Americans, Soviets plan Gorbachev's US visit, talk trade

Negotiations are already under way here to plan Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's visit to the United States next year. And more than 300 American business leaders are here this week to expand business and trade ties.

These are the most visible signs that both the US and the Soviet Union are, in the afterglow of the Geneva summit, seizing the opportunity to continue to improve ties.

Western diplomats are not giving many details of their negotiations with the Soviets over Mr. Gorbachev's visit, other than to confirm that the discussions are occuring.

But they indicate that the visit will probably take place during the first half of the year, before Washington becomes preoccupied with congressional elections. And one diplomat says the focus is on expanding Gorbachev's itinerary to areas outside the nation's capital.

``We would like it to be Washington, plus'' someplace else, the diplomat says.

The hope, according to another Western diplomat, is to show Gorbachev enough of the US to clear up what some analysts see as his ``misconceptions'' about the US.

Gorbachev ``has strong feelings and a lack of facts about the outside world,'' says the diplomat, and the US is seeking to change that.

Attempts to keep up the momentum in gradually improving US-Soviet relations are not confined to diplomats, however.

Some 384 businessmen -- many of them the top executives of major US corporations -- are in Moscow this week for a series of discussions about increasing trade between the two countries. The Kremlin is also planning a formal dinner to honor the group.

US Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige is among the American visitors for the meeting here of the US- USSR Trade and Economic Council. Many of them arrived Sunday aboard a chartered Pan Am flight.

That is yet another sign of the slow thaw in relations. Pan Am airlines is now making plans to resume regular air service here, perhaps as early as May 1986, as a result of an agreement finalized at the summit. The airline halted operations in the Soviet Union in 1978, and Aeroflot, the Soviet airline, stopped flying to the US in January 1982, when its landing rights were withdrawn.

Immediately following the summit, some American officials expressed optimism that the Soviets were seeking a way to withdraw from Afghanistan. But diplomats here are now expressing some skepticism, noting that, despite talk of the search for a ``political solution,'' the Soviets do not seem to have departed from their standard positions on Afghanistan.

However, officials are somewhat more hopeful about progress on nuclear arms reduction when negotiations reopen in Geneva next month. One Western diplomat notes that there are still proposals and counterproposals that provide a basis for a broad-ranging discussion.

One topic, he says, will be the question of ``what is a space research program, and what is its compatibility with the ABM [Antiballistic Missile] treaty?'' The Soviet leadership, he says, genuinely seems to believe that the US space-based Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, or ``star wars'') would result in offensive weapons in orbit, trained on the Soviet Union. The challenge, he says, is to convince them this is not the case.

Pravda, the official Communist Party newspaper, said US ``unwillingness'' prevented the last summit from reaching ``concrete accords on real disarmament, above all on the central problem of nuclear and space armaments.'' But it called for ``the will to accelerate the work at the Geneva talks'' and said preparations for the next US-Soviet summit should begin now -- suggesting that Moscow, like Washington, is also looking ahead.

Meanwhile, members of 10 families have been told they will receive exit visas to rejoin spouses or other family members in the US. Despite ``procedural problems'' in one case, Western diplomats believe the Kremlin intends to make good on its pre-summit promise to allow the departure of the 13 people involved. There are still many more unresolved cases of ``divided families.''

But, as one Western diplomat puts it, the summit produced ``a mechanism to continue discussions between us.'' And it appears both sides are trying to put that mechanism to use.

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