U.S., Soviets Set to Open New Chapter : Space Fears, Hopes for Less Hostility Will Infuse Talks on Nuclear Peace

Times Staff Writer

The arms control talks opening in Geneva this week mark the beginning of a new chapter in Soviet-American relations, a chapter dominated by fear that the two superpowers will carry their deadly competition into space and develop new weapons that could upset the delicate balance on which nuclear peace has rested for 40 years. At the same time, U.S. officials hold out hope that the Geneva talks, protracted as they almost certainly will be, could become a vehicle for ending a decade of bristling hostility between Moscow and Washington.

After four years of harsh rhetoric and unnegotiable proposals, the two governments are now launching a three-pronged effort to curb long-range nuclear weapons, shorter-range nuclear weapons and defensive arms in space. And the talks begin at an urgent time: Even as the diplomats arrive in Geneva, both nations are poised to develop, test and deploy new generations of offensive and defensive weapons that will breach existing arms control agreements.

'Complex, Lengthy'

"The negotiators have their work cut out for them," said Paul H. Nitze, the Administration's principal arms control adviser, in a massive understatement. "The process will be complex and possibly lengthy."

Two factors make the challenge at Geneva more daunting than in the past:

- First, as a result of "technology creep," the seemingly relentless progress in strategic arms development, more accurate and more lethal weapons are profoundly increasing the vulnerability of the land-based intercontinental missiles that each side considers vital to deter a surprise attack. The search for ways to protect those Earth-bound weapons has become a major new thrust in the arms race.

The United States, with its "triad" strategy, also possesses a powerful fleet of nuclear-missile-equipped submarines as well as squadrons of bombers and assorted cruise missiles. Many strategic planners say, however, that when it comes to deterring a surprise attack, these systems are an inadequate substitute for a viable, "survivable" array of the huge land-based missiles that can reach their targets half a world away in a matter of minutes.

- Second, President Reagan's "Star Wars" space defense program has introduced into the arms control process a radical change in strategic concepts, one that would undermine the fundamental premise on which previous arms agreements were negotiated--the threat of mutually assured destruction guaranteed by the offensive weapons of both sides.

The idea behind "Star Wars"--research on which Reagan has declared non-negotiable--is to devise a space-based shield against enemy missiles using lasers or other beam weapons. If such a system should prove capable of protecting the entire nation--not just missile silos, as some experts suggest--it would negate an opponent's offensive weapons.

Nuclear Paradox

To the Reagan Administration, that could ultimately provide the world with a guarantee against the threat of nuclear holocaust. But other nuclear strategists warn that it would overturn the only insurance the world has now--the concept of mutual assured destruction, which holds that no nation would dare use nuclear weapons first because a devastating counterattack would be inevitable.

"(Space) defenses would radically transform the context of U.S.-Soviet nuclear relations, setting in motion a chain of events and reactions that would leave both superpowers much less secure," warned the Union of Concerned Scientists, led by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Hans Bethe. "Virtually the entire arms control process would be swept away. . . . "

As a result, unless the Geneva talks succeed, a dangerous transition period of nuclear uncertainty could occur before Reagan's new "defense-heavy" deterrent strategy became established. What is required, assuming the United States goes forward with "Star Wars," is for the two superpowers not only to hammer out accords on old problems but also to agree on ways to manage the emergence of space-defense arms even as they deploy increasingly accurate, but increasingly vulnerable, offensive arms.

Moreover, at least two unprecedented circumstances complicate the task ahead.

Kremlin Leaders

The first is that, at a time of worsening economic, military and political trends for the Soviet Union in the world, there are uncertainties about the Kremlin's aging leadership. Moscow has had three leaders in four years, with yet another change likely before the new talks go very far. In such an atmosphere, which historically has heightened the Soviet military's influence inside the Kremlin, the question of whether the Soviet government can make the inevitable hard compromises required for any new agreement is a major imponderable.

The second complicating factor is that Reagan Administration suspicions over verification are so profound that Soviet violations of existing treaties loom much larger politically than they did under previous administrations. The United States will demand new monitoring provisions, but these must be acceptable not only to the Soviets but to a highly skeptical U.S. Congress before any new agreement can be ratified.

In addition, the possibility of new Soviet adventurism in the Third World also casts a shadow over any new agreement. Soviet interventions in Africa and its invasion of Afghanistan killed the SALT II treaty.

