Gone are the heady days of October, when the U.S. and Soviet delegates to the East-West conference on human rights - Arthur Goldberg and Yuli Vorontsov - strolled about the conference center arm-in-arm.
As the conference adjourned today until Jan. 17. Vorontsov waited until Goldberg had left town, then called a press conference to attack the U.S. delegation. Asked to assess Goldberg's personal contribution, Vorontsov grimaced and replied: "Let's talk about something more pleasant."
Despite this deterioration in personal relations, delegates to the 35-nation conference believe that some real progress has been made in the past 10 weeks.
The main gain. Western diplomats argue, is that whether the Russians like it or not the happiness of the individual has become recognized as a legitimate subject for international negotiation. Previously, specific cases of human rights violations may have been rights violations may have been raised privately in bilateral contacts between two countries' leaders. But this is the first time the United States has consistenly attacked human right violations in the Soviet bloc at a multilateral gathering.
American delegates welcomed a Soviet counterattack depicting the United States as a society where human rights are flouted on a massive scale. In the Communist view, anybody who is unemployed or homeless is deprived of an elementary human right.
By illustrating this point at the Belgrade conference with examples drawn from the United States, they tacitly accepted the right of one country to comment on another's internal practices.
East European diplomats refer scathingly to Goldberg as "the judge." They have been angered by what they describe as "the judicial tone" in which the former Supreme Court Justice delivers his blast against human rights violations in the Soviet bloc.
For his part, Goldberg has privately expressed irritation at repeated Soviet threats of a possible breakdown in the conference if too much attention is paid to human rights. Soviet delegates have claimed that the American delegation has virtually ignored the first two sections of the Helsinki declaration dealing with European security and economic cooperation.
The repeated charges and counter-charges, combined with protracted procedural arguments, undoubtedly led to a waning of public interest in the conference. One East-West clash over human rights, after all, sounds much like any other.
Perhaps the main importance of the Belgrade meeting is that it is being held at all. Both sides agree that the Pledges contained in the Helsinki declaration acquire greater importance from the mere fact that they are subject to regular review.
"Just us sitting here and talking inevitably focuses public attention on the Helsinki Final Act. It can hardly be a coincidence Helsinki monitoring groups - in Czechoslovakia, Romania, and the Soviet Union among countries, said a Western diplomat.
Diplomats concede that the Belgrade conference is a clumsy instrument for international diplomacy. No decision can be made without the full consent of all 35 participating states. The work of some 400 diplomats and highly-paid technical staff can, and has been held up for days just because Malta wants more attention paid to Mediterranean problems.
Then again, for all the talk about debating human rights, no delegation can be forced to reply to a question, however many times it is repeated. There was a dialogue all right, but it was largely a dialogue of the deaf with each side stating its own point of view of great length in infinite variations.
For all its faults, there is no other way the Belgrade conference could work. The time-wasting principle of consensus has also been hailed as a new form of international diplomacy. In contrast to the meeting of the big powers at Lalta and Postdam after World War II, each country, however, small, has a right to be involved in decisions that affect its interests.
The right of any delegate to talk about anything he chooses, though often wearisome, can also work to the West's advantage. It effectively prevented the Soviet Union from pushing through a proposal last week that would have guillotioned further discussion on human rights violations.
One possible gain - strengthening the Helsinki declaration - is still in doubt, however. Western delegates have few illusions that most of their bolder proposals emphasizing human rights will be rejected by the Soviet bloc. But it will be difficult for them to reject everything out of hand.
Most of the Western proposals are aimed at securing practical advances on the Helsinki declaration. For example, where the Final Act calls for applications for family reunification to be deal Western proposals specify that this should mean not more than one week for urgent family meetings and not more than three months for marriages between citizens of different states.
Soviet delegates have argued that they would be more receptive to such proposals if the meeting had been allowed to proceed in a "constructive manner" by which they mean if polemics over human rights had been avoided. As it is, Vorontsov has said he will reject all proposals that he considers were made for propagandistic aims.
They reply to that it, in the words of one Western diplomat: "If we had settled for an uncontentious review of implementation, we would also have ended up with an uncontentious final documents."
Whatever the Belgrade final document contains, Western delegates are emphasizing that the Belgrade conference is merely the first stage in a long process of reviewing the Helsinki declaration.
The details of the next review conference have still not been agreed, but it seems likely that it will take place within two to three years, possibly at ministerial level.
As a Western delegate remarked: "We may not wind up getting as much as we hoped for her in Belgrade. But this has largely been a precedent-setting exercise, and at least we have succeeded in setting some useful precedents for the future."