Secretary of State George P. Shultz said Saturday that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev "overreacted" to a recent tough speech by President Reagan, and that U.S.-Soviet relations are on an even keel rather than in any semblance of crisis as the superpowers approach the Moscow summit meeting, now just five weeks away.
Shultz, speaking to reporters aboard his plane during a sightseeing tour of the Ukraine and Georgia, said he had been surprised by the confrontational Soviet news media account late Friday night of his meeting with Gorbachev in the Kremlin Friday."I got up this morning feeling pretty good and ready to go off and see something different, and all of a sudden here are all these strange stories," said Shultz. He added, "I think you could way overblow this."
U.S. participants at the Shultz-Gorbachev meeting said the Soviet news agency Tass quoted almost verbatim from Gorbachev's heated objections to a speech by Reagan Thursday in Springfield, Mass., to the Western Massachusetts World Affairs Council, just as Shultz was beginning his Moscow talks.
However, the officials said Gorbachev's remarks on this subject took up only a few minutes and were not representative of the generally positive tone of the three-hour Kremlin session.
How and why the lengthy Tass account of the Gorbachev-Shultz meeting focused mainly on the strong objections to the Reagan speech is unknown. So are many other things, both large and small, in the higher reaches of the Soviet system, despite Gorbachev's new policy of glasnost, or openness.
State Department spokesman Charles Redman said that late last night, about an hour after the Tass account had been distributed to news agencies, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze was summoned out of a dinner concert in honor of Shultz to take a telephone call from Gorbachev. When Shevardnadze returned, Redman said, he quoted Gorbachev as saying his session with Shultz had been "an excellent meeting." There was no mention of the Tass account. Redman said that earlier, in a dinner toast, Shevardnadze had referred to the Kremlin session as almost a model for diplomatic discussions.