WASHINGTON, March 16, 1985 (UPI) - The immediate readings by American and Western officials on new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is of a fresh, capable, and decisive man in a hurry -- but where he is rushing to is unclear.
On the surface, both President Reagan and Gorbachev are sending positive signals about seeking better cooperation and working towards peace between the superpowers.
''Whether it turns out that you can do business is another matter,'' Secretary of State George Shultz said. ''It's one thing to be businesslike, but then we have to find the substance of the issues and see where we can go on them.''
Those issues are the Geneva arms talks, human rights, Afghanistan, trade and superpower conflicts around the world.
''I think Mr. Gorbachev has, understandably, made a point that the keynote is continuity, and he has been part of the group of people and the leadership of the Soviet Union that have produced the present set of policies,'' Shultz said Friday.
Gorbachev accepted invitations to France and West Germany, whose leaders were impressed by him in meetings after the funeral of Konstantin Chernenko.
But Gorbachev made no commitment on Reagan's offer. None was really expected. Gorbachev needs time.
At 54, he has had a meteoric rise through the aging Soviet bureaucracy. But he faces opposition to any major changes in economic or political policy from those who would lose their power or perks in a shakeup. He must put his people in place.
There is no rush to a superpower summit, at least not on substantive issues.
''I think the president would be glad to see Mr. Gorbachev here in the United States at his convenience,'' Shultz said. ''I think it would be a constructive thing.''
In the meantime, Reagan, too, is offering a fresh face, a man who has discarded the harsh anti-Soviet rhetoric that embittered Gorbachev's two predecessors.
''He believes that this is a potentially important moment for U.S.-Soviet relations,'' Shultz said of Reagan's positive view toward Moscow.
''He has begun a new term and his policies are firmly in place; we and the Soviets are back at the negotiating table in Geneva; and now there is a new leader in place in Moscow. So our two governments have an opportunity for a high-level dialogue to deal with specific problems and to achieve concrete results.
''The president firmly intends to work towards a more constructive relationship across the board. Whether anything can come of it remains to be seen. But I think there is an important responsibility on both sides to make every effort to take advantage of this moment of opportunity.''
But Shultz warned against any immediate expectations of a breakthrough.
''There is a natural tendency in the United States to view change with optimism -- we are a nation of optimists and that is good. We also tend to give others the benefit of the doubt, and that, too, is good,'' he said.
''But as we do, we carry along with our good faith and hope a healthy measure of realism -- a realism based upon a history which has not always fulfilled our expectations.''