President Reagan views his meeting in November with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev as an opportunity for "serious, substantive discussion," Secretary of State George P. Shultz said Wednesday, although a specific agenda for the Nov. 19-20 conference remains to be set.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes, formally announcing the meeting simultaneously with the Kremlin, said Reagan sees the session in Geneva as "an opportunity to chart a course for the future."
However, the Administration's foreign policy officials and experts on the Soviet Union outside of government are predicting few, if any, significant advances in U.S.-Soviet relations as an immediate result of the meeting.
"There are maybe one or two or three modest things they could announce" dealing with opening of consulates and cultural exchanges, said Helmut Sonnenfeldt, former State Department counselor and now a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
In contrast, Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir B. Lomeiko indicated to reporters in Moscow that Soviet priorities include an end to all nuclear weapons tests, a halt to deployment of U.S. missiles in Western Europe and a corresponding moratorium on Soviet countermeasures. Another Soviet priority would be an American pledge to match the Soviet declaration that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons.
"There is huge room for initiative," Lomeiko said in remarks that avoided the anti-American attacks that are a standard feature of Soviet newspapers and commentators for Tass, the Soviet news agency.
In Moscow, the first announcement of the meeting was virtually unprecedented. A news bulletin interrupted a television program to tell of the meeting--a common occurrence in the West, but extraordinary in the Soviet Union, where even deaths of leaders are announced on regularly scheduled news programs.
Both Tass and television preceded the announcement of the U.S.-Soviet meeting with a report that Gorbachev in October will make his first trip to a Western country since taking office--a visit to France for talks with President Francois Mitterrand.
Shultz said the United States' agenda at the summit--the first for Reagan with the most senior official of the Soviet Union--could touch on such issues as the Soviet military occupation of Afghanistan, the Soviet role in Central America and human rights.
But it remains to be seen whether progress can be made on these issues, over which Washington and Moscow differ widely, and on the particularly difficult issue of arms control, over which the two sides are deadlocked.
The meeting comes at a crucial moment on the arms control calendar, and the state of the U.S.-Soviet talks intended to limit nuclear weapons and space-based defense systems are likely to be central elements.
The meeting will take place against the backdrop of the impending expiration of both the second strategic arms limitation treaty--to which both sides have pledged adherence--and a Soviet moratorium on the deployment of medium-range missiles. Also, the Pentagon is expected to deliver to Reagan in mid-November a report on Soviet arms control violations and options available to the United States.
In addition, Shultz said at a news conference, "the general subject of hijacking and terrorism is a subject that must be on everybody's mind, and probably we'll want to talk about it."
He said the forum will provide Reagan and the new Soviet leader with an opportunity to "get acquainted," but added, "As the President sees it, the best way to get acquainted is through serious, substantive discussion of the principal issues between our countries."
The meeting, on Nov. 19 and 20, would be the 15th involving the most senior leaders of the Soviet Union and the United States since Franklin D. Roosevelt, Josef Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met in Tehran in November and December, 1943.
Meanwhile, Western diplomats attending a 35-nation European disarmament conference in Stockholm on Wednesday said they see scant prospect of any early Soviet policy changes or easing in the arms control stalemate as a result of this week's change in Soviet foreign ministers.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Eduard A. Shevardnadze, Communist Party leader of the Soviet Republic of Georgia, will replace Andrei A. Gromyko as foreign minister, and that Gromyko will be elevated to the Soviet presidency.
A senior American delegate to the conference, who has long experience in arms negotiations, said he saw little chance of any early shifts in Moscow's arms policy. He noted that he does not expect to see "much real evidence of a new team at work until after the next Soviet Communist Party congress," thought to be scheduled in February.
James Gerstenzang reported from Washington and William J. Eaton from Moscow. Times staff writer Don Cook contributed to this story from Stockholm.