Eduard Shevardnadze has made few visible personnel changes since taking charge at the Soviet Foreign Ministry. The men he has taken on his first two major foreign trips, for the most part, were top advisers to his predecessor, Andrei Gromyko.
Accompanying Shevardnadze to New York and Washington is Georgi Kornienko, one of the two first deputy foreign ministers and a senior expert on American affairs who has served as head of the ministry's U.S. department and in the Soviet Embassy in Washington.
Viktor Komplektov, one of eight deputy foreign ministers, accompanied Shevardnadze to Helsinki last month. Like Kornienko, Komplektov has a background in American affairs. He served six years in Washington and was also head of the U.S. department.
Present at both sets of meetings was Sergei Tarasenko, one of several deputies in the U.S. department, who is now one of Shevardnadze's special assistants. Besides expertise in American affairs, Tarasenko has experience in the Middle East.
Also with Shevardnadze in Washington was Albert Chernyshov, a political adviser to the foreign minister who served under Gromyko.
So far, Shevardnadze has done nothing to challenge the position of the so-called "American mafia" that had come to dominate the top positions at the Foreign Ministry, reflecting Gromyko's own interest and experience in American affairs.
Georgi Arbatov, head of the government's USA and Canada Institute, was seated next to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev during his recent interview with Time magazine correspondents and editors, further sign that Arbatov's influence has expanded under the new leadership.
Anatoliy Dobrynin, the longtime Soviet ambassador to Washington, continues as a top adviser. In Helsinki, he sat next to Shevardnadze in his first meeting with Secretary of State George P. Shultz and gave a rare press conference -- lending his skill at western-style give and take to the new Soviet public relations effort.
Dobrynin is widely assumed to be returning to Moscow in the near future, although surely not until after Gorbachev's summit meeting with President Reagan in November. But Soviet officials refuse to speculate on when he will come back and in what capacity.
Given their heavy schedule of meetings with U.S. officials this summer and fall, the Soviet decision to stick with its current team is not viewed as surprising by diplomats here.
"Continuity is the watchword," said one western diplomat, surveying the people who have made the transition from Gromyko to Shevardnadze.
But while the American experts still hold the top rungs of the ministry hierarchy, there has been a marked emphasis in public statements on shifting the focus of Soviet foreign policy away from the "prism" of U.S.-Soviet relations to a more diffuse, multilateral approach.
In other areas as well, however, Shevardnadze has kept the ministry's existing personnel. So far, only three new ambassadors have been named. Two are Foreign Ministry veterans and one, Boris Stukalin, is from the Central Committee's propaganda department.
Western diplomats report that a new, hard-working style has become apparent at the ministry. Officials appear to be spending more time at their desks.