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Geneva Summit Post-Mortems

December 01, 1985

There is reason to believe that Reagan has made it clear to Gorbachev that "Star Wars" is negotiable. There is also reason to believe that the Soviet leader, in return, has indicated to the President that he is flexible on verification.

No other scenario explains so well why these two could come away from the Geneva summit smiling. No other scenario supports the President's statement to the nation that the two of them had agreed on "offensive reductions . . . with tough verification," or the Soviet leader's report to his nation that "the world has become a safer place."

Most of what each leader said to the other may not be known until they write their memoirs, but what they had said before they went to the pool-house and what they said when they came out, is history. Reagan had said that "no cheating" was one of the "broad issues" he would bring up at the summit. He was looking at 40 years of Soviet refusals to agree on arms reductions verified by intrusive inspections, and 40 years of Soviet promises not kept. Gorbachev had said Star Wars would have to go, or else nothing would be accomplished at the summit.

Now the President has reported to Congress and the nation that "We are both instructing our negotiators to hasten their vital work." Do these instructions include backing off on both sides? If they do, both leaders will face a hostile military at home.

We don't know what Gorbachev's real reception at home will turn out to be; we do know that President Reagan has his nation's sanction, in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to go all the way on arms reductions, if he stands firm on verification. What he does with his Star Wars is his business.

Will intrusive verification on the far side of the Iron Curtain be permitted without harassment over the long years of disarmament? Put another way, will Star Wars fade into the sunset along with the ballistic missiles it was intended to destroy? If so, history will say it had remained for a one-time actor to find the bait the bear could not resist. If not, this scenario is only a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.



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