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Gorbachev Seen by Bush as New Breed of Leader

December 12, 1987|ROBERT C. TOTH | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — As he rode to the airport with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev Thursday night, Vice President George Bush suggested to the tired Kremlin chief that it would be good to get home. But Gorbachev said he had to fly to an East Berlin meeting of the Warsaw Pact "to debrief our allies, just as you do," Bush recounted Friday.

"I asked him if he would take a sleeping pill? And he said: 'I've just been thinking about that.' You know," Bush added, "I can't imagine any of his predecessors being so open as that."

The vice president, who spoke to reporters over breakfast before flying off to Iowa to continue his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, cited this incident to illustrate his conclusion that Gorbachev represents a new breed of Soviet leaders.

'Able to Communicate'

"He is a Russian leader who is able, in an almost unique way, to communicate in the West," said Bush. "He is forceful in making a point but now, on an issue like human rights, he doesn't get angry at questions as he did when I met him just after he took office." Bush went to Moscow in 1985 for the funeral of Gorbachev's predecessor, Konstantin U. Chernenko, and held a brief meeting there with the new leader.

Bush also saw the politician side of Gorbachev up close Thursday when the Soviet leader, as the two men were riding to the White House, abruptly decided to shake hands with pedestrians at a busy Washington intersection. The vice president explained how it came about.

"He was enthralled by the friendly waves from people along the motorcade route. We had been sitting back in his car--'our bunker,' he called it--and he sat forward and began waving back. I said: 'It's too bad you can't go into the stores. I'm sure you'd get a warm greeting from Americans.'

'He Jumped Out'

"And two blocks later, he suddenly said 'stop' to the driver, and he jumped out, he pulled the door open himself, and began shaking hands with people. You could see the Adrenalin flowing. . . . It was very political. Afterwards, he said he did that a lot in Moscow and in the provinces."

In other remarks on the three-day summit, Bush said:

--The medium-range missile treaty will be "overwhelmingly ratified." Some conservative Republican senators such as Steve Symms of Idaho, as well as GOP presidential contender Alexander M. Haig Jr., apparently no longer oppose the pact, he noted.

The Soviets also expect the treaty to be ratified, he said, though they are still somewhat anxious about the process since the last three U.S.-Soviet arms agreements were never approved by Congress.

--As a result of the joint communique, the Administration's Strategic Defense Initiative is not "the ultimate obstacle" to an agreement cutting strategic offensive weapons in half. As President, Bush said he would not abort the "full research program" of SDI.

More broadly, he said, the easing of tensions with the Soviets does not mean it is time to cut defense spending.

--His support of the medium-range missile treaty has angered far-right opponents and "solidified opposition (to his candidacy) among the extra-chromosome set." He said many were especially unhappy that he compared conservative fund-raiser Richard A. Viguerie to the caricature of a Texan as "all hat and no cattle."

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