The White House, sidestepping Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s charge that the United States is trying to drive Moscow into a corner before U.S.-Soviet summit talks in November, welcomed instead today his pledge in an interview published over the weekend to submit serious proposals to improve relations between the superpowers.
In a restrained, cautiously worded response to Gorbachev’s interview with Time magazine released Sunday, presidential spokesman Larry Speakes said President Reagan “is taking a serious approach to the relationship and has indicated that he is willing to meet the Soviets halfway in an effort to solve problems.”
He repeated Reagan’s challenge to the Soviets to permit the American President the same access to the Soviet Union’s government-controlled media as the Communist Party chief has to the independent Western press.
Speakes referred only indirectly to Gorbachev’s charge, levied in his first interview with a Western news organization, that Washington is setting the stage “for a bout between some kind of political super-gladiators with the only thought in mind being how best to deal a deft blow at the opponent and score an extra point in this bout.”
“It appears that even the slightest headway depends exclusively upon concessions by the Soviet Union,” Gorbachev said.
“Our views of the causes of the present U.S.-Soviet tensions are quite different from that presented by Mr. Gorbachev,” Reagan’s spokesman said. “We do not intend to enter into a debate in the media.”
Asked if he agreed with Gorbachev’s statement that U.S.-Soviet relations had seriously deteriorated in recent months, Speakes repeated his prepared statement that the Administration’s views on superpower tensions are “quite different” from Gorbachev’s.
Media Opening a Plus
But he said: “We are pleased that Mr. Gorbachev was able to present his views to the American public. If President Reagan had a comparable opportunity to express his views to the Soviet people through the Soviet media, this would doubtless improve our dialogue and indicate Soviet willingness to accept a degree of reciprocity in an important aspect of our relations.”
The President hopes his meeting with Gorbachev, set for late November in Geneva, will lead to a resolution of problems between the two nations, the White House spokesman said, but he gave no indication the United States expects any breakthrough or new agreements to come out of the discussions.
Byrd Meets Gorbachev
Meanwhile, Senate minority leader Robert C. Byrd said after meeting with Gorbachev in Moscow today that he felt “a little more optimistic” about the U.S.-Soviet summit.
Byrd, speaking on NBC’s “Today” show, said Gorbachev indicated “that the minute that we could reach an agreement on bringing up Star Wars, putting it on the table and reaching some agreement as to how they would pursue that, then I got the impression that he was ready to make what he called radical proposals with reference to weapons cuts. . . . “
“The thing that makes me a little more optimistic . . . is the fact that he showed, I think, movement. He showed movement. We didn’t get the stalling that, unless you ban, agree to ban research, we’ll not have any meeting or come to any agreement. That’s the impression I got from other Soviet officials.”