President Reagan will make a series of proposals at the Geneva summit that Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev should find "appealing" and could accept and point to as "significant victories," a senior Administration official said Wednesday.
The official talked optimistically about reaching agreements with the Soviets on such issues as trade, East-West travel and cultural exchanges. But he declared that it would be unrealistic to expect progress on the major issue of arms control, which Gorbachev sees as the major focus for the two-day summit, which begins Tuesday.
The official's comments, which reflect the Administration's delicate efforts to set the right tone for expectations at the summit, were expressed at one of a series of White House briefings designed to set the stage for the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting.
On each of the four items on the agenda--arms control, regional issues, bilateral issues and human rights--the President intends to make proposals "that will be appealing to the Soviet Union," said the official, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name.
"There are literally a dozen in the bilateral area," he said, without being specific. "There are processes and ideas on the regional side of things for the resolution of existing disagreements from Afghanistan to Central America that I think they should find appealing--not all of them, but some. And in the arms control area, I think it would be perhaps the most useful part of the conversation. . . ."
However, he stressed that to expect any kind of breakthrough on arms control would be not only unrealistic but also "naive."
(The Washington Post, meanwhile, reported in today's editions that the Soviet Union has proposed that both nuclear superpowers quickly reduce their land-based intercontinental missiles by 200 to 300 each to demonstrate their good faith in the Geneva arms negotiations.
(An Administration official said late Wednesday that the Soviet proposal was part of a package that was unveiled in Geneva early last month. However, he said, "It involves the same unbalanced approach reflected in their basic proposal. The end result is to increase their advantage in an unstable way.")
Reagan himself and his arms control adviser, Paul H. Nitze, recently have been cautiously optimistic that the summit will produce an agreement or, as the President has said, a "signal" that will spur the arms negotiators toward progress.
But the overwhelming majority of Administration officials have privately played down prospects for progress in that area--and both Secretary of State George P. Shultz and national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane have been openly pessimistic on the subject.
Nitze, in an interview with foreign journalists Wednesday, reiterated that he is still hopeful the summit will produce "an agreement on guidelines that would put an additional impetus behind the negotiations at Geneva."
But the official who briefed reporters at the White House played down the President's interest in even signing an agreement, saying that Reagan is more interested in reaching "a basic understanding" with Gorbachev and then evaluating how arms negotiators behave in the months that follow the summit.
Asked if he was saying it would be several months before it would be known whether the summit had been successful in moving the arms negotiations forward, he responded: "That's exactly what I'm saying. The notion that a meeting--particularly given the antecedents on the Soviet side to this meeting--would fundamentally alter the situation is a very superficial notion."
Under its new leader, he added, the Soviet Union only now is in a position to "consider what its policies will be" and it would be unrealistic to think it was in a position to reach a definitive arms control agreement.
Not Reasonable to Expect
But he said the United States is ready, declaring: "We could reach that kind of agreement. But it isn't reasonable to expect that they could."
Although Nitze has appeared more optimistic than other Administration officials, he told reporters that he believes that the Administration generally has been "trying to lay it out the way it sees it."
He added, "You know, we're not trying to make it optimistic or pessimistic. What we're trying to give the public is an opportunity to assess the facts themselves."