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.