Summer diplomacy explores summit along road to 1984
This has been safari week in world affairs. The West German chancellor has been exploring in Moscow, the US secretary of state has been exploring in the Middle East, the American vice-president is back from exploring the mood in Western Europe, and President Reagan's special negotiator for Central America went down there again on Thursday.
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's expedition to Moscow was particularly important. He is the first NATO head of government to call on Yuri Andropov since the latter ascended the throne of supreme power in Moscow. The first purpose of the mission is to try to discover whether Mr. Andropov is likely to be a long- or short-term Soviet leader.
Any light Herr Kohl can find on that subject will help him and his NATO colleagues make up their minds about the second purpose of the exploration - to find out whether an East-West summit is something to be thought about seriously.
There would of course be little purpose in beginning to plan a summit if Mr. Andropov were not likely to be running things in Moscow for long. Mr. Andropov started out in Moscow the way former Pope John Paul I did in 1978 when he threw open the windows of the Vatican ''to let in some fresh air.''
Mr. Andropov has succeeded in raising the level of productivity in several areas of Soviet industry. But mostly that was in the early months of his reign. Of late his ''reforms'' seem to have lost momentum and there have been recurring reports about his physical condition.
Back in Washington pressures seem to be building on President Reagan to think in terms of a summit with the Soviet leader, preferably next spring, when such an event would help counteract Mr. Reagan's hawkish image which seems to exist in the American electorate, particularly among women. If he could don the robes of peacemaker just before the 1984 party conventions, his reelection prospects presumably would be further enhanced.
But all that is only a political pipe dream unless Mr. Andropov is running the show in Moscow at that time, and would be willing to take part in the summit.
In other words, Washington awaited with interest the report on the Kohl visit , to be brought to the White House by German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher.
Secretary of State George Shultz's explorations in the Middle East had an equally long-term implication. The President's plan for peace in the Middle East has been blocked totally by the refusal of Jordan and Syria to have any part in it. Mr. Shultz had originally been scheduled to return directly to Washington from Asia. He was told to stop off in the Middle East on his way home to try to find out what if anything might persuade President Hafez Assad of Syria to change his mind.
President Assad is a stubborn man. He has no intention of doing anything that could appear to be accepting an expansion of Israel's territory beyond the pre- 1967 borders - if that. He is still in an official state of war with Israel. He seems to think that he has nothing to gain and everything to lose from taking part in any deal that would formalize Israel's territorial acquisitions.
About all Mr. Shultz can do is tell Mr. Reagan that President Assad is determined to stand on his present position, and can probably do so indefinitely. The only way the US could persuade him to change his mind would be , presumably, by pressuring Israel into pulling back from all its conquests.
The idea of such pressure on Israel from the Reagan White House would be unrealistic at any time. With a presidential election coming up next year, it is a White House unthinkable.
The return to Central America of US special envoy Richard Stone is remarkable for one feature. He is stopping first in El Salvador, then moving on to other points in the area.
There are hints, unconfirmed, that during his 10-day trip he will meet with representatives of the leftist insurgents in El Salvador. Speculation around the State Department is that he has presidential authority to explore for the possibilities of a negotiated arrangement between the regime, which President Reagan backs, and the rebels.
The prospect seems remote that the White House would consider terms the insurgents could accept.
Can you imagine insurgents coming openly to the capital of El Salvador for talks so long as the infamous ''death squads'' continue to practice their trade nightly? A promise of amnesty could seem less than reassuring under such circumstances.
However, public opinion polls in the United States seem to indicate declining public support for President Reagan's program of crushing Marxism in Central America.
No politician likes to go into an election campaign carrying an unpopular foreign venture on his shoulders. Mr. Reagan's advisers on US domestic politics are known to wish that he could acquire a less bellicose image before the 1984 campaign gets going. Mr. Reagan could change his image most easily by backing away from his present policy of seeking military solutions to the turmoil in Central America.
He could spring forth as a harbinger of peace if he could cap a change of policy in Central America with a summit meeting with Mr. Andropov next spring.
We are witnessing another lesson in how American foreign policy is generated out of domestic US politics.
Ronald Reagan took office in Washington in January of 1981 breathing oratorical brimstone and fire at the Soviets and yearning to crush Marxism in Central America with guns. But neither has proved popular. Political pressures are pushing him into a less bellicose posture. At the very least his people are thinking about a summit with Mr. Andropov as a possible plus.
They would also like to see him win a peace in the Middle East. But that of course is only a ''will-o-the-wisp.''