By Peter Grier, writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
THE Bush administration is proceeding on the assumption there will be no change in United States-Soviet relations, despite uneasiness caused by Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze's abrupt resignation and warning about gathering forces of dictatorship.
The thawing of the cold war has often seemed a uniquely personal endeavor of Shevardnadze and Secretary of State James Baker III, but Mr. Baker moved quickly last week to emphasize that, as far as he knew, arms agreements and other diplomatic work in process would move apace.
At the same time, Baker said some "worrying signs" have been apparent in the Soviet Union for some time, and "we would obviously be foolish not to take the warning in Foreign Minister Shevardnadze's resignation seriously."
In Washington the affable Shevardnadze has been the symbol of new Soviet thinking in foreign affairs, in some ways more highly regarded than Mr. Gorbachev. The timing and nature of his resignation were an unwelcome shock, coming as a reminder that the Persian Gulf is not yet the only part of the world the US needs to worry about.
The NATO alliance has staked much on the policies of Gorbachev and his allies, and if the Soviet Union turns rightward or is plunged into economic and social chaos, planning for the much-vaunted, so-called "new world order" might turn out to have been in vain. Prospective military reductions and progress toward an inclusive Council on Security and Cooperation in Europe could be stopped in their tracks. Immediate US concerns raised by the Shevardnadze resignation center on two things: action in the Gulf and arms control agreements that are almost completed.
On the Gulf, the Soviets have already backed a United Nations resolution allowing use of force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. But any change in their attitude could split the so-far strong stance of the anti-Iraq alliance, and perhaps further encourage Saddam Hussein to hold fast.
Shevardnadze has been a staunch supporter of US Gulf policies, pushing to reverse overnight decades of Soviet support for Iraq. This is one of the main points that conservatives and the military held against him, and his departure will probably lead at least to a cooling of Soviet rhetoric concerning the Gulf, particularly if his replacement is Yevgeny Primakov, currently the Foreign Ministry's chief Arabist. As of this writing, the new foreign minister had not been announced.
"Primakov's views are very much seen to represent those of elements in the Soviet bureaucracy that have opposed Shevardnadze's pro-US tilt, not only on the Gulf crisis, but on a range of other issues from Eastern Europe to arms control," says John Hannah, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. …