Though agenda is set, there's always the question of chemistry
``There's a certain chemistry that takes place when the President and Gorbachev meet,'' says Max Kampelman, head of the United States nuclear arms control negotiating team and one of the participants in next week's summit meeting. No matter how much staff work is done, how many briefing papers are written, and how carefully planned the meetings, says Mr. Kampelman, there is an element of unpredictability that gives summits a character and life of their own.Skip to next paragraph
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That will undoubtedly be true when President Ronald Wilson Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev meet here in Washington tomorrow.
The agenda has been thoroughly prepared in advance. The logistical arrangements - right down to the memo pads and the drinking glasses on the tables - are largely in place. The US government is even going to snatch Soviet domestic television broadcasts from a satellite, so that Mr. Gorbachev will be able to see how the summit is being played back home.
What neither side can prepare for, however, is the chemistry.
It will come into play almost as soon as Mr. Reagan greets the Soviet leader at the White House tomorrow. Over the next two days, the two leaders will cover an agenda that defines the superpower relationship - and shapes its future course.
It is a formula that is, by now, rote: arms control, human rights, bilateral relations, and regional conflicts. The two men will devote one meeting to each of the topics, interspersed with dinners, and then convene for a fifth and final wrap-up session on Thursday.
As a practical matter, however, a senior administration official says that although the entire agenda will be covered, the primary focus will be on nuclear arms control.
Gorbachev will be invited, during the first face-to-face meeting with Reagan tomorrow, to review US-Soviet relations. It is expected that the Soviet Communist Party general secretary will give a general presentation on all the topics to be discussed, and then focus on the latest Soviet nuclear disarmament proposals.
US and Soviet officials are then expected to form small ``working groups'' to discuss each of the four main topics on the agenda, searching for areas of accord that can be translated into formal statements or agreements.
The working group on arms control will be the primary focus of attention. The delegations will be headed by presidential adviser Paul Nitze on the US side and military chief of staff Sergei Akhromeyev on the Soviet side.
Gen. Nikolai Chervov, a Soviet military arms control specialist, says the Soviets will be presenting new proposals during the summit. Kampelman says the US is prepared to study any proposal carefully, and US experts throughout the government are ready to provide quick analysis and reaction.
Meanwhile, tomorrow afternoon, Reagan and Gorbachev will sign the agreement banning US and Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles (INF). The agreement contains some of the most extensive verification provisions ever, including on-site inspections on both US and Soviet territory. Some conservatives, however, have expressed concerns that it does not go far enough. Both the President and the Soviet leader will probably use the summit to plug for ratification of the treaty in the US Senate.
US Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze will be present for some of the meetings between Reagan and Gorbachev, but will also likely have separate meetings, in addition to supervising the working groups.
When Gorbachev is not involved in the formal summit sessions, he will be meeting with US senators and congressmen, businessmen, and a wide variety of other public figures. In addition, he will hold a press conference at the end of the summit that will doubtless be telecast worldwide.