The generation-old revolution here has shifted today into a mellower passage, a stage in which the once close bonds of socialist solidarity with the Soviet Union have frayed considerably while President Ahmed Sekou Toure busily lashes together new ties or tightens existing links to the West.
The new directions of Toure's foreign relations are seen by western analysts as a reaction of the 60-year-old Guinean revolutionary's disenchantment with Soviet economic policies involving this mineral-rich country and his desire to promote economic development by attracting western capital after almost 25 years of failing socialist development theories.
Most western countries, such as the United States, are receptive to Guinea's overtures, according to a senior American foreign policy official who asked not to be identified. The West views closer ties with Guinea as bringing a closer identification with an African leader who has impeccable anticolonialist credentials, a loss of Soviet influence on an important African leader and lucrative access to Guinea's richly diversified mineral wealth, the U.S. official said.
Guinea's foreign policy shift coincides with Toure's emergence as a West African regional statesman. It is a role the formerly mercurial and iconoclastic leader could have hardly been expected to play in past years, when he regularly broadcast attacks on conservatives such as Ivory Coast leader Felix Houphouet-Boigny and former Senegalese president Leopold Senghor.
Toure signaled the beginning of the change in 1975 when for the first time in 13 years he traveled outside the country to serve as part of a special mediation commission on the Mali-Upper Volta border dispute. Also during this period Toure ended the Soviets' basing here of reconnaissance aircraft, which were flying over the South Atlantic region.
A senior western diplomat credits the change to Toure's newfound security from external and internal efforts to overthrow him, thus lessening his dependence on the Soviets for support.
Relations between Guinea and the Soviet Union have become "acrid" over a series of differences, a western diplomatic source said. Among the disputes are what the Guineans believe is Soviet use of fine-weave nets to overfish Guinea's territorial waters in violation of an agreement on fishing. They also are known to object to the Soviets demand for increasing amounts of Guinea's scarce foreign currency to pay for the leftover fish they supply to Conakry and the Soviet practice of taking all the income from the Soviet-run bauxite mine at Kindia to pay Guinea's half-billion dollar debt for military hardware.
Toure, upset by the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, is said to refer to the Soviets as "colonists" and "imperialists," labels he once reserved for France and the United States.
Western observers here say they believe the Soviets have lost Guinean support in Africa-wide and nonaligned nations forums. Their credibility on being ready and able to help the development of such countries as Guinea, which the World Bank lists as one of the 28 poorest countries in the world, has been badly damaged, said a senior western diplomat.
A senior U.S. foreign policy official said the Soviets have recently been pushing the Guineans to allow a return of the airplane reconnaissance flights and the use of Conakry as a naval warship base but "have been turned down."
The Guineans "feel victimized by the Soviets" in the two countries' economic relations, another western source said.
In an hour-long interview, Toure did not respond to any of several foreign policy questions that had been submitted--as required--several days in advance. Soviet Embassy Press Attache Agzanov Akhat said, however, that "the relations between Guinea and the Soviet Union are very good and will continue to be good in the domains of economic, cultural and political relations."
Despite the souring of relations with the Soviets and the more conciliatory policy toward the West, Toure has yet to fully warm up to the former colonial power, France.
After a traumatic break at independence in 1958, Guinean-French diplomatic relations were broken in 1965 and were not reestablished until 1976.
Despite a trip by Toure to Paris last September to see French Socialist President Francois Mitterrand--his first trip to Paris in 24 years--political relations between the two countries are of the cool, "correct" variety, said a senior western diplomat.
Part of the problem, diplomats here said, is the bitterness between Mitterrand and Toure stemming from a 1977 French Socialist Party public seminar, chaired by Mitterrand, on Guinea's human rights record. Toure angrily called the Socialist Party a group of "soiled Frenchmen" and characterized Mitterrand as a "new Hitler." Thousands of people have "disappeared" here during numerous purges under Toure in the 1970s, according to the human rights organization Amnesty International.
A group within the Socialist Party, led by former French cooperation minister Jean Pierre Cot, reportedly tried to get Mitterrand to postpone Toure's official visit indefinitely and, when that failed, prolonged the final date with tedious wrangles over details, a western diplomat said. "It is still unclear if their meeting will improve relations as the French are still not giving any aid to Guinea," he added.
Relations with the United States, however, have improved significantly since 1976 when it became clear that Toure "meant to follow real nonalignment" and drop his unqualified support of the Soviet Union, said a senior U.S. foreign policy official.
When Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Chester Crocker made a three-day stopover here in mid-January, he had several long, private meetings with Toure. The Guinean president also flew Crocker to his home village of Faranah, near the source of the Niger River, and to the Kamsar coastal site of the American-led bauxite mining company north of Conakry.
Crocker declined to discuss on the record his conversations with Toure, but a senior official on the same trip said it is clear from Toure's warm reception of the assistant secretary that the Guinean leader "wants U.S. help to develop" this country.
Toure has "been very free in his criticism of the Soviets," the official said during Crocker's visit. The Soviets "have not helped the Guineans much."
An American-funded team of private agricultural experts from the United States is scheduled to arrive here late this month on a trip arranged by President Reagan after Toure visited the White House last summer. The experts are to give Toure a candid assessment of how to turn around the country's stagnating agriculture.
The change in foreign policy also is evident closer to home. After years of acrimonious name calling and mutual accusations of nefarious intentions over West Africa's radio waves, Senegal's Senghor, the Ivory Coast's Houphouet-Boigny and Toure finally patched up their differences in 1978 under the peace-making auspices of the late Liberian president William Tolbert. Toure has maintained his close ties with Senghor's successor, Abdou Diouf.
Toure has played a moderating role with Liberia's 31-year-old military ruler, Samuel K. Doe, after the latter's bloody coup led to the assassination of Tolbert in April 1980. Toure advised Doe to put an end to "all public executions," said one of Doe's confidants recently, and Toure reportedly worked to get Doe accepted by other West African leaders.
Today, in a development that most observers find surprising, Toure "is constantly on the phone talking to Houphouet-Boigny" in neighboring Ivory Coast, said a senior western diplomat. The two men formerly had particularly bad relations because Toure perennially accused Houphouet-Boigny of allowing Guinean exiles to use the Ivory Coast as a base to invade Guinea.
"I understand they usually talk about Organization of African Unity matters," said the diplomat. One of the founders of the OAU, "Toure has remained consistent to his pan-African ideals," he added.