Behind the olive branch President Bush offered to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in his speech Wednesday night lies a tough policy designed to exploit unrest in the Soviet empire and accelerate the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact.
Essentially, Bush has offered to remove 70,000 U.S. troops from West Germany if the Soviet Union demobilizes 370,000 of the 565,000 troops it has stationed in Central and Eastern Europe.
The rationale behind this brash proposal is the Cold War premise that the Soviet Union never had any business stationing troops across its western frontier. Speaking on condition he not be identified, a top administration official briefing reporters on Bush's State of the Union address suggested that the Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia,Poland and East Germany are an "occupying force."
"There is no symmetry between the positions of the U.S. and the Soviet Union in Europe," he said. "We're not in Western Europe as an occupying force. We're there at the invitation of our allies."
The administration spokesman noted that the reform-minded Czechoslovakian government wants to negotiate the removal of the Soviet garrison, and he suggested that Bush's proposal would be the centerpiece of any summit between Bush and Gorbachev this year.
Considering the strains the Soviet budget and military are experiencing because of unrest in the country's Baltic and Asian republics, Bush's offer may become one Gorbachev can't refuse.
There will be no reduction in defense spending in fiscal 1991, which starts Oct. 1, as a result of removal of U.S. troops in Europe, the spokesman said, protecting the administration's plan to increase research and development of strategic weapons systems.
Hoisting heroic and ambitious themes at discount rates was as much a discipline in the annual message to Congress as it was in the budget message the president released Monday.
Bush set the year 2000 as the target date when 90 percent of the nation's high school students will actually graduate and when American students will "be first in the world in science and mathematics achievement."
The administration will spend $20 million to build a data base with which to measure the nation's progress toward meeting its education goals for the year 2000. While the administration is adding $500 million toward the Head Start preschool program, the White House proposes to reduce overall spending on education.
For all its stress on the future, Bush's speech touched on but offered no material answers to several pressing problems at his threshold -- the shrinking capital pool for investment in American industries, rotting bridges and decaying highways, the growing number of impoverished, poorly nourished children and homelessness.