With technical issues more difficult and political factors more complex than ever before, questions have been raised here and abroad about whether the arms control process is worth pursuing. Beyond the alleged Soviet cheating and the expected problems with verification, critics of the process point out that past agreements have not stopped the arms race.

Arsenals Increased

Two strategic arms limitation agreements in the last 15 years have vastly increased rather than reduced the superpowers' arsenals of warheads, and both sides have developed ingenious new weapons to carry them to their targets.

The resulting disillusionment with arms control reached such a peak last fall that Kenneth L. Adelman, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, proposed that the Soviet Union and United States might be better off simply exchanging unilateral statements, without entangling themselves in negotiation, ratification or verification problems.

Yet Moscow and Washington have learned that they cannot turn their backs on arms control.

Nuclear arms have at least as much political symbolism as military significance today. Public anxiety about nuclear weapons and the need to maintain public support for strong U.S. defense programs "are now widely seen as requiring a credible effort to pursue comprehensive arms control agreements with the U.S.S.R.," Arnold Horelick, director of the Rand/UCLA Center for the Study of Soviet International Behavior, wrote in Foreign Affairs.

So arms control has again become the centerpiece of the entire Soviet-American relationship. Indeed, many now see the Geneva talks as the vehicle for reversing the deterioration of superpower relations all across the board and building a new framework within which the two can better avoid conflict.

Long Road Looms

Even those who hope for so much see a long road ahead.

More than 15 years ago, on the eve of the first strategic arms talks ever held between the United States and the Soviet Union, American negotiator Nitze asked his Soviet counterpart, Vladimir Semyonov, how long such negotiations might take.

"One-third (will be accomplished) in two or three months," Nitze remembers Semyonov replying, "one-third in two or three years, and the final third in the last 20 minutes." The prediction held roughly true, says Nitze, a veteran of almost every Soviet-American arms negotiation since then, except that the final one-third of the SALT I negotiations took three days.

This time, almost all involved agree, getting to that last 20 minutes, or even those last three days, is likely to prove exceedingly difficult.

How Three Forums

Are Interrelated

In Geneva, the new talks will be split into three forums:

- Long-range nuclear weapons, also known as strategic nuclear weapons. This set of negotiations, which cover ICBMs and bombers, is the successor to the strategic arms limitations talks (SALT) of former President Jimmy Carter and the strategic arms reduction talks (START) of the first Reagan Administration.

- Intermediate-range nuclear weapons, including offensive missiles and bombers with a range between 1,000 and 3,000 miles--too short to travel between the United States and the Soviet Union. These negotiations follow on the intermediate-range nuclear force (INF) talks of the first Reagan Administration, which dealt primarily with Soviet and American forces in Europe.

- Space arms, or non-nuclear weapons that can attack targets in orbit or traveling through space. These negotiations, which will begin from scratch, will cover both anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, which could knock out a superpower's vital eyes and ears in space, as well as ground-based and space-based defenses against missiles.

As the two sides have already stated, the three types of weapons are to be "considered and resolved in their interrelationship." Simply defining the "interrelationships" may well dominate the initial negotiating sessions, which are expected to last into May.

The two offensive arms talks are related in Soviet minds by the fact that both long-range U.S. missiles in the United States and medium-range U.S. missiles in Europe can hit Soviet territory. It would be foolish of Moscow to limit either Minuteman ICBMs in Kansas or Pershing 2 intermediate-range missiles in West Germany without limiting both.

Siberian Missiles

For the United States, medium-range Soviet SS-20 missiles capable of destroying Western Europe and pulling this country into a nuclear war are virtually as dangerous as the SS-18 ICBMs in frozen Siberia that are aimed directly at Washington.

Similarly, offensive and defensive weapons are strategically connected. Defenses can be overwhelmed if offensive forces are unlimited, for example, and placing limits on the size of offensive forces makes the job of defense easier.

The brightest prospects for speedy progress are in the two sets of talks on offensive nuclear weapons, in which negotiators have a head start. In both sets, the United States seeks radical cuts in Soviet arsenals, and the Soviets profess to want the same.

But the Soviets are not likely to sign an agreement on offensive weapons without an accord to limit space arms. Indeed, the most effective way for Moscow to counter the prospect of a U.S. "Star Wars" defense might be to increase its arsenal of those same offensive forces, Soviet and American experts have said.

