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Sedate Scene at Andrews Recalls Visit by Khrushchev 28 Years Ago

December 08, 1987|DON SHANNON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — In many ways, Mikhail S. Gorbachev's arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Monday was reminiscent of the first time a Soviet leader set foot on U.S. soil nearly three decades ago. That visit, by Nikita S. Khrushchev on a gray Sept. 15, 1959, enabled the American public to witness the ways of Soviet officialdom for the first time.

Gorbachev appeared considerably more fashionable than his medal-bedecked predecessor, but he was hardly the exuberant Western-type of politician that U.S. citizens are accustomed to, particularly in the midst of a presidential election campaign.

Displaying a sharp Soviet contrast to American political style, Gorbachev gave only one cursory wave toward a battalion of cameras and reporters and wore his gray fedora throughout the entire delivery of his formal greeting statement.

Also, a silence pervaded both this ceremony, as it did Khrushchev's, though perhaps for different reasons. In 1957, church and political leaders called on Americans to receive Khrushchev in silence, and the exhortation was widely followed. Although the public was admitted to Andrews for Khrushchev's arrival and the welcome by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the ceremony's only sound was the military band that played the national anthems.

Pauses of Silence

Monday's ceremony included even more pauses of silence because the official welcome will not take place until this morning at the White House, and there was no music or military honors, only a reception by Secretary of State George P. Shultz and department aides.

Given the tight security of the 1980s, no members of the public were admitted to the landing area; even Andrews personnel not on duty for the arrival were barred. The only witnesses were several hundred photographers and reporters, who included notably more Soviet media representatives than were present in 1959.

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