Moscow doesn't speak for all

November 19, 1990|By -- Los Angeles Times

THE SOVIET Union is moving inexorably into an era of greater political pluralism and probably unavoidable regional fragmentation. Is the United States ready to deal with these profound changes?

Pretty clearly it isn't.

Washington, D.C.'s political and cultural efforts still focus largely on Moscow, and specifically on President Mikhail Gorbachev and his government, even as power becomes increasingly decentralized. More effective U.S. diplomacy demands broader contacts. That requires a more extensive U.S. diplomatic presence.

Washington wishes Gorbachev well, but good wishes are no guarantee of his long-term political survival. The need to develop relations with other Soviet politicians is now accepted. The lesson of Iran in the '70s looms large. The U.S. blundered when, at the Shah's behest, its diplomats shunned the Shah's opponents, who in time became his successors. That mistake must not be repeated.

The sooner Congress acts to approve more U.S. missions in the Soviet Union, the sooner contacts are expanded across the spectrum of Soviet political and cultural leaders, the better will U.S. interests be served.

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