"Once 'Star Wars' projects are abandoned," Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko said last week, "the possibilities will be open for a reduction, even a drastic reduction, of strategic weapons and medium-range nuclear arms."

European Appeal

Soviet offers to make deep cuts in the medium-range offensive missiles aimed at Europe have been designed to appeal more to Europeans than to the U.S. negotiators in Geneva--since Soviet proposals would permit no U.S. missiles there--and Moscow can be expected to try to split the United States from its allies with similar proposals in the new talks.

The United States, while it, too, wants "radical reductions" in offensive arms, wants to continue "Star Wars" research as well.

"For the next 10 years," Nitze said in formally laying out the U.S. position, "the U.S. objective is a radical reduction in the power of existing and planned offensive nuclear arms, as well as the stabilization of the relationship between offensive and defensive nuclear arms, whether on Earth or in space.

"We are even now looking forward to a period of transition to a more stable world, with greatly reduced levels of nuclear arms and an enhanced ability to deter war based upon an increasing contribution of non-nuclear defenses against offensive nuclear arms.

"This period of transition (which could continue for decades) could lead to the eventual elimination of all nuclear arms, both offensive and defensive. A world free of nuclear arms is an ultimate objective to which we, the Soviet Union, and all other nations can agree."

'Star Wars' and Defensive Weapons

Whether progress will be fastest in the strategic or intermediate-range talks, there is no doubt among experts that, because of "Star Wars," the space talks will be the slowest, the most difficult, the most drawn out. The United States intends to try to educate the Soviets on the virtues of space defense before it addresses the question of negotiating any limits.

There is historical irony here. At the very start of the arms control process in 1967, the United States preached to skeptical Soviet leaders that defensive systems could make nuclear war more likely because the nation possessing such a system might think it could get away with a preemptive attack. Eventually Moscow agreed, and the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty banned missile defenses except for one system of 100 interceptors for each side. The Soviet system rings Moscow; the U.S. dismantled the system it began to protect an ICBM field in North Dakota.

Today, Washington is once more arguing with a skeptical Kremlin, only this time the positions are reversed: Washington favors working on an anti-missile defense system, nicknamed "Star Wars," while Moscow opposes it.

To be sure, the Soviets have had a space defense research effort for years, spending as much on strategic defense as on strategic offense. Among other prototype weapons, the Soviets have two ground-based test lasers that could be used against satellites, according to Pentagon statements.

Treaty Violations

Moreover, in part by blatantly violating present treaties, the Soviets have already developed "a rapidly deployable ABM system," the Pentagon says, although it would be of dubious effectiveness, because it is based on ground-launched interceptors and older technology.

None of the Soviets' known efforts approach the awesome technological and financial challenge which Reagan proposed to an unsuspecting world in March, 1983.

The "Star Wars" project, known officially as the Strategic Defense Initiative, is a $26-billion, five-year effort to determine whether a space shield is feasible. Unlike 20 years ago, technology now holds out the possibility of weapons that could use microcomputers, heat sensors, energy beams and other exotic devices to intercept missiles in their "boost phase"--as they rise from the ground but before they spew out their multiple warheads.

Such a system would offer the potential for aborting an attack in its first phase, as well as in mid-course and its final phase.

Although it remains in an early research stage, the "Star Wars" plan already has been scaldingly attacked:

- As naive, because of the formidable technical difficulties inherent in developing an anti-missile system that would render nuclear warheads "impotent and obsolete," in Reagan's phrase;

- As destabilizing, because with such a shield, one side might be tempted to launch a surprise attack, or use the potential for such a first strike as a means of intimidation in time of crisis. To the Soviets, as President Konstantin U. Chernenko has said, "Star Wars" is not a defensive system but an "aggressive concept."

And to a world anxious about the present level of arms, it threatens to add a new dimension to the arms race--space.

Expert Doubts

Reagan's "Star Wars" scheme may indeed be technologically premature--or even ultimately impossible--so far as its stated goal of offering nationwide protection is concerned. Many experts believe no such system could be 100% effective; some enemy missiles would inevitably get through, they argue.

As Chernenko suggested, however, even a partially effective defense might prove able to ward off the relatively weak retaliatory strikes launched by the victim of a massive nuclear first strike.

