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Romania Cool Toward Gorbachev’s First Visit

May 25, 1987

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Nicolae Ceausescu, who has openly attacked recent Kremlin reforms, greeted each other warmly today as Gorbachev began his first visit to this maverick East bloc nation.

The two leaders embraced and kissed each other three times on both cheeks. Neither made any public statement.

A crowd that state television said numbered in the thousands shouted, ″Hurrah″ and ″Ceausescu, Gorbachev″ for about 20 minutes as the leaders reviewed the honor guard and met diplomats.

Tens of thousands of people lined the motorcade route from the airport to downtown Bucharest, many of them children dressed in folk costumes or the uniforms of the Communist Party Young Pioneers or other official youth groups.

Gorbachev was accompanied by his wife, Raisa. The Romanian leader’s wife, Elena, attended the welcoming ceremony.

The cheering crowd was reminiscent of warm receptions given U.S. presidents Richard Nixon in 1969 and Gerald Ford in 1975. Ceausescu’s face beamed while welcoming Ford and Nixon, but he appeared more solemn when greeting Gorbachev.

Ceausescu’s relatively independent foreign policy decisions have been welcomed by the United States and are thought to irritate Soviet officials.

More recently, the Romanian leader has openly criticized Gorbachev’s efforts to stimulate the Soviet economy by encouraging initiative and private enterprises. Romania’s tightly controlled arts and news media show no sign of adopting ″glasnost,″ the Soviet leader’s policy of openness on selected social topics.

The state Agerpres news agency described the visit as ″a moment of outstanding importance in the history of Romanian-Soviet relations.″ However, Romanian officials gave little advance publicity to the trip.

Soviet flags appeared on some main boulevards late Sunday afternoon, but there were none of the portraits and slogans that traditionally herald the arrival of a Soviet leader.

The Communist Party daily Scinteia waited until Sunday to print a portrait and short biography of Gorbachev.

But officials made sure the capital was spick-and-span for Gorbachev’s visit, as soldiers and civilians worked round the clock Sunday to paint fences, clean shop windows, sweep streets and pave over subway construction.

Gorbachev signaled on his last East bloc visit to Czechoslovaia in April that he is not forcing his allies to copy his reforms, and any strong disagreement with Ceausescu is not expected to surface in the open during his three-day stay.

However, the style of the 56-year-old Kremlin leader differs markedly from that of Ceausescu, who has held power since 1964 and is the object of public adulation in his country.

Romanians’ contact with foreigners is severely limited, making it difficult to assess what Romanians expect from the visit of a man whose reforms have excited many in Eastern Europe.

Soviet Ambassador Yevgeny Tyazhelnikov said Saturday his embassy has received ″a lot of letters″ from Romanians to Gorbachev.

Clusters of Romanians have stopped in recent months outside the downtown offices of the Soviet airline Aeroflot, reading Romanian texts of Gorbachev speeches not printed in full in their own media.

Some Romanians will have a chance to watch Gorbachev in action when he visits a Bucharest factory Tuesday and addresses a Romanian-Soviet friendship rally later that day.

It is not clear whether Romanian television - which usually ooperates only for two hours each evening on weekdays - will broadcast Gorbachev’s activities in full.

But a senior diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said many Romanians ″are eager to have these new winds from the Kremlin blow here.″

The diplomat said that while Gorbachev still faces some resistance to his changes in the Soviet Union, he is unlikely to push Ceausescu into rapid change.

Soviet academician Yevgeny Primakov told reporters in Bucharest on Saturday that the Kremlin is not imposing change on any of its allies. ″All the socialist countries are developing as they think best,″ he said.

In Romania, this has traditionally meant independence from the Kremlin in foreign policy. Ceausescu drew Western praise, for example, when he opposed the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion crushing reform in Czechoslovakia.

Disagreements between the Kremlin and Romania now focus on domestic policy and the economy, despite growing trade ties.

″You cannot speak about the reform of socialism through the so-called development of small private property,″ Ceausescu said May 5. ″Capitalist property, small or large, is capitalist property.″

Romanian officials have stressed they adopted joint ventures with the West and economic self-management years ahead of the Kremlin. But Romanian economic planning remains highly centralized and the role of the Communist Party is supreme.

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