WASHINGTON — Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev hosted a lavish dinner at the Soviet Embassy on Wednesday night for President and Mrs. Reagan that climaxed with the Kremlin leader breaking his teetotaling tradition to cordially raise a glass to the President and toast: "Until we meet in Moscow."
But Gorbachev, who had described his summit meetings with Reagan as "so far, so good" earlier in the day, used his formal, 10-minute toast to signal that serious differences remain on substantive issues. The Soviet leader said the talks are taking place in a "frank and businesslike atmosphere"--apparently using Kremlin diplomatic code words for disagreement.
"It is my impression that we have made headway on a number of important issues, and this is cause for optimism," Gorbachev added. "At the same time, in some areas, we remain far apart."
Yet he said the Soviet people know how to appreciate generosity and friendly words, adding: "Peace and cooperation are much wiser than confrontation and unfriendliness."
Reagan Recalls Victory
Reagan, for his part, recalled the Soviet-American victory over Nazism at the close of World War II that he said united the people of both countries in "exultation and thanksgiving" and spoke the traditional Russian drinking phrase: Vashe zhdorovye --to your health.
It was a hearty welcome for the Reagans and about 70 other guests, including many from Congress and the White House, that included gobs of caviar and cases of vodka and champagne. The event included a performance by Yelena Obratztsova, a Bolshoi Opera star.
Still, the evening had a more somber tone than the glittering state dinner given at the White House on Tuesday night for the visitors from Moscow.
The Soviet gala, for example, was marked by dozens of large men wearing dark suits and dark looks hovering at the edge of the crowd, ostensibly providing security in an embassy already heavily guarded by American police. Arriving cars were checked at concrete barricades blocking traffic on the normally busy street where the embassy sits.
Raisa Gorbachev Cordial
Raisa Gorbachev, however, beamed as she greeted American and Soviet guests in a golden two-piece evening dress. Nancy Reagan, after a week of reports that the two first ladies have had chilly relations, formally rejected any suggestion that she and Mrs. Gorbachev might have been anything less than the best of friends. Nancy Reagan wore a two-piece black dress with a blue-gold design.
The dinner proceeded with the trademark briskness of the Soviet Union--somewhat unfamiliar to most Western guests--where prompt arrival is expected and there is no extended chatter before dinner is served.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci, National Security Adviser Colin L. Powell and Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led the Administration's representatives.
Dignitaries in Attendance
From Capitol Hill were House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.), House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.), Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.). California industrialist Armand Hammer, who has known Kremlin leaders since the days of Lenin in the early 1920s, was one of the few private citizens invited.
During Gorbachev's toast, Reagan followed the Russian delivery with a written English translation. Raisa Gorbachev, who has been teaching herself English, helped Vice President George Bush do the same, telling him when to turn the pages.
Former Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin, seated near Bush, suggested that they drink the toast with the leading alcoholic beverage of his country, vodka.
"I am for that," Bush replied, and they both sipped part of their glasses in salute to the next summit meeting of Reagan and Gorbachev, anticipated next spring in Moscow.
Bush Shrugs Off Question
Earlier, Bush had smiled and shrugged when a reporter asked if attending the dinner would help his presidential ambitions, saying, "Gimme a break."