NATO Endorses U.S. Efforts at Geneva Arms Talks
Papering over a dispute about the “Star Wars” missile defense program, Atlantic Alliance foreign ministers Friday endorsed U.S. negotiating efforts at the Geneva arms control talks, including Washington’s refusal to consider restraints on strategic defense research.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz said he was pleased with the action at the two-day North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting, although he conceded at a news conference that he would have preferred specific support for research on the “Star Wars” program, which is formally known as the Strategic Defense Initiative.
The foreign ministers, NATO’s official governing body on political matters, also decided that the 16 member countries would send their foreign ministers to ceremonies in August marking the 10th anniversary of the Helsinki conference on European security. This clears the way for Shultz and other NATO leaders to confer with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko, who earlier announced plans to attend the session in the Finnish capital.
Arms Talks ‘Welcomed’
In their final communique, the NATO foreign ministers said they “welcomed” the Geneva talks between the United States and the Soviet Union on strategic arms, medium-range nuclear forces and space and defensive weapons.
“We strongly support U.S. efforts in all three areas of negotiations, and we call on the Soviet Union to adopt a positive approach,” the communique said.
In the face of French and Danish objections, the United States agreed to drop specific mention of strategic defense from the final statement. However, Britain’s Lord Carrington, NATO’s secretary general, said that most of the foreign ministers agreed with him and with Washington that U.S. research on strategic defense is only “prudent” in the face of Soviet work in the same area.
“The kind of things I’ve been saying about SDI remain pretty near the center of gravity of the alliance,” Carrington said. “I recognize that not every government would agree with every word of it.”
Carrington said the foreign ministers decided it would be better to say nothing at all on the subject than to produce a watered-down position acceptable to the French and Danes. Nevertheless, he said, the communique’s support of U.S. efforts in Geneva is “a rather strong sentence” that all of the members understood to include an endorsement of the U.S. stance on space weapons.
Unanimous Backing Cited
Shultz said the European delegations were unanimous in urging the United States to “give the benefit of the doubt” to Soviet violations of the unratified second strategic arms control agreement and do everything possible to keep the pact in force.
He said he had sent a summary of the allied views to President Reagan, who plans to announce Monday whether the United States will continue to abide by the agreement after it expires at the end of this year. Shultz said the President would consider the advice but it would not necessarily be “decisive.”
“I don’t think you could expect the President to be guided totally by what we heard here,” Shultz said. “He receives advice from a number of different quarters.”
Nevertheless, he said, “There is a widespread view, which obviously we in the United States share, that the existence of a treaty regime is an important element in predictability and stability and we want to maintain it if we can.
“There is a virtually uniform view among the allies that we consulted here that we should give the benefit of the doubt and do everything we can to maintain the SALT II regime,” he said.
However, Shultz said he succeeded in persuading the allies of the seriousness of U.S. charges of Soviet violations of the unratified 1979 SALT II agreement and the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty.
He said there was “a much clearer understanding and sober reflection among the allies of the importance of Soviet treaty violations. People are focusing on these violations.”
The final communique also renewed support for NATO’s program of installing Pershing 2 and cruise intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe unless the Soviets agree to mutual reductions in European missile forces.
“The allies concerned reiterate their willingness to modify, halt, reverse or dispense with longer-range intermediate nuclear force deployment as part of an equitable and verifiable arms control agreement,” the statement said. “In the absence of such an agreement, they will continue to deploy missiles on schedule.”
Two Countries Balk
Greece and Denmark, neither of which is scheduled to receive cruise missiles, refused to endorse that position. But the Netherlands, the only one of the countries scheduled to deploy the rockets that has not yet begun to do so, went along with the statement.
Both Shultz and Carrington warned the Soviet Union not to be misled into believing that the West is backing away from “Star Wars” research.
Referring to the alliance’s support for the U.S. stance at Geneva, Carrington said, “We’ve never said that so strongly before.” And the secretary of state said, “It would be a great mistake for anyone to think that the research program of the United States is in any way deflected. It will go on.”
French officials told reporters that they were pleased with the wording of the communique because it supports the “U.S. efforts” at Geneva instead of offering an open-ended endorsement of the U.S. position at the talks.
But Shultz said he is satisfied with the wording. He said France might have been concerned about being seen as endorsing any tactical maneuver Washington might choose to make.
“I don’t recall any particular discussion of those words,” he said. “Precise phraseology is something that the French seek and sometimes they have a good point.”
May Meet With Gromyko
Shultz said no meeting has yet been scheduled between him and Gromyko at Helsinki, but he said he assumes that one will take place, as it almost always does when he and the Soviet foreign minister find themselves in the same city at the same time.
Carrington said the meeting will give all allied foreign ministers a chance to confer with Gromyko. “Opportunities for contacts should not be passed by,” he added.
Later, Shultz flew to London where he discussed with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher the U.S. efforts to find a way to bring Israel and Jordan into a Middle East peace negotiations.
Thatcher endorsed King Hussein’s plan for a meeting between U.S. officials and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation although she said an international conference of the sort Hussein is seeking “might complicate things.” However, she said the United States, Britain, and most other members of the European Community are prepared to extend whatever help they can to the negotiating process.