Europe is caught up in a whirl of diplomatic activity as leading East- and West-bloc statemen converge to examine -- and possibly cool -- such heated political issues as Iran, Afghanistan, and the Mos cow Olympics.
Both Eastern and Western Europeans are becoming increasingly nervous over the slide in relations between Washington and Moscow, and, as a result, between their respective blocs.
Thus they see this week's meetings, highlighted by Edmund S. Muskie's first journey as the new US secretary of state, as the first useful pause in the dangerous drift in E a s t - W e s t relations.
The international diplomatic ball game that began briskly last week with the funeral of nonaligned leader and communist maverick Joseph Broz Tito resumes in two key European capitals: neutral Vienna and Warsaw, one of the most sensitive capitals of the Soviet bloc. The two events are closely related.
Vienna, noted for its statues, fountains, and magnificent palaces, is celebrating not only the jubilee of the 1955 treaty that neded postwar Allied-Soviet occupation of Austria, but also 25 years of neutrality.
What emerges from the Warsaw Pact summit that is bringing President Brezhnev and all the East European leaders to the Polish capital Wednesday and Thursday is bound to have considerable bearing on Friday's meeting here between US Secretary of State Muskie and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko.
It will be the first contact between the superpowers since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December.
Mr. Muskie is coming to Europe amid a strong groundswell of Western opinion that it is absolutely essential to make a determined effort to revive detente.
The US position -- reiterated by President Carter in Philadelphia May 9 -- is that any really meaningful dialogue remains out of the question while Soviet troops are in Afghanistan. In this the NATO alliance is firmly behind him.
Although adamant on Afgahnistan, Mr. Carter had indicated that detente "remains our goal" and that he wanted to keep talking about arms control, including SALT II ratification.
His philadelphia speech prompted two Soviet replies. The first harshly accused him of "unbridled militarism and anti-Sovietism." The second reply was a notably restrained call for "frank and honest dialogue" in a sober" atmosphere.
This seems certain to be repeated in Mr. Brezhnev's speech at the two-day Warsaw Pact conference, although nothing the Soviet leader and his East European allies said in Belgrade offered hope of any foreseeable early compromise over Afghanistan.
But the milder tone would seem to suggest a more conciliatory Soviet approach , if only to convey real interest in the Vienna meeting that follows.
The Warsaw summit is likely to produce:
* Strong emphasis on Russia's legitimate concern for security on its southern flank as its raison d'etre for being in Afghanistan.
* Refusal to withdraw until Afghan "independence" is guaranteed against "outside interference," meaning from the US as well as China and Pakistan.
* Proposals to revive detente in Europe, possibly including a gesture at the East-West force reduction talks (resuming here Wednesday after a two-month adjournment) and a call for an all-European disarmament conference along lines already proposed by the Poles.
Their 25 years of neutrality have given the Austrians their greatest domestic political tranquility and economic advance in their history.
Why the Soviet Union was finally persuaded to agree on the treaty is still debated. Mainly, the motivation was Nikita Khrushchev's desire to persuade the West he meant what he said about coexistence. In his memoirs he wrote:
"The Austrians gave me credit for having played a leading role in the decision to pull out of Austria, and they were right. They didn't have any idea what sort of internal struggle had taken place before we signed the peace treaty. . . ."
Austria's experienced Chancellor Bruno Kreisky sees some parallel between the tense international situation of the 1950s and today's. He strongly supports Mr. Schmidt's call for a return to superpower dialogue before things get worse.
For -- as he wrote in the London Observer May 11 -- "In these days of growing international tension, of dark fears and terror, this is an anniversary that justifies the belief that there is another way."