Bitburg boomerang

IF Ronald Reagan has suffered some reverses in recent weeks, it could not have been all smiles and chuckles at the Politburo meetings in Moscow either. In three areas, developments that have seemed to be going the Soviets' way have suddenly boomeranged. The first is West Germany, and President Reagan's visit to the military cemetery at Bitburg. The second is Poland, where Mikhail Gorbachev recently attempted to stiffen the hand of General Jaruzelski. The third is Nicaragua, whose President, Daniel Ortega, visited Moscow last week and got promises of Soviet aid for his country. In none of these cases may things be turning out as well as the Soviets might have expected a week ago.

Let us take first the Sunday visit of President Reagan to Bitburg. The aim of the Soviets throughout the VE-Day anniversary celebrations has been to depict the United States as being in alliance with the remnants of Naziism in West Germany. However ludicrous that might seem in the West, it is the best face the Soviets can put on their continued military occupation of East Germany.

But although the White House was guilty of some incredibly muddled planning, and although the verdict from press and public is not yet complete, the early reading seems to be that for the Soviets, at least, the issue has boomeranged.

As the cameras ranged over the President's activities on Sunday, no rational person could conclude that he was honoring the monsters produced by a monstrous Nazi regime. He made it explicitly clear that he was not. He spoke movingly, as did Chancellor Helmut Kohl, of a need for reconciliation with today's Germans who have repudiated their abhorrent past.

The fact is that by sticking with his decision to visit Bitburg, President Reagan seems to have cemented the relationship between Americans and West Germans. It is this alliance that the Soviets cannot abide. It is this unity that they have gone to extraordinary lengths to crack. They have failed. Despite German demonstrations against deployment of US nuclear missiles, and occasional explosions of anti-Americanism, the ties between the post-Nazi Germans and the US are strong, and possibly stronger after Bitburg.

Meanwhile, Moscow may have overplayed its hand in Poland. Right after a visit to Warsaw by Mr. Gorbachev, the Poles decided to get tough with the US. They expelled two American diplomats, allegedly for taking part in a May Day demonstration in Krakow. What General Jaruzelski may not have counted on was the US expelling four Polish diplomats from the US in return. It looks as though Polish-American relations are heading for the deep-freeze again. While that may initially satisfy Mr. Gorbachev, it may, longer term, put new strains on Poland's relationship with Moscow. Poland without a window to the West may make greater demands on Moscow. These are demands which Moscow, with its stultified economy, may be hard put to satisfy. All this also increases the frustration of those Poles who detest the Soviets, and makes General Jaruzelski's task of maintaining stability in Poland more difficult.

This may be another boomerang for Moscow.

And finally, Nicaragua. Those US congressmen who could not bring themselves to help the anti-Sandinistas, seemed startled when Mr. Ortega expressed his thanks to them by flying off to Moscow and asking the Soviets for $200 million more in aid for his totalitarian Marxist regime. Now there is some second-thinking in Congress, perhaps motivated by some potential questioning from the congressmen's constituents.

Apparently Mr. Ortega's trip to Moscow, and the eagerness of the Soviets to reward him for the postures he has taken so favorable to their own interests in Central America, triggered a reaction in Congress that may now result in some aid going to the anti-Sandinista contras.

Thus the Soviets' aid to Nicaragua may yet turn out to be another foreign policy boomerang which comes zinging back to Moscow. ----30{et

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