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Grin-and-bear policy

Once in a while we get to chuckling uncontrollably at Soviet foreign policy.

Soviet foreign policy is funny in a different way from Washington foreign policy. The Moscow brand has a ballet quality: a clever magician producing a chicken from his sleeve and finding it has laid an egg.

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What would international news be without it? What would a presidential election in the US be without a candidate who stood up to communism? If only Gilbert and Sullivan were alive.

The Soviet Union is currently playing a conciliatory overture to its archenemy, China. This isn't because the Russians have started trusting the Chinese but because the Chinese are sending nasty remarks in their fortune cookies to the US, owing to a hangup over Taiwan.

But the music Brezhnev is composing for China is a concert played with mittens on. What little harmony there might be is surely lost in the explosions from Afghanistan, which, like China, shares a border with the USSR. The music sent out may be a lullaby, but what China will hear is a sort of 1812 Overture.

At the same time Russia is orches-trating policy toward China in the East, it is also playing a persuasive solo on the flute toward the West, promising not to deploy any more missiles, aimed at Europe, in exchange for a zero deployment from NATO. Since Brezhnev already has 300-medium range missiles in position, the NATO ministers have rejected this. But it has a sweet-toned, pied-piper effect on the portions of the population in Europe which want no missiles deployed in their own country.

What is funny in this case is not the bear dressing up in dove's clothing but its actually presenting itself as Europe's protector. From big bully to big brother. A sort of super, Moscow-based NATO.

It gives us the picture of a bear, gently holding a salmon in its mouth, promising never to bite down.

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