President Carter has quietly reduced the influence of Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin as a channel of U.S. policy to the Kremlin in favour of much heavier use of U.S. Ambassador Malcolm Toon in Moscow.
That means less frequent usage of intimate luncheons with Dobrynin, a technique favored in the days of Henry Kissinger, to signal U.S. intentions to the Kremlin. This move is not retaliation against anything Dobrynin has done. Rather, it is a studied effort to reverse the embarrassing disparity in the Nixon-Ford-Kissinger years between Dobrynin's unchallenged influence and the contrasting impotency of the U.S. ambassador in Moscow.
"Dobrynin understands the United States better than anyone in the Soviet Union." a key presidential aide told us. "But Carter is tired of the Russians' downgrading his man in Moscow."
Pressure by Carter has had this dramatic impact: three separate meetings between Communist Party boss Leonid Brezhnev and Toon in the past year.
Moreover, Carter is pressing Moscow to give Toon as free a run of the Soviet Union as Dobrynin has of the United States. He wants Toon to have cultural and social exposure to the Soviet establishment equal to Dobrynin's exposure here (though, of course, that goal cannot be reached).
A footnote: The expected departure to Moscow of Dobrynin, 58, probably for grooming to take over as Soviet foreign minister, has nothing to do with Carter's demand for reciprocity. Dobrynin is in his 15th year here as Soviet ambassador.
Both the Carter administration's continued blunders in handling Congress and its ideological mindset on national security matters were demonstrated recently when an important committee chairman was snubbed and a very junior member of the committee got the red-carpet treatment.
Rep. Melvin Price (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee never really did get an answer from the President when he gave a private critiqie of the administrations defense program in a closely reasoned letter. Rep. Bob Carr (D-Mich.) of Michigan, a liberal serving his third year in Congress, was answered personally by Carter in two days when he wrote to support the President's opposition to a new bomber.
Price, an undeviating Carter supporter on domestic issues, wrote the President a rare complaint Sept. 15, expressing "deep concern" over defense policies. His worries included abandonment of the B-1 bomber cancellation of the short-range attack missile and vulnerability of the U.S. Minuteman force by "mid-1980s"
A brief acknowledgement of the letter came on Sept. 21 from Frank Moore, chief White House congressional lobbyist. Moore wrote that the President had "directed" him to turn the letter over to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's National Security Adviser.
Then, silence. Not until two months later did Price receive a real answer - not from the White House or Defense Department but from the State Department. A Nov. 23 letter signed by Assistant Secretary of State Douglas Bennet routinely defended the Carter policies.
In contrast, when Carr wrote Carter Oct. 5 opposing a new U.S. bomber, he received an answer over Jimmy Carter's signature Oct. 7