Adding to the fury of many of the President's critics is their feeling that he plunged into the "Star Wars" program with insufficient understanding of the inherent difficulties and thus almost gratuitously compounded the problems of arms control.

Even before Reagan's space defense initiative, however, there was growing evidence that technology creep in offensive weapons was fast overtaking the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD), the old basis of peace in the nuclear age.

Under that doctrine, neither nation dared launch a nuclear war because each side had the capacity to obliterate the other side's cities, but not its weapons, in a first strike, so that the victim would always retain sufficient firepower to annihilate the aggressor in return.

Gnawing Technology

By 1982, technological advances were gnawing at that old assurance about weapons survivability. The increased accuracy of the multiple warheads on Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) meant they could potentially destroy all U.S. ICBMs, as well as all missile submarines in port and bombers on the ground in a surprise attack. And, with the MX missile and its increasingly accurate Trident sub-launched missiles, the United States is moving toward the same capability.

A few hundred missiles with 10 warheads each could wipe out thousands of enemy missiles on the ground in a single coordinated attack, weapons specialists say, all the while attacking only military targets. In this scenario, the attacker would still have enough weapons left to demand that the victim surrender or face the all-out devastation of its cities and people if it retaliates with the weapons on its surviving airborne bombers and patrolling submarines.

The rising accuracy of nuclear missiles on both sides will further increase the chances that a "decapitating first strike"--the nuclear planners' grisly name for such a sequence of events--could succeed. And even the possibility of a U.S. president someday facing such a nightmarish situation makes American planners worry about this country's huge land-based missiles despite the existence of its survivable nuclear submarines, bombers and cruise missiles.

'Race Track' Plan

One possible solution to the vulnerability problem of stationary missiles is to make them mobile, as former President Carter proposed to do with his vast "race track" plan for deploying the MX. That plan was rejected, however, in large part because it would have required the closing off of huge amounts of land. The political and environmental resistance to such action convinced many U.S. experts that mobile basing is not a feasible option for this country's large land-based missiles.

Moscow has no such limits on how it uses its trackless spaces. And this disparity is one of the factors which has turned U.S. planners' thoughts more and more toward anti-missile defenses.

Uncertainty over how vulnerable the United States might be to Soviet attack is aggravated not just by the new mobile ICBMs Moscow has developed and is expected to deploy this year, but also by "stealthy" cruise missiles, nearly invisible to radar, which the United States is already deploying against the Soviet Union.

It is this maze of technical, theoretical and political elements that is expected to make the space talks the toughest of all.

As a first order of business in Geneva, U.S. negotiators will repeat charges that the Soviets are already violating the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with the construction of a huge new radar station at Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.

Kremlin Complaint

The Soviets, who want to stop the "Star Wars" program as early as possible, complain that Washington wants to preserve the ABM treaty now even as it prepares to shatter it in the 1990s if its research proves the anti-missile defense is feasible.

What the Kremlin wants is to reinforce the ABM treaty, which restricts the development, testing and deployment of ABM systems, by adding curbs on the sort of research this country is now conducting with "Star Wars."

The United States will take the position that most of the issues that will arise in the space talks are already covered in existing agreements. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty bars stationing nuclear weapons in space, and the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty bans exploding nuclear devices there. The ABM treaty forbids deployment of a missile defense beyond those permitted, although it does not bar research of the kind being pursued in the "Star Wars" project. "All systems which can counter strategic ballistic missile RVs (reentry vehicles, or warheads), whether in space or otherwise, are controlled by the ABM treaty," Nitze said. "That treaty prohibits the deployment of ABM systems in space or on Earth except for precisely limited, fixed land-based elements."

The ABM treaty even provides a basis for discussing how ABM systems based on "other physical principles," such as lasers and particle beams, "might be integrated into each side's force structures," Nitze added. It is this provision that the United States will cite in raising the space defense concept for discussion.

Uncovered Activity

"The only space activity that remains to be negotiated about is ASAT (anti-satellite) systems not covered" in existing treaties, Nitze said. But because of the ABM and other treaties, "banning all ASAT systems is a very difficult, if not impossible, proposition," he concluded.

The 100 Soviet ABM interceptors ringing Moscow, as permitted by ABM treaty, can also knock down satellites, for example. And any offensive ballistic missile permitted under SALT accords, whether a U.S. Minuteman or a Soviet SS-18, that can reach satellite altitudes in their trajectories, can also destroy satellites in orbit.

