2 Soviet leaders in harmony, Strauss says

August 28, 1991|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Sun Staff Correspondent

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine -- At least once and probably twice during U.S. Ambassador Robert S. Strauss' 40-minute meeting with Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin Saturday, the two were interrupted by phone calls from Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

The Soviet president was in the throes of resigning his position as leader of the Communist Party and reorganizing a government tainted by last week's failed coup, and he wanted Mr. Yeltsin's advice on personnel appointments and other matters they were handling together, Mr. Strauss said.

If Mr. Gorbachev resented this new power-sharing arrangement with the one-time challenger who saved his job -- and maybe his life -- he gave no sign of it, said Mr. Strauss, who met with both men during his five-day visit to Moscow.

"They seemed to easily understand that they . . . don't have to be in love with each other to work well with each other and to know that they have to for the good of the country," he said.

Mr. Strauss said he told President Bush and his national security advisers yesterday morning that Mr. Gorbachev had seemed like someone who "went into surgery or was hospitalized or out of touch for 72 hours . . . and woke up and massive changes had taken place."

The first day or so after Mr. Gorbachev's return from the Crimea after the coup, "he appeared a bit slower because he wasn't fully sensitive to all the changes that have taken place," Mr. Strauss said.

By Sunday, however, as Mr. Strauss left to return to the United States, Mr. Gorbachev seemed "on top of things, as he should be."

Mr. Yeltsin was "exceedingly strong and dynamic from the moment I arrived," Mr. Strauss said.

Mr. Strauss wouldn't guess how long the alliance between Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Yeltsin might last.

"They've had their differences, but they know that they must work together, and they're dealing with it in a very sober and a very mature way," he said.

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