U.S.-Soviet Nuclear Arms Talks Resume; Little Progress Expected Before Summit
The deadlocked nuclear arms talks between the United States and the Soviet Union resumed Thursday after a five-week recess with a plenary meeting of the two sides that lasted nearly two hours.
As usual, there was no statement of substance or any briefing for reporters on what was discussed behind closed doors at the Soviet mission. The elapsed time of the meeting was all that was announced.
However, a senior U.S. official, discussing the bleak outlook as the talks resumed, expressed doubts that there will be any progress or basic change in the situation until a summit meeting is held between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Since this new effort at nuclear agreement began here March 12, the day after Gorbachev succeeded to the Kremlin leadership, the Soviets have steadily hardened their position against the Reagan Administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative program. Gorbachev himself, echoed by the Soviet delegation here, now says that the Soviet Union will not discuss cuts in nuclear arms until the United States abandons “Star Wars.”
The American official, who spoke on condition that he would not be further identified, said, “It may be that if we can get some agreement in the next weeks or months on a time and place for a summit meeting later this year, then we may begin to see a little movement here on sorting out some peripheral or procedural points to be passed on up to the two leaders to resolve.
“But until that happens, Gorbachev and the Soviet leadership are now so fully and publicly committed to their hard line that it is difficult to see any movement ahead. Of course, long deadlocks and stalemates are not unusual in our negotiations with the Soviet Union, but this one looks pretty complete, for the present at least, and I do not see anything short of a summit meeting dislodging things.”
The Americans here accuse the Soviets of engineering the deadlock through their interpretation of what was meant by the deliberately ambiguous wording of the original agreement to start the new round of negotiations. That agreement was reached in Geneva on Jan. 8 between Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko and Secretary of State George P. Shultz.
The key passage of the agreement, which brought the Soviets back to the negotiating table after a walkout lasting 15 months, reads: “The negotiations will be a complex of questions concerning space and nuclear arms, considered and resolved in their interrelationship.”
The wording is imprecise because it was all that Shultz and Gromyko could agree on.
But the Soviets now say that “interrelationship” means that the United States must abandon “Star Wars” before any arms reduction can be negotiated. The United States says that it means that there must be progress toward agreement in all the interrelated subjects of the negotiation--defensive systems and space weapons, long-range strategic missiles and intermediate-range missiles.
The United States takes the position that it is impractical and impossible for one side to try to deny the other side the right to conduct research and to experiment with and test defensive systems. They point to the fact that the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty, signed by Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Leonid I. Brezhnev, specifically recognizes that such research is permitted.
The Soviet answer to this, across the negotiating table here, has been that “Star Wars” research must be halted because if the program ever succeeds, it will be in violation of the anti-ballistic missile treaty.