Only the limited ASAT system already developed by the Soviets, and its counterpart being developed by the United States, may lend itself to formal restrictions, he added. Other officials speculated, however, that an ASAT system would be a natural weapon to destroy space-based anti-missile defenses, so Moscow may lose interest in banning any ASAT system if the United States continues to pursue "Star Wars" research.

"Research cannot be monitored or controlled by an agreement," Nitze said. "I believe the Soviets share this view."

So, as he summed up, "the defense and space negotiation cannot be viewed as being comparable to bartering a number of rugs for a camel. It will be a quite different and more serious type of negotiation."

Critical to this negotiation will be whether the Soviets can be persuaded to recognize the importance of abiding by the ABM treaty, he added. After that, he said, the two sides will discuss the advantages of agreeing "on the way in which advanced defensive systems--should they prove feasible--could be incorporated into the forces of the two sides to our long-run mutual advantage."

Long-Range Nuclear Missiles

Among the three sets of negotiations in Geneva, those dealing with long-range nuclear weapons have the longest historical record to build on--one ratified agreement, one unratified agreement and one recent set of unsuccessful talks. That has its advantages--and its drawbacks.

Both superpowers have at least established that they share an ultimate goal: smaller nuclear arsenals. Although the two sides were far apart when the Soviets broke off the last set of negotiations more than a year ago, the differences were primarily over where to set weapons ceilings, how to balance the value of different types of weapon systems and whether to limit warheads directly or indirectly.

Another favorable sign as the Geneva talks begin is that the differences between types of weapons in the U.S. and Soviet arsenals are narrowing, though the Soviets continue to have the bulk of their nuclear weapons in heavy land-based ICBMs while the U.S. nuclear force is more evenly divided among ICBMs, submarine missiles and bombers and cruise missiles of various kinds. As this disparity narrows--the United States is building a big new ICBM, the MX, and the Soviets are building cruise missiles--it will make trade-offs easier.

But some fundamental disagreements continue. The United States remains determined to reduce the Soviets' massive arsenal of multi-warhead, land-based missiles. The Soviets, by contrast, want to limit U.S. bomber-launched cruise missiles and include U.S. submarine-launched cruise missiles, where the United States enjoys technical superiority, in the arms ceiling. Moscow fears that it would have less warning time of attack by cruise missiles, which fly low to the ground and are difficult to detect, than of an attack by high-arching ballistic missiles, which are faster but more visible to radar.

Verification Dilemma

And then there is the thorny problem of verification. The extremely emotional as well as technologically challenging problem of how to verify compliance with any agreement will dog the negotiators from the first day to the last.

The first strategic arms limitation agreement, or SALT I, dates back to 1972. The second such agreement, SALT II, was signed in 1979 but not ratified by the U.S. Senate. Both sides have promised "not to undercut" SALT II, although they have not promised to abide strictly by each provision.

SALT II set a ceiling on the total number of intercontinental bombers and missiles at 2,250 for each side. It limited total warheads only indirectly by means of such provisions as a sub-ceiling of 1,200 on the number of missiles with multiple warheads.

The Soviets informed the United States that they would not reduce their total of 2,495 ICBMs and long-range bombers to 2,250 because the Reagan Administration had withdrawn the agreement from Senate consideration. The U.S. force was already under the SALT II ceiling, at 1,975, and is down to 1,935 today.

Reagan, complaining that SALT II would have scarcely reduced Soviet missiles but codified an enormous jump in the number of warheads atop those missiles, initiated the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) in June, 1982.

Kremlin's Offer

Moscow's proposal was to continue along the SALT II path by further lowering the ceiling on bombers and missiles to 1,800, with each side having considerable freedom to decide the number of bombers and missiles within the limit. The Kremlin offer was obviously intended to keep its advantage in big land-based ICBMs.

The United States made a radically different proposal: deep cuts in the big, multi-warhead Soviet ICBM force and direct limits on warheads. It offered a ceiling of 850 land-based missiles and 2,500 warheads on them, which would have cut the Soviet force by half and the U.S. force by one-third. But, while seeking to slash the huge ICBMs that are the mainstay of Soviet nuclear forces, the Reagan plan contained no limits on bombers and air-launched cruise missiles, where the United States had huge numerical and technical advantages.

