The U.S. government has decided to delay the planned transfer of U.S. Ambassador Arthur Hartman to Moscow, according to authoritative sources here, following the naming of Communist ministers to the French government.
The sources said that Hartman, a career diplomat who has been here since June 1977, would be kept on in Paris for up to six months because the Reagan administration has recognized the need to keep an ambassador who is familiar with the French scene.
The expectation is that the Moscow post will be kept open for Hartman. Letting the Moscow ambassadorship go unfilled for a relatively long period is an interesting byproduct of keeping Hartman in Paris, the sources said. It sends the Soviet Union the message that, as far as the Reagan administration is concerned, the Soviets are not behaving well enough for Washington to have much to say to them, the sources noted.
The news about Hartman comes in the midst of a groundswell of accusations in France that the United States is mixing in French affairs and trying to dictate its will to President Fracois Mitterand. Cited as evidence are official U.S. statements that having Communists in the French Cabinet for the first time since 1947 inevitably will alter the "tone and content" of Franco-American ties.
The State Department communique issed Wednesday and reaffirmed in press briefings -- as much to the displeasure of the French -- has created a kind of "sacred union" around Mitterand. Pierre Messmer, a respected former Guallist prime minister and defense minister, called the State Department text "totally unacceptable," a phrase that was repeated by Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson.
"As a Gaullist," said Messmer, one of the main leaders of the opposition in the National Assembly, "I cannot accept the commentaries of any foreign country on the composition of a government in France."
Cheysson complained that the U.S. action had given "our Soviet friends" a chance to depict themselves, by objecting, as "the defenders of noninterferance in the freedom of expression of peoples." He suggested that someone in the Kremlin sould send a thank-you note to Washington for its services.
Mitterand reacted angrily late yesterday while speaking to reporters who accompanied him on a pilgrimage to the graves of villagers massacred by the Nazis in his old parliamentary district. "The American reaction is mine. The more that the decisons of France are free, the more France will be respected."
The French leader said he would not be any more concerned about foreign reactions in the future than he was in this case. "People have written that Reagan is angry. So what? If Reagan sneezes, so what? I'm not going to stand at attention," he said.
He said that France and the United States have common interests that are not at the mercy of passing events. "The Americans are far away, and they don't understand our developments," he added. "All this is a momentary mood."
He said he understood "very well" the U.S. concerns about the spread of communist respectibility in Western Europe. "But I'd like for them to understand me as well as I understand them."
"It is obvious," Mitterrand said, "that the Communist Party has goals that are different from mine, but the Communist ministers are not there to carry out their party's goals. . . . I don't want to surrender to specters. Those who voted for me are French people like the rest. Must I give in to historical antagonisms? . . . I want to make history by moving forward."
mitterand's statements were apparently also made necessary by worry about negative reactions from the Communists to comments by Cheysson. He had likened them the previous day to errand boys, saying, "In a company, the guy who runs errands does not know about the management of the company."
But the Communists are on such good behavior that they kept their thoughts to themselves Maxine Gremetz, the party's "foreign minister,' said, "Mr. Cheysson expressed his opinion. I have no special problems with it. Every minister takes care of his own ministry, and there is governmental solidarity. That is the commitment we made."
The mildness of the Communist reaction may also have stemmed from preoccupation with a two-day Central Committee meeting to discuss the low point to which the party has fallen. The Central Committee decided to hold a party congress early next year and pledged that the preparatory debates about the party strategy would be wide-ranging and probing.
There seems to be no question for now of pushing aside party leader George Marchais for his electorally disastrous tactics. He delivered a long defense of his policies at the meeting.
The French press has been reacting even more angrily than the government to U.S. statements. The pro-Socialist newspaper Liberation headlined, "Mitterrand to Reagan: Do You Know Who You're Talking to?" "France is not an American protectorate," said the Communist organ L'Humanite. The conservative Figaro said, "Mr. Reagan will lose his way if he confuses France with El Salvador or the Dominican Republic." Decrying Washington's "open intervention," Figaro said the worry over Communist ministers is small next to concern about maintaining the international balance of power.
Informed U.S. sources insisted that there is no plan or intention to cut France out of Atlantic Alliance discussions. They said the State Department communique was basically rhetorical. But they added that Hartman's anger about its release while Vice President George Bush was in France talking to the government was related solely to the timing, not the content. In fact, they said, Hartman had an important hand in drafting the statement.
A decision had already been made to designate a prominent businessman as U.S. ambassador to Paris, the sources said, but that Hartman is the only foreign ambassador who so far has had a long session alone with Mitterrand, over lunch late last week, before the runoffs of the parliamentary elections confirmed the Socialist Party's absolute majority and before the Communist ministers were named. He was heavily identified with the previous government of president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, and his embassy is known to have badly misjudged the outcome of this spring's French voting.
The Reagan administration does accept Mitterrand's arguments that he brought in the Communists for French domestic political reasons and that he can be trusted to know what he is doing, U.S. sources insisted. Mitterand is believed to feel that he can further reduce the influence of the Communists after their electoral skid by demonstrating his mastery over the party and forcing it to share responsibility for economic hardships France may face in the next year or so.
The U.S. sources said they see the point in forcing the Communists to share responsibility for an economic program that could involve some difficulties. But, they said the U.S. administration is concerned about where the Third World orientation of prominent Socialists such as Cheysson could lead in such areas as Central American and southern Africa. If the new French government starts creating serious problems for Washington in those areas, that, combined with the presence of Communists, could spell real trouble for Franco-American relations, they said.