Washington — ``Gorbachev Sees the United States.'' A sort of whirlwind tour of America, suggests a leading arms expert, is how the Reagan administration views a second superpower summit meeting.
But six months after the summit in Geneva, says Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, the United States and the Soviet Union appear caught up in crosscurrents of conflicting objectives that complicate another get-together.
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev seems to be seeking progress on nuclear arms control as a way of easing pressures on the Soviet economy, satisfying his military, and wooing public opinion abroad.
President Reagan, for his part, wants to show the Soviet leader around the United States to ``open his eyes'' to the nature of American society, including its productive capacity and peaceful intentions.
``So the two sides are really very far apart,'' says General Scowcroft, who chaired the President's 1983 commission on strategic nuclear forces. This, he says, may account for the back and forth on a summit, ``with Gorbachev trying to squeeze something out of the administration to make him look good and the administration maybe not wanting or unwilling to . . . make future steps on arms control.''
Scowcroft, national-security adviser to President Gerald Ford and former aide to Henry Kissinger, says there is still a struggle going on within the administration over US-Soviet relations. The President decided several years ago that he wanted to pursue better ties with Moscow and go down in history as a peacemaker, Scowcroft says. But, he adds, he has not changed his opinion of the Soviet Union or of individual issues such as arms control.
The President's Strategic Defense Initiative, or ``star wars,'' has still not worked its way through the administration, he says. So, on the one hand, there is considerable US rhetoric about Soviet violations of arms pacts and, on the other, a US reluctance to undercut the unratified SALT II treaty.
``So . . . we're halfway in between another attempt to see whether one can develop productive relationships with the Soviet Union or whether we ought to say they are an unreliable partner, arms control has given us nothing so far, and instead we have to rely on our own devices. . . ,'' he said in a breakfast meeting. Scowcroft says the administration is pleased with what happened in Geneva, where the two leaders established a personal rapport but accomplished little of substance. Now the administration would like to repeat the exercise.
``It's a little harder to do it again because . . . you can't continue to have `fireside summits' without anything coming out of them. . . ,'' he says.
In Scowcroft's view, there are indications Mr. Gorbachev may want to do something serious about arms control. None of the four new appointments to the Politburo, for instance, represents the military. This suggests the Soviet leader may want to get the lagging economy under control by changing the allocation of resources as between the civilian and military.
It is not clear, says Scowcroft, whether Gorbachev needs simply the rhetoric of arms control or the substance of it. But he appears interested in a period of fairly stable relations with the US so that he can consolidate his power and deal with the economy.
The Chernobyl nuclear accident, Scowcroft says, somewhat increases Gorbachev's economic problems. It may impact on other nuclear plants and increase Soviet energy concerns at a time when the USSR's chief foreign-exchange earner -- oil -- is under pressure.
But, he says, it is doubtful Chernobyl will affect Gorbachev politically in the near term. The Soviets operate on the theory that the leadership can do no wrong, he says, and a lot of scapegoating will probably go on.
Despite current uncertainties, Scowcroft says, there is still likely to be a summit, because Gorbachev does not want to be seen blocking it.