rise or be dashed as much by these variations as by the holding or canceling of summits elsewhere.
Earl W. Foell is editor in chief of The Christian Science Monitor.