SOUTH ROYALTON, VT. — For the first time, U.S. and Soviet leaders may be sitting down at a summit table for roughly the same reasons--because each personally needs an agreement that will free them to pay deeper attention to the things the folks at home really want.
When President Reagan's political advisers tell him there's gold in Moscow--a chance to give his final year in the White House the rosy glow of a popular success--they're right. A new arms agreement appears to be out of reach, but that doesn't matter. The U.S. public isn't paying attention to details. What they love about summits are the champagne toasts, the First Ladies in their spring dresses, leaders putting pen to paper--any piece of paper. A ballet exchange is as good as missile reductions. This is peace, official permission to quit worrying about the "evil empire."
They haven't always felt this way, of course. What George Orwell used to call the "big public" is notoriously fickle, but cannot safely be despised. The American people appear to be fundamentally peace-minded, but they can be whipped up by events. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 sent out a long earth-tremor of fear, just as residual shocks followed the Soviet shoot down of a Korean airliner a few years later. These fears now appear quieted by the Intermediate Nuclear Force agreement, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev's determined campaign to convince the world that the Soviet Union is undergoing a fundamental change. Trying to decide whether this change is real or cosmetic has become a cottage industry in academic circles. The military-intelligence Establishment, most suspicious of all, is still muttering over the dark promises of Vladimir I. Lenin to communize the world--that's what they're paid to do. But the big public is in a sunny frame of mind, and Ronald Reagan would find it difficult, from the purely political point of view, to come back from Moscow with a renewed call to shore up the barricades with a huge commitment of money and energy for "Star Wars."