Even former Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. acknowledged later that the U.S. proposal was unrealistic and did not offer a serious basis for negotiation. Subsequently, Washington modified its offer to permit trade-offs between missiles and bombers, but the new scheme was never examined in detail before the Soviets walked out from these in December, 1983, two weeks after they left the intermediate-range talks in November.

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Weapons

The talks over intermediate-range nuclear weapons will also build on a substantial negotiating history, and of the three sets of talks in Geneva, these may take the early lead in progress toward agreement. But many more nations, including Japan, China and those in Western Europe, are vitally concerned with the outcome and will bring pressure on the United States not to ignore their interests.

As one U.S. arms official put it, both Moscow and Washington have valid principles at stake in the INF talks. The United States insists on equal ceilings on U.S. and Soviet missiles in Europe--the Soviets maintain a substantial lead now--and the Soviets insist on having weapons to balance the United States and offset not only British and French missiles but also the Chinese missiles that are aimed at Soviet territory.

The Soviets started the latest round in the European arms race--and triggered substantial alarm among U.S. allies--by deploying SS-20 ballistic missiles aimed at Western Europe in 1977. West Germany and other NATO nations feared that the Soviets could use their intermediate-range weapons to undertake nuclear blackmail against Western Europe. With overall Soviet-American parity in nuclear arms, the United States, in this scenario, would hesitate to use its own nuclear weapons to defend Europe because the Soviets have equal nuclear might.

NATO Decision

Two years later, NATO decided to deploy U.S. nuclear missiles--108 Pershing 2 ballistic missiles and 464 ground-launched cruise missiles--in five European nations before the end of 1987 to balance the Soviet weapons. At the same time, it authorized negotiations aimed at seeking Soviet missile reductions deep enough to reduce or eliminate the need for the American weapons.

Those talks began in November, 1981, with the United States proposing to cancel its missile plans if the Soviets withdrew all of its missiles (about 200 SS-20s as well as about 400 older SS-4s and SS-5s) then in place. This so-called zero/zero solution was immediately labeled a non-starter by the Soviets as well as Western critics who said Moscow would never trade its real weapons for paper U.S. weapons yet to be deployed and facing nuclear protests in Europe.

The Soviets also made proposals for propaganda purposes, fashioning one offer after another that would key the size of the Soviet SS-20 force to the nuclear weapons of the British and the French, who between them have 162 missiles. That would leave no room for any U.S. missiles in Europe.

The closest the two sides came to agreement was the much publicized "walk in the woods" formula worked out by Nitze, then the U.S. INF negotiator, and Yuli A. Kvitsinsky, his Soviet counterpart in July, 1982. It would have permitted the Soviets to have 75 SS-20s with three warheads each, for a total of 225 warheads, while the United States could have 300 slower-flying cruise missiles with one warhead each.

Pershing Threat

The United States would have forgone deployment of the Pershing 2 ballistic missile, which the Soviets considered most threatening because it can hit near Moscow in 10 minutes. The Soviets would have shelved their claim for weapons to offset the British and French missiles at the INF talks, although they would have been free to raise the issue in the strategic arms talks.

Neither Washington nor Moscow accepted the scheme, however, and after the first U.S. missiles arrived in Europe in November, 1983, the Soviets walked out of the INF talks. Soon afterward, they left the strategic talks as well, saying they would not return until the U.S. missiles were removed.

But after a year in which Pershing and cruise missile deployments moved ahead, the Soviets are returning to the negotiating table, suggesting that the Kremlin has accepted U.S. missiles in Europe.

Coexisting With the Soviets

Beyond the immediate issues facing the negotiators is the Reagan Administration's larger political strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union.

As officials formulated options for Reagan, two distinct approaches have emerged--the minimalist school and the moderate school. Both proceed from the belief that political, economic and military events are moving in favor of the United States and putting the Soviets on the defensive.

The minimalist, or hard-line view, shared usually by the Defense Department's civilian leadership and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, favors largely cosmetic changes in the old U.S. positions in the offensive missile talks and an uncompromising stand on space arms. With time, according to this view, the Kremlin will come around, much as it returned to the coming negotiations in Geneva after swearing it would not do so as long as U.S. missiles remained in Europe.

