Secretary of State James A. Baker III, offering the broadest view yet of how the Bush administration will deal with the Soviet Union, says the United States plans to test Moscow "again and again" to see whether it will live up to its promises of reform.
"By testing Moscow across the board . . . we can see whether the `new thinking' is real once we get beyond the slogans," Baker said in a speech on Thursday to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.Baker departs Monday for his first round of talks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in Moscow.
At the May 10-11 session, they are expected to set a date for the resumption of negotiations to reduce long-range nuclear missiles and make preliminary arrangements for a summit between Gorbachev and President Bush.
The trip comes amid a dispute in the NATO alliance as the United States struggles with its allies about forging a strategy to deal with Gorbachev's arms control initiatives.
A senior administration official, speaking with reporters about the speech on condition he not be identified, said Baker's speech Thursday was intended as a "conceptual framework" for the superpower relationship.
Baker said it isn't clear yet whether Gorbachev will be successful with his "perestroika," or "new thinking" on matters of democratization and reform.
And, he complained, much of the Soviet rhetoric doesn't match Soviet deeds.
As an example, he cited Soviet actions in Central America, "where the Soviets sent over $500 million in aid to the Sandinistas last year."
Baker applauded moves such as the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the agreement banning all U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe. But he complained about Soviet shipments of long-range bombers to Libya's Moammar Khadafy, Soviet military support of militant North Korea and the Soviet occupation of Japan's Northern Territories.
Taking note of Gorbachev's offers to make unilateral troop reductions and make cuts in his defense budget, Baker also said some 3,500 new Soviet tanks continue to roll off the production lines.
The secretary faulted the Soviets for failing to publish "a real defense budget."