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Movies, Books, Briefing Papers Used to Prepare Reagan for Summit

November 11, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Reagan’s staff has been loading him down with books, briefing papers, personality profiles, videotapes and even Russian movies to prepare him for his summit meeting next week with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

But aides say Reagan’s own convictions and the almost daily talks they have had with him on other pre-summit events seem to have had the most effect on his thinking.

″He has read books for quite a while now,″ said one White House official involved in helping the president get ready for the summit. ″We’ve given him books and articles on the Soviet economy, trade, historical, the role of the Soviet military, the KGB, domestic issues, foreign trade.″

But that official and others, all of whom agreed to discuss Reagan’s pre- summit work on condition they not be identified, said the president’s general views about the Soviet Union have been formed over a quarter century and aren’t likely to be changed during the period they call ″the run up to the summit.″

″His ideas are firm,″ one adviser said. ″He’s supplementing those with exposure to a variety of opinions from experts.″

The White House obtained a copy of a Russian movie called ″Moscow Without Tears″ for the president to watch.

″It gives a very good insight of Soviet life, of a professional couple in Moscow,″ said one official who had seen it and had lived in Moscow. ″It is very close to reality and shows some of the flaws and some of the good points of Soviet society.″

Aides said Reagan also has been shown videotapes of Gorbachev’s public appearances, particularly those he has made in Britain and France, and has seen videotapes ″on the Soviet people and personalities.″

″He is reading biographic assessments of each one of the people he’s going to be meeting with,″ one official said, and he has briefing papers on the Soviet Union’s the top leaders, Communist Party structure, the role of the party and how it interacts at the various levels of society.″

Reagan also has spoken by telephone with former President Richard M. Nixon, who sent him a 20-page memo on East-West issues and his own experiences and the summit. Presidential spokesman Larry Speakes said Reagan also planned to talk to former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford, although an attempt to set up a meeting with his three living predecessors fell through.

The president has dined with Soviet experts from the academic world and has spoken more than once with Suzanne Massie, an author who told him about her many trips to the Soviet Union and her observations about the people there.

And before each meeting with reporters or an outside group, Reagan sits down with his advisers to go over the points they expect him to cover and raise questions they think he will be asked. Going over and over the issues in successive ″prebriefs,″ as they’re called seems to be the most effective method of presenting the issues to the president, one participant said.

But Reagan has revealed little in his public remarks about what he has learned in his preparations.

In one interview, he remarked that he had ″been told that in the Russian language there isn’t even a word for freedom.″ Speakes said later Reagan had been made aware the word for freedom in Russian is ″svoboda.″

And on policy issues, such as his own program to design a space shield to protect the world against nuclear weapons, Reagan has made contradictory statements about the circumstances under which he would deploy such a system, which remains hypothetical inasmuch as the technology does not now exist to build it.

But Reagan’s advisers profess to be unconcerned about his apparent inattention to detail on some of the issues to be discussed at the summit.

″He’s not a Jimmy Carter-David Stockman type,″ said one, referring to two men renowned for their ability to absorb and recall minute details of complex issues. ″But he does have his warhead numbers down, and he knows the comparative missile strengths now.″

″My goodness, they’re not negotiating a treaty,″ said another White House aide. ″It isn’t a court of law. I think the bigger issue is whether they’re able to communicate as two human beings. That will be the measure of success.″

And Reagan himself told Western news agency correspondents he intends to leave the figures on the various arms control proposals to his negotiators at the Geneva arms talks and not attempt to discuss the fine points of those matters with Gorbachev.

Some Reagan aides perceive a danger in overpreparation of the president, which was blamed last year for his stumbling performance in the first campaign debate with Democratic presidential contender Walter F. Mondale. When they ″let Reagan be Reagan″ in the second encounter, he came away with much better reviews.


EDITOR’S NOTE - Michael Putzel is chief White House correspondent for The Associated Press.