US-Soviet standoff may trip up summer Olympics in L.A.
Shortly after Konstantin Chernenko took office nearly two months ago, the signs started cropping up. Now, the message seems unmistakable.
Simply put, it is that the gridlock in United States-Soviet relations is unlikely to change in the near future. Now, the 1984 summer Olympics have clearly become embroiled in the bitter dispute between the two superpowers.
This is the latest but by no means the only sign that the Soviet leadership is in no mood for compromise with the Reagan administration during this US presidential election year.
The Soviet National Olympic Committee has called for an emergency meeting of the International Olympic Committee to review what it calls ''gross violations'' of the Olympic Charter by the United States. This has raised the prospect of a Soviet boycott of the Olympic Games - something that would come as a crushing blow to the Los Angeles organizers and a major setback to the games themselves.
Many diplomats here see a boycott as unlikely, especially in light of the Soviets' bitter protests over President Carter's boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
The US boycott of the 1980 summer games in Moscow, joined by many Western allies, was in protest over the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. The boycott sparked numerous protests over the need to separate the Olympics from politics and was seen as a serious setback to international sports competition.
The Soviets, however, have been careful to tie their protest to an alleged American failure to respect the ''traditions, rules, and provisions of the Olympic Charter,'' rather than to the Reagan administration's foreign policy.
The Soviet Olympic committee did accuse the Reagan administration of using the games ''on the eve of the elections for its selfish political ends.'' This in itself may be an indication that the Soviets were considering the political impact in the United States of a possible boycott of the summer games.
The Soviet protest mentioned few specific grievances against the United States government, dwelling instead on the actions of protest groups and the commercialization of the Los Angeles summer games.
However, the statement - carried on Tass, the official Soviet news agency - specifically complained about the denial of a visa to the Soviet Olympic attache , Oleg Yermishkin. The US State Department cited Mr. Yermishkin as a Soviet intelligence agent.
The latest Soviet move comes after a week of steadily mounting criticism of the Los Angeles Olympic Games in the government-controlled press. And it comes on the same day as the publication in Pravda, the official Communist Party newspaper, of some harsh criticism of the Reagan administration by Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko.
Mr. Chernenko, in a front-page interview, used the toughest language since he came to power in denouncing the Reagan administration, arguing that it has no real interest in limiting nuclear, chemical, or space-based weaponry.
In that interview, Chernenko specifically denied that the Soviet Union is waiting for the outcome of the US presidential election. Soviet policy, he said, is ''not subject to transient vacillations.''
Soviet officials say privately that the USSR will ensure that it does nothing to bolster a Reagan candidacy - by, for example, entering into ''cosmetic'' negotiations.
In the meantime, Democratic presidential candidates have been hammering President Reagan on the state of US-Soviet relations. Western analysts say that the Soviets, not unmindful of this, will not miss any opportunity to prize concessions from the administration. The Soviets, publicly and privately, have stressed the need for the US to ''make the first move'' to get stalled negotiations over nuclear weaponry going again.
American officials, however, argue that since the Soviets halted the negotiations, it is up to them to take the initiative in restarting them. To do otherwise, President Reagan said last week, would be to ''reward'' Soviet intransigence.
There are some negotiations going on between the two countries, however, but these are confined to issues such as cultural agreements and the opening of consular offices in the US and the Soviet Union.
The Soviets are quick to point out that on the key issue of limiting nuclear armaments, the two sides are still far apart.
While the standoff continues, the Soviets continue to press their charges of American intransigence. By holding out the prospect of a boycott, the Soviets may be trying to bring even more pressure to bear on Washington.
In a phrase notable for what it leaves unanswered, the Soviet Olympic committee statement said, ''The time is ever nearer for the national Olympic committees to take a decision on participation in the Olympic Games.''