A month ago the world paused to watch the drama of the first superpower summit in six years. Now Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev are preoccupied with domestic concerns, officials in Washington are recovering from bureaucrat's exhaustion, and a period of hiatus has set in before the two sides gear up for the second round of summitry next year.
While waiting for the season's festivities to end, the Soviet Union and the United States are keeping their relationship on an even keel. The Soviets have eased up on their personal criticism of the President, say US officials, and the ``thaw'' produced by the successful get-together is yielding some progress on a number of bilateral issues, such as cultural exchange and trade.
But administration officials are acutely aware that the clock will soon force an acceleration of summit preparations and decisions.
In January, US Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze are expected to hold the first of many meetings and, among other things, work out the date and agenda of the next summit. On Jan. 16 the nuclear arms and space talks will reconvene in Geneva, providing the first real test of prospects for an arms control agreement.
Adding to the uncertainty on arms control is the departure of Robert C. McFarlane as national-security adviser. Administration officials say that his successor, John Poindexter, is extremely able but it will take time to sort out whether he can play the same kind of role in helping to ease the internal bickering that has frustrated progress on arms control.
``Bud [McFarlane] had a unique ability as a broker in an administration that has serious bureaucratic conflicts, especially in East-West relations and arms control,'' says one administration official. ``So his departure is regrettable. It's not clear how things will work out.''