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Gorbachev to America?

FIRST the reports, then the denials: Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev will make a ``working visit'' to the United States next month for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, then drop in on President Reagan. No, he won't.

Such a visit would be a low-pressure, low-risk way to bring the leaders of the two superpowers together. If Mr. Gorbachev comes to America for a state visit with the President, all hyped to the maximum, and then goes home sans arms control agreement, or some other trophy, it will not look good on his r'esum'e. But why must such anxieties, such great expectations, be attached to a rendezvous between the two leaders? If anything, there would be great advantages to making such visits routine.

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Not that we aren't aware of the logistical challenges involved. Most people, once past the stage of managing their social life by knocking on the neighbor's door and asking, ``Can Johnny come out and play?,'' know how hard it is to get together with friends. Asking Mikhail to come over and play is bound to be more complicated.

But still, wouldn't it help superpower relations for Gorbachev to visit the United States, even if he doesn't meet with the President, even if he doesn't have a specific agenda? Momentous events seldom happen on cue; big decisions cannot always be made according to timetable. All the vacationers trekking across the country may have big plans to see the Lincoln Memorial or the beauties of the giant redwoods or some other wonder. But years after the trip they will find that the memories etched forever tend to be of episodes like the time they missed the ferry but somehow coped, or stopped at the little dairy bar where the baby had his first ice cream cone.

We cannot anticipate what the dividend of a visit by Gorbachev - who could be in power into the next century - may be. Life's like that.

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