Secretary of State Cyrus Vance arrived last night for talks with the Kremlin on limiting strategic arms. While the U.S. delegation expects no major breakthroughs, it clearly hopes for some progress to improve the atmosphere between the Carter administration and the Soviet leadership.
The Soviets have been saying for the past few weeks that relations are at a symbolic "crossroads" and that the Americans must make some substantial consessions at the talks for things to improve.
Vance, accorded a cordial airport welcome by Soviet Foreign minister Andrei Gromyko, made brief remarks that underscored the limit nature of the American's aims in coming.
"Complex and difficult problems remain in the SALT negotiations," said Vance. "I hope my visit here will make progress on the remaining issues." Both nations have responsibility "to broaden the cooperative aspects of our relationship and to find ways to regulate its more competitive aspects." he said.
The muted arrival was in marked contrasts to the first Vance visit here 13 months ago, when even before the talks began, the Carter administration unveiled sweeping proposals for reshaping the nature of the agreement both nations hand been wrestling over since 1974.
Those proposals were turned down angrily by the Soviets, ringing a sour note in the Kremlin's relations with the Carter administration that time has not muted.
American officials indicated that they will be satisfied if there is progress on several of the major SALT issues, so that further talks can take place next month between Gromyko and Vance at a special U.N. session on disarmament in New York.
In this context, Vance's talks with Gromyko and President Brezhnev are unlikely to break the deadlock over the Soviet Backfire bomber, a plane that the Soviet maintain has only tactical uses and the Americans contend can be used to drop nuclear weapons on the United States. The issue has become a political lighting rod in the United States, with political dimensions that can only be solved by President Carter and Brezhnev, according to observers here.
Vance also talks about Soviet military ventures in Ethiopia and Angola and the presence in Africa of an estimated 37,000 Cuban troops and 1,000 Soviet officers. The secretary of state came here on the last leg of a diplomatic mission that has taken him to Rhodesia, South Africa and Tanzania to seek solutions to the black-white strife in Rhodesia and to shape further u.s. efforts to change the South African goveernement's apartheid policies.
Cuban Foregin Minister Isidoro Malmeirca met yesterday with Gromyko and Angolan leader Agostinho Neto met with Brezhnev amid unconfirmed reports of continued Soviet activities in Africa, possibly including increasing support for Rhodesian guerrillas.
The Americans arrived with their spirits somewhat buoyed by the Senate passage of the Panama Canal treaties. Some sources suggested that if these talks can get stalled arms negotiations going again, there may yet be a meeting between Carter and Brezhnev later this year to sign a new accord.
Reuter added from Moscow:
Vance announced that he will return to London on Sunday to discuss the questions of Rhodesia and Namibia (Southwest Africa) with British Foreign Secretary David Owen.
A senior official on Vance's plane flying to Moscow said other Western foreign ministers in the five-nation contact group on Namibia will probably meet Monday.