E. Europe watches for post-summit signals
The relief in Eastern Europe -- including nonaligned Yugoslavia -- over the way the recent superpower summit went is tempered with considerable uncertainty among the Soviet Union's allies of what comes next in the new d'etente. An abiding concern, at least for ``progressive'' East Europeans, is the question of what a new spirit and a new flexibility in the superpowers' attitudes toward each other might mean for their own position within the framework of East-West relations.Skip to next paragraph
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``It is a very good thing that Reagan and [Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev talked in the way they did,'' a senior Yugoslav party official said to the Monitor. ``Beyond that we have to wait and see.''
It is in this mood that the visit of United States Secretary of State George P. Shultz is being awaited here. Belgrade will be the last stop in his current eight-day tour of European capitals that includes London, Brussels, Bonn, Bucharest, and Budapest.
Mr. Shultz's calls on the East-bloc capitals are in the spirit of the US administration's policy of approaching relations with the East Europeans on an individual, bilateral basis.
One interesting aspect of the tour is the fact that two East European Warsaw Pact governments will be receving an American briefing on the Geneva summit -- as well as one delivered to them by Mr. Gorbachev.
For officially nonaligned Yugoslavia, Shultz's visit will provide the first high-level briefing from either side. Yugoslavia, as well as Soviet allies Romania and Hungary, will be getting not only an American account of the Reagan-Gorbachev exchanges, but also an American assessment of the possibilities that lie ahead.
Hungary, as the East bloc's most venturesome practitioner of reform, has a special interest in expanding international relations. Well before Mikhail Gorbachev took over the Soviet leadership in March, Hungary had begun to assert a somewhat independent role in international affairs. The climate created by the Geneva summit is viewed as favorable for continuing this role.
In recent years, the Hungarian reform process was constantly slowed down by frequent downturns in relations between the US and the Soviet Union. But the advent of Mr. Gorbachev strengthened the Hungarian resolve to press on with reform and, in the process, to expand already extensive economic -- and other -- links with the West.
East Germany also has been looking westward and seems to welcome the outcome of Geneva.
A year ago, Erich Honecker was due to make the first visit to West Germany by an East German leader. But Moscow persuaded him to abandon the trip at a time when the Soviet Union was concerned about showing an unbroken front against the West. Almost immediately after Geneva, reports that the visit was now back on the agenda appeared in the West German press. Neither Bonn nor East Berlin confirmed them. Nor, perhaps significantly, has the East German government seen fit to deny the story.
If the trip does take place in the near future, it could be seen as indicative of Moscow's latest attitudes toward its allies' bilateral initiatives. Allowing such a visit would relieve East Europeans who are worried about the extent to which they can safely emulate Gorbachev's own flexibility in pursuit of continued dialogue with the US.
A meeting of Warsaw Pact nations in Bulgaria, shortly before the superpower summit, made it clear that the overriding Soviet consideration is maintaining East bloc unity. It is against this that national interests -- namely, those of the smaller nations -- must be balanced. In other words, perceived individual, national interests have their limits. Bilateral contacts with the West must always be consistent with the interests of the socialist community as a whole -- consistent, that is, with the policy i nterests of the Soviet Union at every stage or turn in its relations with the US.
Whatever leeway Gorbachev allows his allies in their dealings with the West, he has seemed to make clear that it is essential that whatever his allies do should be in careful consonance with the general Moscow position.