The Soviet Union's No. 1 Communist ignored his disputatious French party comrades today during a round of ceremonial visits that included a call on France's leading anti-Marxist politician, Jacques Chirac.
Despite his efforts to build up his Gaullist Party with slashing attacks on the dangers of communism in France, Chirac smiled broadly as he welcomed Soviet President and Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev to the Paris city hall. Chirac is the newly elected mayor of Paris.
Chirac's current standing as a bitter rival of Brezhnev's host, President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, heightened the ideological and political irony that surrounded the second and busiest day of the 70-year-old Soviet leader's official three-day visit to France.
Although some serious diplomacy was conducted, the mood of much of the day was like a classic Parisian bedroom farce, with characters ripping each other up in each act.
Griscard's aides initially sought to block the ceremonial meeting at city hall of Brezhnev and Chirac. But they were outmaneuvered by their former Gaullist ally, who has indirectly but repeatedly attacked Giscard for being too soft on the French Communists, who Chirac says are controlled by the totalitarian rulers of the Kremlin.
Giscard's aides left the city hall of Brezhnev's schedule, saying the Soviet leader was too busy. But Chirac wrote Brezhnev directly to invite a call. The Russians countered with an invitation to Chirac for a luncheon Brezhnev is to give today, but Chirac held out for a visit to city hall or nothing, and later Monday Brezhnev sent word he would come.
Off-stage comments came later in the day from French Communist Party leader Georges Marchais, who announced that he saw no need to meet with Brezhnev "every time he comes to Paris." Marchais also denied a report in the French press that he would soon visit the United States.
[A Franch Communist lawyer, Joel Borker, who has often served as an intermediary between French Communists and other groups, has recently spent several days in Washington. He approached the National Press Club and other groups through American intermediaries to ask if Marchais could speak to their organizations on a trip to the United States this fall, sources in the groups contacted confirmed. There is also understood to be a plan afoot for Francois Mitterrand, the French Socialist leader, to make a tour of the United States in July.]
Diplomatic sources said the Russians apparently had not proposed a meeting to Marchais, who has been critical of the Soviet Union as his party has sought to demonstrate its independence from Moscow. These sources speculated that the Russians were afraid that Marchais would publicly reject such a meeting in a new show of "Euro-Communist" autonomy.
Brezhnev plunged into the prickly thicket of French domestic politics without giving any hint of being aware of or amused by the strange juxtapositions created by his visit, his first trip abroad as president of the Soviet Union and his first to Western Europe since December 1974, when he visited Giscard here.
He tweaked Giscard sharply about press reports of changes in French military strategy to bring Paris more into line with NATO the two leaders opened 2 hours of discussions at the 14th-century chateau in Rambouillet, 30 miles southwest of Paris.
As related by his spokesman to reporters later, Brezhnev told the French president: "A lot has been said recently about enlarging the French presence inside the Atlantic military alliance. A lot has been said about a new French military doctrine of the "forward battle." But this battle - against whom "would it be?Brezhnev asked.
The possibility that French ground forces now stationed near the French frontier in West Germany would be automatically moved forward toward the East German border in the event of an attack along that front was raised last year by the French army chief of staff, Gen. Guy Mery.
Giscard replied that France's defense policy remains as independent as it was under Charles De Gaulle, who pulled France out of NATO's military structures. He noted that none of France's political parties challenged the country's continuing political membership in NATO.
"France's defense system is an independent one of middle size," Giscard added.
While Brezhnev later said the talks thus far had been "good" and gave no sign that any serious friction had developed, the Russians were clearly voicing a real concern about Giscard's modifications of De Gaulle's "all horizons" defense strategy, which theoretically lumped the United States with the Russians as potential aggressors in Europe.
Giscard scored political points off the Soviet leader by reviving his call for a "moderation of ideological competition" within as well as between nations as a condition of detente.
When Giscard publicly stressed the lessening of ideological conflict during his visit to Moscow in October 1975, Brezhnev canceled their meetings for two days and left Giscard cooling his heels. This time, the Russian leader appeared to have let the once-controversial slogan float past him.
Brezhnev's spokesman, Leonid Zamyatin, reported that Brezhnev had told Giscard that the Russians see no chance at the moment for important progress in strategic arm-limitation talks as a result of talks last month with U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.
Brezhnev traveled to the Arch of Triumph this afternoon to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. While he was visiting the French-Soviet Friendship Society, a group of French youths succeeded in burning about 12 of the hundreds of Soviet flags that decked the Champs-Elysees.
There was no official explanation available for the change in Brezhnev's schedule that allowed the brief visit with Chirac. Soviet diplomats have in the past praised Gaullist foreign policy in contrast to Giscard's Chirac served as Gicard's prime minister until August, when he quit in anger partly because of Giscard's refusal to attack the alliance of the Communist and Socialist parties as posing a Marxist threat to French freedoms.
After taking over the Gaullist Party, Chirac defeated Giscard's personally chosen candidate for mayor in March and is building a base for what many believe will be a bid for the presidency in 1981, when Giscard's term expires.