W. Europe sees few post-Brezhnev changes
No great changes. This seems to be the universal expectation in Western Europe following the passing of Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev.
''We are looking at it like a change of government in Bonn,'' commented a Western European diplomat stationed here, only half in jest. ''The (Soviet) system doesn't allow for any great upheavals,'' he explained.
This estimate applies across the board. No change is expected in the Soviet arms control negotiating position in Geneva following Mr. Brezhnev's departure, nor in Soviet relations with West Germany, France, or any other NATO country.
Above all, there is certainly no expectation of increased tensions around West Berlin or at any other point along the NATO-Warsaw Pact front. The last thing to be desired by a succession leadership that will be feeling its way both in foreign policy and in internal power rivalry would be adventures that could get out of hand, it is thought.
In Soviet foreign policy in general, and in policy toward Western Europe in particular, the oft-demonstrated Soviet preference for predictability is expected to prevail. Continuity and steadiness will be stressed in the short and medium term, it is believed, along with the cautious consensus style in deciding foreign policy that was Brezhnev's hallmark.
In the medium term the major European issue facing Soviet policymakers will be the arms control negotiations over intermediate range nuclear weapons. First and foremost, this is a question of superpower relations. Insofar as it concerns Western Europe, however, it will involve deciding whether to give priority to compromising with established governments or appealing over the heads of governments to grass-roots peace movements.
Connected with this will be a choice in priorities between driving wedges between the United States and Europe on the one hand, or using Europe to influence Washington's East-West policy on the other. Decisions here will depend primarily on Moscow's evaluation of the new conservative West German government. And this evaluation will probably be held in abeyance until after the planned West German election March 6.