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Kremlin faces a second Reagan term

By Gary ThatcherStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / November 8, 1984



Moscow

''It's not, 'You can't deal with the devil,' but, 'The devil's got to fork over something to make it worth your while to deal with him.' '' Thus did a Western Kremlin-watcher sum up the evolving Soviet attitude toward Ronald Reagan - an evolution that began well before Mr. Reagan's sweeping reelection to the American presidency on Tuesday.

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How the Russians respond during Reagan's second term - and what they demand of him - will inevitably alter the tenor of East-West relations for the next four years and beyond.

Reagan says improved relations with the Soviets will be the most important goal of his new administration and called for a summit meeting with Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko.

Mr. Chernenko, speaking at ceremonies marking the 67th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, did not directly respond to the proposal. Instead, he said, ''The verbal assurances of being committed to peace will not be enough.... What is needed are practical actions.''

Indeed, that is expected to be a key Soviet theme as the Kremlin faces a second Reagan term.

The Kremlin is expected to press its claim that Reagan must go beyond rhetoric and take ''concrete'' steps to improve the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Some Western analysts here anticipate a spurt of diplomatic activity between the two countries. Some do not rule out the possibility of some modest progress in specific areas, perhaps even the beginning of negotiations on controlling weapons in outer space.

The consensus here, however, seems to be that there is little likelihood of any rapid resumption of arms control negotiations during the second Reagan term.

The news of Reagan's reelection filtered through the mists of an early winter morning in Moscow as Russians celebrated the anniversary of the October 1917 revolution that ushered in communist rule. Word first reached Moscow through foreign radio broadcasts, and only afterward through the official news media.

Tass, the official Soviet news agency, said that Reagan's professed desire for peace was a ''tactic,'' a ''forced response to the sentiments of millions of Americans who express mounting anxiety over the growing threat of nuclear war....''

The Russians were hardly unprepared for Reagan's victory. And slowly, over the past several months, the official Soviet propaganda line toward Reagan, while by no means softening, has changed. Gone is the formulation that it is ''impossible to deal with'' any administration headed by Reagan.

As it became clear that Reagan was leading in opinion polls, that was replaced with a demand for ''deeds, not words.''

Some here do not rule out a modest ''boost'' in US-Soviet relations following the American elections. Both sides will be eager to be seen as reasonable, they say, and some even predict a brisker pace of dialogue between Washington and Moscow.

It is assumed that meetings will continue between the Soviet and US ambassadors and diplomats in the respective capitals.

''There is a desire to go ahead'' with regular contacts, says one Western diplomat.