PARIS — Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev pledged a new relationship of cooperation with the United States and its Western allies Monday, but he immediately made clear that for Moscow it will not be a me-too partnership.
Declaring the Persian Gulf crisis a "grave test" for those framing the new international order, Gorbachev nevertheless refused to give President Bush an immediate go-ahead for the use of military force to oust Iraq from Kuwait.
Although Bush pressed Gorbachev hard to endorse a new U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force in the gulf, the Soviet president called instead for further efforts to secure a political resolution of the crisis.
"I think we all need patience," Gorbachev said as the two leaders, who are attending the summit-level Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, began a lengthy dinner meeting that focused on the gulf crisis. If he was not ready to sign on to Bush's timetable during the opening day of the Paris summit, Gorbachev also kept his options open for the future.
"That does not mean that we are going to relax or retreat," Gorbachev immediately added. "No, we are going to demand (Iraq's withdrawal) in a very resolute way.
"And the fact that we are working together--not only the Soviet Union and the United States, but the United Nations and the whole world are acting together--allows me to expect that in this very difficult crisis a solution will be found. And we will not waste time."
The point that Gorbachev made emphatically to Bush, according to senior Soviet officials, was that the time had not yet come for war--and thus, a new U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force was premature, even as a threat.
"We believe that the united front the world has taken in opposing Iraq's aggression is proving effective and that, fully enforced, the sanctions that the U.N. has imposed will work," a Gorbachev adviser said earlier Monday. "We have not exhausted the political means at our disposal, and we must use every such possibility before we contemplate the use of force. . . .
"We believe that this crisis not only challenges the peaceful world order that we see emerging here in Europe, between the East and the West and between the Soviet Union and the United States, but that it is important--very important--for the crisis to be resolved politically in order to incorporate this approach in the pattern of international relations."
Asked whether the Soviet Union would veto a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force, a senior Gorbachev aide told a news conference, "No, we would discuss it."
Vadim V. Zagladin, one of Gorbachev's foreign policy advisers, said, "This question does not really stand before us because we have not exhausted the political and economic measures that are available. We have many possibilities, many ideas, and we will continue on the political path."
In taking this approach, Gorbachev is creating problems for Bush. But he is carefully positioning the Soviet Union in its new relationship with the United States and the West, believing that the crisis and its outcome will not only test the new world order but also shape it.
"Our unity in condemning (Iraq's aggression) and our shared concern over the outcome of the crisis are indicative of a radical shift in our mind-set and the perception of the goals and means available in world politics," Gorbachev told the CSCE gathering. "Any armed attack, wherever it may occur, now serves to close our ranks rather than divide us further.
"In urging the aggressor's withdrawal from Kuwait, we are defending the hope millions of people have begun to pin on the ability of the international community to cope with exceptionally sharp conflicts. Otherwise, much of what we have accomplished in the past few years would be in jeopardy."
Gorbachev told the conference that "today the Soviet Union and the United States no longer act as adversaries but as partners." But he also made clear that Moscow brings to that partnership its own perceptions, analyses and approaches.
The Soviet Union is looking for dialogue based on what Gorbachev calls "common human values" and is seeking cooperation based on equality.
"We are prepared to cooperate, but we will not be led," another senior Soviet official said Monday, referring both to the U.S.-Soviet discussions on the gulf crisis and the evolving relationship. "The Bush Administration may be misreading us on this. We are not the classic ally, we are not subservient, we are not yes men. We want to be partners, and we do have our own ideas and principles."
Under Gorbachev, the Soviet Union has adopted a foreign policy based on the peaceful resolution, if possible, of all conflicts based on what Moscow calls "a balance of interests."