Building a New Europe Will Top Summit Agenda BEYOND ARMS CONTROL
Peter Grier, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
PRESIDENT George Bush and Soviet President Mik-hail Gorbachev meet in Washington tomorrow for a summit where creation of a new world order will be as high on the agenda as management of old problems between the superpowers.
The reunification of Germany, fate of military alliances, and state of the Soviet Union are new-wave issues made crucial by the collapse of communism. Nuclear weapons, third-world proxy conflicts, and other standard summit topics are starting to look old-fashioned as the US and the USSR enter the post-cold-war era.
The centerpiece of the summit will likely be a statement outlining agreement on the main points of a strategic arms reduction (START) treaty. But the building of a new Europe might be the most important thing the two leaders talk about.
"This task is far more important for the world, for the United States, than any of the details of the various arms control negotiations that are now going on," says Michael Mandelbaum, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
When the two superpower leaders met in Malta last December, it was clear that the relations between their countries and their military alliances were changing day by day. Since then Eastern Europe has completed the first stage of its transformation - the throwing off of old government systems - and has embarked on the difficult second stage of creating free markets and free politics where none existed before.
What was less clear last year was the extent to which the Soviet Union itself would be different by the time Mr. Bush and Mr. Gorbachev would meet again. Ethnic unrest from the Baltics to Central Asia, combined with a wild outpouring of political discourse in Moscow, has placed constraints on Gorbachev's behavior that were not there during the Malta meetings, or at least were not as evident.
Thus, probing Gorbachev for insights about what is going on in the Soviet Union will be a top US summit priority. Bush will want to find out Gorbachev's worries about the Soviet economy, US officials say. Bush will raise the by-now obligatory subject of the need for restraint in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
But the No. 1 topic on the agenda will be what the continent of Europe will look like next year, in five years, in decades hereafter. "First, the president will raise our concerns over developments in Europe," said Secretary of State James Baker III at a summit agenda briefing last week.
In recent months the Soviets seem to have become more skittish about negotiating a treaty cutting conventional forces in Europe (CFE); the Bush administration wants to get those talks back on track. …