Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev has accused the United States of aggravating Soviet-American relations and questioned the need for a superpower summit unless the trend is reversed, Tass news agency reported Sunday.
Gorbachev said in an interview with Time magazine that the Soviet Union places “immense importance” on his scheduled meeting with President Reagan in Geneva on Nov. 19-20, Tass said. But the Soviet news agency quoted Gorbachev as saying that Washington appears to be preparing for confrontation rather than negotiation in Geneva.
“It looks as if the stage is being set for a bout between some kind of political ‘super-gladiators’ with the only thought in mind as how best to deal a deft blow at the opponent,” Gorbachev said in his first interview with an American publication since he was named Communist Party chief last March.
The Soviet Union is prepared for business-like talks but can launch rhetorical counterattacks at the summit if necessary, he said.
“Here is what I am thinking about: Is it worthwhile for the sake of that (counterattacks) to set up a summit meeting with which our nations and people on all continents associate their hopes for peace and a secure and tranquil life?” Gorbachev asked.
“Abusive words are no help in a good cause,” he added.
Yet Gorbachev balanced his remarks with a note of optimism. “We would not have agreed to the (summit) meeting if we did not have faith in the possibility of a positive outcome,” he said.
The 54-year-old Soviet leader described U.S.-Soviet relations as very tense. “I would even go so far as to say explosive,” he added.
Two months ago, Gorbachev said, he felt that Soviet-American relations were showing signs of improvement. “To my deep regret, I cannot say that today,” he added.
“Despite the (arms control) negotiations that have begun in Geneva and the agreement to hold a summit meeting, the relations between our two countries are continuing to deteriorate, the arms race is intensifying and the war threat is not subsiding,” he said.
The Soviet proposal for a joint moratorium on nuclear tests, he said, was dismissed as propaganda, and the United States announced plans to test an anti-satellite weapon.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Peter Martinez, saying that the United States is still studying the text of Time’s interview with Gorbachev, issued this statement:
“As we have said on many occasions, we are preparing for Geneva with the hope for significant progress in all areas of our bilateral relationship with the Soviets. We hope to leave Geneva with the U.S.-Soviet relationship on a more stable footing.
“At the same time, we have no illusions. We realize that our problems with the Soviets are numerous and deep. It will take time to overcome our difficulties and we will have to be both patient and determined. If Moscow is prepared to meet us halfway on the various issues, however, there is no reason that the progress Mr. Gorbachev says he desires should not be possible.”
Soviet View Disputed
Martinez disputed Gorbachev’s view that relations have deteriorated.
“As to the state of our bilateral relationship since we agreed to meet in Geneva, it is neither better nor worse,” he said. “We want a better, sounder relationship with the Soviets, and we agree that the Geneva meeting can be an important step in charting a course which will be sustainable over the long term. It is important, however, to recognize that the importance we attach to the November meeting cannot keep us from speaking frankly about our differences with the Soviets. It certainly has not kept them from speaking frankly about us.”
In the interview, Gorbachev attacked U.S. policy and some senior American officials, but he did not aim any criticism directly at Reagan.
“We are prepared to do business with him,” Gorbachev said of the President.
The text of his replies to Time’s questions was carried by Tass and read for nearly an hour on the main evening television news program.
‘Campaign of Hatred’
Apparently referring to U.S. charges that the Soviet KGB security police had employed a potentially dangerous chemical powder to keep track of the movements of American diplomats in the Soviet Union, Gorbachev charged that Washington has launched “another campaign of hatred” against the Soviet Union.
“That is a scenario of pressure, of attempts to drive us into a corner, to ascribe to us, as so many times in the past, every mortal sin. . . . This is not a state policy. It is a feverish search for ‘forces of evil.’ ”
He also renewed his attack on Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, the $26 billion “Star Wars” research program for space-based nuclear defenses. He described “Star Wars” as a “very dangerous” plan that would “whip up the arms race in all areas” even if it could not provide an invulnerable shield against attacking missiles.
“Don’t you Americans have anything better to do with your money?” he asked at one point.
Gorbachev praised Reagan’s statements that there could be no victors in a nuclear war and that the United States did not seek military superiority over the Soviet Union.
“These and other positive moments in the President’s remarks . . . offer the possibility . . . to overcome the present negative phase in our relations,” he added.