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Former Secretaries of State Discuss Changes in Eastern Bloc

October 28, 1989

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) _ Six former secretaries of state agreed that rapid political changes in the Eastern Bloc pose tough foreign policy questions for the West, but they couldn’t say whether the Cold War is dead.

″We shouldn’t be incessantly euphoric about all the welcome changes,″ Alexander Haig told the panel discussion. Haig, Henry Kissinger and Dean Rusk said they did not believe the Cold War was over, despite warmer ties between the United States and the Soviet Union and displays of nationalism and changes in leadership in Eastern Europe.

Edmund Muskie said the Cold War was ″maybe″ over. William Rogers said, ″I’m closer to a yes,″ while Cyrus Vance said, ″It’s ending.″

Vance, who served under former President Carter, said such developments as the non-communist leadership in Poland and the exodus from East Germany indicate a demise of the Cold War mentality.

″In the Cold War, these could never have happened,″ Vance said.

The former officials met Friday at Bates College for the seventh annual Report of the Secretaries of State, presented by the Atlanta-based Southern Center for International Studies.

″I would say it’s ending, but we’re not out of the Cold War,″ Vance said.

The secretaries agreed that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform efforts are welcome, but they were not sure what U.S. leaders can or should do to assist.

″Nobody knows what perestroika is, including Gorbachev, so nobody knows what we’re supposed to be supporting,″ said Kissinger, who served under former presidents Nixon and Ford.

Trying to help Gorbachev could backfire by causing him political problems at home, some of the speakers said.

″The best we can do is assist Mr. Gorbachev at the margins,″ Haig said.

Muskie, the former Maine senator who also served as secretary of state under Carter, suggested that the Soviets need to help integrate themselves with the economies of the West by making the ruble exchangeable with other currencies.

Asked whether the Bush administration is responding quickly enough to the changes in Eastern Europe, Vance said he would like to see Bush speed up his reactions, while Haig encouraged a cautious approach.

In Hartford, Conn., Paul H. Nitze, a retired diplomat, ambassador and arms control negotiator, Friday expressed a lack of trust in Gorbachev, saying the Soviet leader is ″very good at keeping people deceived as to what he’s going to do next.″

Nitze said Gorbachev has essentially become a ″one-man dictator.″

″Nobody can stand up to him today,″ said Nitze, ″and I don’t approve of one-man dictatorships even if they might look as though they’re heading in a benevolent direction toward their own people. You never can tell about dictators.

″We want to be sure that the things that he’s suggesting do, in fact, take place ... before we let down our guard,″ Nitze said before a speech to the World Affairs Center, a group of businessmen and civic leaders interested in foreign policy.

The 82-year-old Nitze, who served as former President Reagan’s adviser on arms control, retired from the State Department on April 30 and now is diplomat in residence at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.

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