Soviets hope Communists in France don't rock the boat
The Kremlin has as much reason as the West to hope that the several Communists included in the new French Cabinet don't try to rock the boat. The main immediate thrust of Soviet policy toward France is to seek the best feasible relations with the Communists' senior coalition partner -- the less extreme French Socialist Party of President Francois Mitterrand.
Most analysts here feel that any fundamental change in this approach would presuppose a fundamental rethinking of Soviet foreign policy, a backing away from President Leonid Brezhnev' current pulbic bid to revive "detente" with the West.
Mr. Mitterrand, although uneasy with some aspects of Reagan administration policy, also rejects Soviet military presence in Afghanistan, wants Poland left to chart its course unhindered, and feels that newly deployed Soviet missiles are part of the reason East-West relations remain so thorny.
He has only recently, in the flush of Socialist victory at the polls, moved to patch up a several-years-old feud with the French Communists.
But for the time being at least, diplomats here feel, the Kremlin has some excellent reasons to try to be nice to the new French President, and to urge French Communists to do the same.
The Soviets seem to agree with this assessment, if their public response to the French elections and political consultations of recent weeks is any indication.
First of all, France is an important political force in Western Europe, potentially even more so to the Kremlin at a time when the new administration in Washington is taking an openly hard line toward Moscow.
One evident assumption underlying Soviet foreign policy moves since Ronald Reagan took office has been that West European concern over tension between the superpowers could work as a moderating element in US policy.
The new Soviet missiles that concern Mr. Mitterrand are pointed not at the Americans but at Western Europe.
And although Mr. Mitterrand is not pro- Soviet, he is at least a man of leftist instinct. One of his foreign policy advisers will reportedly be none other than Regis Debray, onetime friend of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara.
Moreover, as long as the Kremlin remains interested in seeking good relations with the people who run France, Mr. Mitterrand must matter far more than the Communists.
He has a legislative majority withouth them. He let them have a minority piece of government only after they has performed what amounts to their third policy voltefacem in about as many years: from hard-line communism, to Eurocommunism, to embarrassed confusion that probably lies somewhere between the two.
The Soviets know was well as anyone that Mr. Mitterrand could prove more tricky to get along with than his conservative predecessor Valery Giscard d'Estaing. The former president, unambiguously mistrustful of the French Communists, also fit in nicely with the Gaullist tradition of "independent" foreign policy.
This worked on occasion to the Soviets' advantage -- as when Mr. Giscard d'Estaing bucked US wishes by holding summit talks with the Soviets after their 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.
Mr. Mitterrand criticized this in campaigning for the presidency. The word here seems to be to treat Paris with kid gloves.