The Soviet newspaper Izvestia on Monday published an extensive interview with President Reagan, the first with a U.S. President that the Soviet press has carried in more than two decades, but it heavily edited his harshest criticism of Soviet policies.
The four Soviet journalists who interviewed Reagan last Thursday, moreover, wrote a point-by-point rebuttal of his statements and accused him of "deliberate distortion" of some facts.
But Izvestia, the official government newspaper with a circulation of more than 7 million, also departed from custom in letting Reagan put his case directly to Soviet readers and praised his views on his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in Geneva Nov. 19-20. His interviewers also urged Izvestia readers to study the President's statements carefully.
Shultz to See Gorbachev Today
The interview was printed as Secretary of State George P. Shultz met here for eight hours Monday with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze to settle the agenda for the summit. Shultz is scheduled to meet Gorbachev today. (Story on Page 10.)
In the interview at the White House, Reagan was quoted as saying he will not perform any arms control tricks at the summit and that the United States does not want to threaten the Soviet people in any way.
"Frankly, if the Soviet Union would take a comparable attitude, we would be able to make very rapid progress toward an agreement," Reagan said.
"A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought," Reagan assured Soviet citizens. "And this means that our countries must not fight any type of war."
Overall, Reagan was upbeat about his meeting with Gorbachev. But he also bluntly reminded the Kremlin leaders that the United States had shown more restraint than they did in missile deployments in Europe.
His interviewers praised his views on the summit as "sensible," adding, "The recognition of the need for extensive Soviet-American dialogue is a positive sign."
Reagan omitted some of the harsh anti-Soviet rhetoric he has used in the past but made some pointed criticism of Kremlin policy on arms control, Afghanistan and other issues.
The U.S. Embassy here released an English-language version of the Reagan interview, which made it clear that Izvestia's editors had deleted some Reagan arguments on behalf of his Strategic Defense Initiative, his space-based missile defense system.
They also trimmed his assertion that the United States proposed to reduce its nuclear warheads in Europe to the lowest level in 20 years as well as his charge that the Soviet Union was developing its own version of a space-based defense system and its own anti-satellite weapons.
Other comments that were cut were Reagan's remarks that the Soviet Union occupies other nations, "including the nations of the Warsaw Pact" and his statement that East Europeans "never were allowed the self-determination" that the Kremlin agreed to at the 1945 Yalta Conference.
Nor was his comment that the United States had offered after World War II to discuss renunciation of nuclear weapons at a time when it was the only country to posses them.
'Star Wars' Statement
But Izvestia did print his statement that the United States would not deploy a missile-defense system, if one is perfected, until both Washington and the Soviet Union eliminated their offensive nuclear weapons. He said that a missile shield would then still be needed as protection against the possibility of some "madman" reintroducing offensive nuclear arms.
The President's statement, which appeared to contradict Administration policy on space weapons, caused consternation at the White House and suggestions by critics outside the Administration that the President might not fully grasp U.S. policy.
His comment would seem to give the Soviets a veto over deployment of space-based weapons because they could simply refuse to dismantle their own offensive arsenal.
The President did not make Page 1 of Izvestia but his remarks took up all of Page 4, with the reporters' rebuttal filling the facing page.
It was the first time since Izvestia printed an interview with President John F. Kennedy in 1961 that an American leader had access to the controlled Soviet print media. Former President Richard M. Nixon appeared on Soviet television during the 1970s in the era of detente, however.
The President's scheduled meeting with Gorbachev, the first Soviet-American summit in six years, dominated the interview.
Seek Concrete Steps
"Obviously, we are not going to solve all the differences between us at one meeting, but we would like to take some concrete steps forward," he said.
"Above all, I hope that our meeting will give momentum to a genuine process of problem-solving, and that we can agree on a course to take us toward a safer world for all--and growing cooperation between our two countries," Reagan added.
Because the Soviet Union and the United States possess the largest and most destructive nuclear arsenals, he said, they are obliged to lead the world toward disarmament.
"I think that my meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev can start us on the road toward the goal our countries have set: radical reduction of nuclear weapons and steps to achieve their complete elimination," Reagan said.
"We can do this by finding concrete ways to overcome roadblocks in the negotiating process and thus give a real impetus to our negotiators," he added.
Discussing the arms reduction proposal put forth by the Soviet Union last month, the President added: "We will be responding in a genuine spirit of give-and-take in an effort to move toward practical solutions both countries can agree on."
Challenged Soviet View
His words challenged the usual Soviet theme that the United States shoulders the blame for lack of progress in arms talks and that the Reagan Administration is not serious about the summit session.
Concerning the controversial "Star Wars" program, Reagan said the Soviet Union is conducting similar space-based research and is ahead in some areas in which it has been experimenting for a longer time.
"This does make it hard for us to understand why we should be accused of all sorts of aggressive intentions when we are doing nothing more than you are," Reagan said.
Reagan also repeated his suggestion that the United States, the Soviet Union and other countries should pool their research on "Star Wars" weapons.
"I am prepared to say at the summit that if such a (missile defense) weapon is possible, and our research reveals that, then our move would be to say to all the world: 'Here, it is available.' We won't put this weapon--or this system--in place, this defensive system, until we do away with our nuclear missiles, our offensive missiles.
"But we will make it available to other countries, including the Soviet Union, to do the same thing. . . .
Seek No Monopoly
"Whichever one of us comes up first with this defensive system--the Soviet Union or us or anyone else--what a picture if we say no one will claim a monopoly on it," he added. "And we make that offer now. It will be available to the Soviet Union, as well as ourselves.
"And if the Soviet Union and the United States both say we will eliminate our offensive weapons, we will put in this defensive thing in case some place in the world a madman tries to create these (nuclear) weapons again," the President concluded.