Under the moderate view, often identified with the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the United States would be more forthcoming with arms offers that recognize current Soviet weaknesses but would capitalize on them to produce new accords now rather than risk a new arms race if the Soviets turn intransigent.

ASAT Test Due

The Joint Chiefs, much less committed than Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger to ASAT weapons, for example, would dangle before the Soviets a short-term moratorium on ASAT flight tests. The first U.S. test against a physical target in space is now scheduled for June.

Similarly, on "Star Wars," some State Department officials would accept short-term constraints on "engineering development" of space defenses, the gray area between research, which is permitted by treaty, and testing of system components in a realistic environment, which is now prohibited. The "Star Wars" program is unlikely to advance to such a testing stage within the next five years.

Last week, Reagan and the National Security Council examined three or four negotiating options for each of the three forums in Geneva. The options "generally are not marked by creative, flexible and original thinking," one official said, "but they are enough for these opening negotiations, enough to see how the Soviets play their hand.

"If they are serious, we can go one way. If they go down the propaganda road, trying to split us from the NATO countries, fanning the 'peace' movement and what not, we can go another route. We'll find out soon enough which way it will be."

RELATIVE STRENGTHS OF U.S. AND SOVIET NUCLEAR ARSENALS

WEAPON SYSTEM U.S SOVIET STRATEGIC WEAPONS (range more than 3,000 miles): ICBMs 1,032 1,398 Warheads 2,132 5,800 Throwweight (MLbs) 0.45 2.1 SUBMARINE LAUNCHED 640 942 BALLISTIC MISSILES Warheads 5,728 2,500 Throwweight (Mlbs) 0.3 0.5 BOMBERS 263 155 Bombs/cruise missiles 3,280 420 (throwweight n.a.) TOTALS: Launch vehicles 1,935 2,493 Warheads 11,140 8,720 Missile 0.8 2.6 Throwweight (MLbs)

WEAPON SYSTEM FEATURES STRATEGIC WEAPONS (range more than 3,000 miles): ICBMs "Fast fliers" (30-minute flighttime) Warheads most accurate; have close, continuous Throwweight (MLbs) communication, but increasingly vulnerable SUBMARINE LAUNCHED Also "fast fliers" (15- to 25-minute BALLISTIC MISSILES flights), increasingly accurate; not in Warheads constant, close communication; highly Throwweight (Mlbs) survivable at sea. BOMBERS Slow fliers (6 to 8 hours); highly Bombs/cruise accurate; recallable before half-way to missiles destination; good survival if on alert; (throwweight n.a.) U.S. faces substantial Soviet air defenses while U.S. defense minimal. TOTALS: Launch vehicles Both under SALT I ceilings, but Soviets Warheads have not reduced to 2,250 limit called for Missile in unratified SALT II. Throwweight (MLbs)

( millions of pounds. Throwweight is the product of payload weight multiplied by the range of a weapon, and is one measure of the "destructive potential" of a weapon.)

WEAPON SYSTEM U.S SOVIET INTERMEDIATE-RANGE MISSILES (1,000-3,000 miles): Missiles 109 378 Bombers (U.S.count) 560 3,095 (Soviet count) 555 461

WEAPON SYSTEM FEATURES INTERMEDIATE-RANGE MISSILES (1,000-3,000 miles): Missiles U.S. missiles have one warhead; Soviet Bombers (U.S.count) missiles have three warheads; older Soviet (Soviet count) and British/French systems are excluded.

WEAPON SYSTEM U.S SOVIET SPACE WEAPONS ANTI-MISSILE SYSTEMS: GROUND-BASED: Missiles 0 100 Radars 5 6 or 7 SPACE-BASED: Status Active Active research research ANTI-SATELLITE SYSTEMS: Status In development Operational Type Direct ascent Co-orbital Range 3,000 miles 3,000 miles (altitude)

WEAPON SYSTEM FEATURES SPACE WEAPONS ANTI-MISSILE SYSTEMS: GROUND-BASED: Missiles Soviet interceptors allowed by treaty. Radars Phased-array type; built or being built. SPACE-BASED: Status Soviets started earlier, spent more; U.S. ahead in key sensor, computer fields. ANTI-SATELLITE SYSTEMS: Status Soviet system, ready since Type early 1970s, is slower and Range less flexible; first U.S. (altitude) test against space target due in June.

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