THE GOOD news out of the superpower summit for President Bush is that U.S. relations with the Soviet Union are now better than they have been since perhaps the Russian Revolution. The bad news is that relations will prove much more complicated than ever.
The Soviet Union is no longer a monolith. That will mean a lot of things. But for George Bush, whose style of diplomacy is to pick up the telephone in an effort to reach out and touch someone, one consequence is that to deal with the Soviet Union in the future, one long-distance call won't do.
The fragmentation: That has been evident for some time now -- what with the rise of Boris Yeltsin in the Russian Republic, the restless Baltic states looking to pull out and the continuing troubles in the other republics. But the empire's fragmentation was dramatized anew Tuesday when Boris N. Yeltsin refused to play Mikhail S. Gorbachev's game of all-in-the-happy-family -- and all in the Soviet president's shadow -- by sharing the lunchtime podium. It was an arguably picayune moment in the history of one-upmanship perhaps, but it made the point that Gorbachev is no Brezhnev, and that today's Soviet Union is increasingly not a bucolic union and even less a Soviet agglutination.