29 SEPTEMBER 1984, Page 14

Gromyko's dialectic

George Szamuely

Happy days are here again! This week, Mr Gromyko pops round to see Presi- dent Reagan; and even as he does so the air is thick with talk of future summits between the heads of state of the USA and the USSR, of regular high level meetings between top Soviet and US officials, arms control negotiations to cover almost every class of modern weaponry, and general bilateral talks to deal with any remaining outstanding problems.

That life seems to be returning to normal was signalled a few weeks ago by the sudden downpour of Soviet abuse that descended on the hapless Bonn govern- ment. It really was quite like old times again. Once more German nationalism is the greatest threat to world peace; once more the German people, it seems, are uniquely gifted in instigating trouble. So the Germans are out of favour again whereas the Americans are back in favour. The lugubrious face of Helmut Kohl ex- presses, in a way no words can, German glumness at this dramatic change of for- tunes.

Now, as a matter of fact, I think the German Chancellor can be reasured. Re- cent developments are extremely en- couraging for the future. The Soviet mind is dialectical — its pronouncements are pervaded by ambiguity; as if hiding from the bright light of the world, it prefers to

communicate by means of paradoxes. Statements do not necessarily have to be either true or false; sometimes the truth encompasses one proposition as well as its opposite. This dialectic is discernible not only in the conduct of Soviet foreign policy but in the mind of each and every Soviet citizen, including Mr Gromyko.

Consider this: not so very long ago the Soviet leaders devoted a lot of time and money in attempting to persuade Euro-

peans, West and East, (and this most definitely included the Russians) that they had more in common with each other than either had with the Americans. Wasn't Uncle Sam, they argued, stationing his missiles in the hope of being able to fight or, at the very least, to limit a nuclear war to our continent? And what could they understand of the wretchedness caused by the partition of Europe? Of the heartrend- ing cases of families broken apart by the division of Germany? Otherwise would they have been callous enough to bring over their missiles and thereby endanger the tiny but precarious improvement in relations between the two Germanies? Oh and what about the lucrative trade between East and West Europe? After all the Americans do not stand to lose jobs or money through any disruption of this commerce. No wonder they take such a high and mighty line with us all the time. This argument, incidentally, is signifi- cantly different from the one the Russians used at Helsinki. There it was all about the division of Europe into two camps being now ratified and the post-War settlement observed. The Russians were to rule in one half, the Americans in the other, and nobody, neither the two superpowers nor any of the respective minions, was to upset the apple cart by proposing, say, to leave NATO and join the Warsaw Pact, or vice versa. To European ears this sounded, as it was probably meant to, like a vote of no confidence in them: European affairs were. too important to be left to Europeans to' settle among themselves. Let us then take this line of reasoning and call it the thesis, the first step to the dialectic.

The antithesis must then be the argil' ment outlined above. Since the ideological division of the world had split apart the great European family, it was up to each individual member to do its utmost to heal the wounds and assist the reunion. The American people, who are not really in- volved in any of this, and who, in any case lack all sense of history, can contribute very little. The destiny of the Europeans lies only in Europe hands. And the synthesis? Well, there are these one billion Chinese (one quarter of man- kind, you know) and any assistance Y011, might offer us, whether in the form 01 direct help in doing them in or, at the verY least, spending so much time in quarrelling among yourselves, that we can have a clear run without worrying too much about You lot, would be much appreciated. So how would such a dialectic translate itself in the mind of Andrei Gromyko as he wanders from reception to reception, look- ing into the faces of these genial peoPle' whom he has known so well and mistrusted for so long? He will no doubt smile t°, himself when he realises just how bored these Americans have become with West- em Europe, at the impossibility by now of the Europeans ever being able to d° anything to persuade Uncle Sam that they take their own defence seriously enough to merit US military intervention on their

behalf. Ah good, the optimist in him will no doubt say, so it will be all quiet on the Western front. No, bad, the pessimist in him will disagree, for might not this turn out to be the incentive the Americans needed to accelerate their already clearly visible change of interests and push for an alliance with those dreadful Chinese? Be- sides who will then be able to restrain West Germany? Without their nuclear umbrella, the Germans will cease to feel obliged to remain a non-nuclear power. And anyway those Pershing 2 missiles are already in Germany. Might they not, in such cir- cumstances, be turned over, quietly and without any fuss, to Bonn's control? Perhaps they already have . . ?

But surely, the optimist rises to the challenge, the US wants to talk to the USSR as one superpower to another. Isn't that good, we'll be able to spend a good deal less on defence next year simply by signing a fbw arms control agreements? No, bad, his interlocutor replies; the West Europeans are going to start complaining about the superpowers ganging up on and about how insecure they feel, and how the Americans don't really understand the ideological nature of the Soviet State, and how the Russians are so hostile to the West, and how they are in the front line. . . Last time they started on this lark the result was the arrival of those wretched American missiles in Germany, among other places, ostensibly to provide that Schweinsvolk with yet more security.

But look, the optimist finally cries in exasperation, Reagan no longer calls us evil, he wants us to be friends. And anyway, the more time he spends with us, the less of it he will have to devote to the Chinese. How about that? I'm afraid not, the pessimist will gravely conclude the dialectic (and judging by Gromyko's melancholy countenance it must always be the latter who triumphs), you see, the Chinese believe time to be on their side, they think the US mood will change, particularly when the Americans come to suspect, as they surely will, that they are only engaging in these negotiations at the behest of those spineless Europeans.

And as Gromyko boards his plane for Moscow perhaps I, as a non-practising dialectician, can lend my voice and urge him to cheer up. Anything he can do to dispel the preposterous idea, unfortunately entertained by many Germans, that the reunification of Germany is wholly a Ger- man problem, to be settled by Germans, must be encouraged. To the extent that any US-Soviet summit reinforces the be- lief that the fate of Europe is inextricably linked to that of the superpowers, its occurrence, however rare, is heartening. There are two dangers to European peace. One is the disappearance of US military power from this continent, and the other is the perpetuation of the silly idea that Germany has a unique role to play in bringing the two halves of Europe together.