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A new chapter in East-West ties

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Three different things with no direct relationship happened on one and the same day this week. Taken together they tell us both that the summit in Geneva is a watershed event, and why. First was the chummy, genial first meetings of the two top men from the two super capitals of power. Second was the Congress in Washington sending a $1 billion Navy appropriation item back to the Pentagon. Third was a pair of Soviet-built MIG-23 fighter planes shot down by a pair of United States-built F-15 fighter planes.

The three events all happened on Tuesday, Nov. 19. It was coincidence that Congress sent a naval request back on the same day that President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev were exchanging jokes about the weather in far-off Geneva. It was coincidence that US weapons won another dog fight against Soviet weapons that same day in the Middle East. But the act of Congress and the incident of war help to explain, if only symbolically, the geniality in Geneva.

The act of Congress makes an already familiar point. President Reagan's big arms buildup has gone pretty much as far as it can go. The time is past when the Congress would vote anything that the Pentagon wanted. The diplomatic leverage of military power has reached its peak for Mr. Reagan. He is not going to get any more by waiting a year than he already had in his diplomatic hand in Geneva this week. A wise investor knows when to invest his assets. Plainly, Mr. Reagan went to Geneva ready to start inve sting his accumulated assets.

The outcome of a single aerial dog fight proves little about the relative quality of the competing weapons. A good pilot in a MIG-23 would probably win against a poor pilot in an F-15. Technically, the 2-to-0 score in the air over Lebanon on Tuesday proves only that the Israeli pilots in the US-built aircraft shot first.


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