The Soviet Union has summoned its leading ambassadors from around the world to attend a meeting of policy makers at which Communist Party leader Mikhail Gorbachev criticized the recent course of Soviet foreign policy.
Gorbachev's speech, which followed a major shake-up of senior Foreign Ministry officials, examined "the experience of Soviet diplomacy in recent years . . . critically and with party-style exactingness," the official news service Tass reported.
The Tass dispatch said Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze also spoke at the meeting, which began today. Shevardnadze is the newcomer to diplomacy whom Gorbachev selected to replace Andrei Gromyko, who became Soviet president last year.
Gromyko, who was foreign minister for 27 years, apparently did not attend the meeting.
While Tass gave no specifics of the speeches, the wording of the announcement indicated that Gorbachev was moving to assert the control of the party over foreign policy. Kremlinologists generally describe foreign policy making here as a competition among the party, the Foreign Ministry and military and security interests.
In Gorbachev's remarks on the direction of Soviet foreign policy, "measures were determined to perfect its entire practice of implementing the strategic line," adopted at the party congress in March, Tass said.
Ambassadors from Japan, France, Great Britain and West Germany attended the meeting. It was unclear whether Yuri Dubinin, just named ambassador to Washington, was there.
The conference came a few weeks after a major reshuffle of senior officials in the Foreign Ministry and other agencies involved in foreign policy. They included the transfer of Georgi Kornienko, widely regarded as the foremost Soviet expert on East-West and disarmament issues, from the second ranking Foreign Ministry job to the number two post in the International Department of the Communist Party Central Committee. Other important changes were the appointment of two new first deputy foreign ministers and the reassignment of Viktor Karpov from head of the Soviet arms control negotiating team in Geneva to direct a new arms control agency in Moscow.
Tass said several Central Committee secretaries were also present, including Anatoliy Dobrynin, former ambassador to the United States and currently head of the Central Committee's Information Department; Vadim Medvedev, who is responsible for Moscow's links with socialist countries, and Alexander Yakovlev, in charge of propaganda.
The strengthening of the leadership of the International Department of the Central Committee, the party's foreign policy branch, backs up the theory that Gorbachev plans to reassert the party's authority in that field.
In March, Dobrynin was named to replace the retiring Boris Ponomarev as head of the department. Dobrynin has appeared to heighten the department's status and profile. Since returning from 24 years in Washington, he has been highly visible here and has moved quickly to rebuild to the International Department.
In addition to Kornienko's reassignment as Dobrynin's deputy, Karen Brutins, a leading specialist on the Third World and the Middle East has been named to head the U.S. desk.
Major appointments in the Foreign Ministry paralleled the shake-up at the Central Committee.
Anatoliy Kovalev has been promoted to one of the first deputy posts in the Foreign Ministry, Tass announced earlier this week. Kovalev was one of a dozen deputy foreign ministers.
Yuli Vorontsov, former ambassador to France has also become a first deputy minister, Tass said.
The two leading diplomats will replace Kornienko and Viktor Maltsev. It remains unclear who will take over the number two spot at the Foreign Ministry. Maltsev is expected to become ambassador to Yugoslavia, according to diplomatic sources.
In a further change, Alexander Bessmertnykh was promoted from head of the Foreign Ministry's U.S. desk to deputy foreign minister for U.S. affairs.
In addition, the ambassadors in London, Bonn, Peking, Tokyo and several other major capitals were replaced.