The United States and Soviet Union are gearing up for a superpower "battle of the briefings" this week as part of a summit-related public relations contest aimed at U.S. and international audiences.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz's appearance today on CBS' "Face the Nation" was described by U.S. officials as the kickoff of an eight-day Reagan administration campaign to provide U.S.-devised context and content to set the stage for the Dec. 8-10 summit of President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Even before the opening of the public relations offensive, Reagan said in his weekly radio address yesterday that the United States "must deal with the Soviets soberly and from strength and in the name of peace."
The Soviet stage-setting is expected to begin in earnest Tuesday when a team of more than a dozen well-known Moscow figures, many of them fluent in English, is due to arrive. Early information about this Soviet "public diplomacy" team caused the Reagan administration to redouble its determination to provide extensive information to the press and public.
This Monday, a week before Gorbachev's planned arrival in Washington, at least seven major summit-related events are on the U.S. public relations schedule. These include a Reagan luncheon speech, a special Cabinet meeting, separate interviews with Shultz by U.S. journalists from outside Washington and by the British Broadcasting Company, a White House briefing by two senior officials on human rights and bilateral issues at the summit and a State Department briefing by three senior officials on arms control and regional issues to be taken up at the summit.
A similar pace of eight to 10 U.S. events related to the summit is planned for each succeeding day until the start of the Reagan-Gorbachev meetings, according to Stanton H. Burnett, counselor of the United States Information Agency. There will be extensive briefings during the three-day summit as well, he said.
A lengthy summit press kit of written materials, which is nearly as long as a substantial book, is being prepared by U.S. officials. For his part, Gorbachev wrote a 254-page book, Perestroika, which has been published by Harper & Row, to set forth his ideas and policies.
A Soviet Embassy spokesman said he could not yet provide a schedule of briefings by members of the Moscow team, but forecast that they will be readily available to the U.S. and international media gathered here for the summit.
Leading members of the Soviet briefing team, according to the embassy, include Georgi Arbatov, director of the Institute of USA and Canada; Col. Gen. Nikolai Chervov, chief of the arms control section of the General Staff of the Soviet armed forces; Evgeny Primakov, director of the Institute of World Economic and International Relations and an expert on regional affairs; Roald Sagdeev, director of the Institute of Space Research, and Evgeny Velikhov, vice chairman of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
Also included are figures such as Yegor Yakovlev, editor of Moscow News and a leading apostle of Gorbachev's glasnost policy; Sergei Zalygin, editor of the literary monthly, Novy Mir; Abel Aganegyan, an economist; Valentin Falin, chief of the Novisti press agency; Mikhail Ulyanov, a prominent actor and member of the Communist Party Central Committee; Stepan Sitaryan, deputy chairman of the state planning agency, GOSPLAN, and Vladimir Kudryatsov, director of the Institute of State and Law.
Starting Thursday or Friday, a summit press center at the Commerce Department will open to serve the thousands of journalists who are expected to cover the events. USIA has estimated that 3,000 to 5,000 foreign journalists will join a roughly equal number of American journalists in covering the summit, although Burnett said the final number is uncertain and may be below the originally estimated 8,000 to 10,000. The startlingly large numbers include many technicians, primarily for television.
A more elaborate summit press briefing center at the Marriott Hotel is to open Dec. 7, the day of Gorbachev's arrival. Both the White House and the Soviet Foreign Ministry will have offices there, and virtually all official briefings will be conducted there.
"The battle of the briefings dates back to the beginning of the Gorbachev era, but the game has changed in recent months" as Soviet public relations efforts have become more intense, Burnett said. Because U.S. public and political reaction to the summit is important to the Senate ratification debate on the intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) treaty and because European security is at stake in the treaty and summit issues, it is important that U.S. and foreign audiences obtain firsthand U.S. views, according to Burnett.