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Take a look around: US-Soviet relations are back to `normal'. Dialogue and trade are back, but don't expect arms accord soon

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Anyone who has ever wondered what ``normal'' relations might be like between the Soviet Union and the United States should take a look around. This condition, after the Geneva summit, is about as ``normal'' as the relationship is likely to be in the visible future. We are back to where we were just before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, but with three differences.

At that time we had a workable arms control agreement in place, SALT II was about to be ratified, and the diplomats were already at work on the preliminary stages of future agreements to follow after.

At that time there was still a vestige of the illusion left over from early ``d'etente'' days that somehow there could be a long-term, tension-free relationship.

Also, at that time the Soviet economy was still moving ahead at a brisk pace and relative Soviet military strength was rising. The US economy was suffering from dangerous inflation and its military posture was suffering from post-Vietnam lethargy.

During the intervening six years those three conditions have been modified. There is no solid arms control agreement in place and no certainty that arms control will be extended. The old illusion of a possible easy relationship is gone. The relative economic and military postures have shifted to the advantage of the US.

Otherwise, a full diplomatic dialogue is back in operation. The men at the top talk to each other and plan to do so again once a year. Consulates will open in Kiev and New York. The Soviet airline, Aeroflot, will again be allowed to fly directly to the US. The US will sell all the grain to the Soviets that they will accept.

At the time of the Afghan invasion, a US party of seven was in Kiev preparing to open a consulate there. A Soviet party of 17 was doing the same in New York.


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