Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev warned Wednesday that Soviet-American tensions will rise to unprecedented levels if President Reagan goes ahead with his plans for a space-based missile defense program.
"The militarization of outer space will put a heavy psychological burden on people in all countries and bring about an atmosphere of universal instability and uncertainty," Gorbachev said in a speech to a delegation of Nobel Prize laureates here.
"Tension in relations between our countries will escalate to a point unprecedented even by today's standards and be even more difficult to control," he added.
Gorbachev said Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly known as "Star Wars," would lead to the development of "suicidal arms systems" by both the Soviet Union and the United States. He vowed to find "an effective answer" if the United States develops and deploys what he called space-strike weapons.
"I won't stress yet another time its clearly imperial tilt toward trying to insure superiority--military and technological--over other states," the Kremlin chief added.
The Soviet leader also advocated stepped-up Soviet-American cooperation in space research and nuclear power development.
"Both military programs and peaceful projects in space, including research, are costly undertakings, the greater the reason to choose the alternative of peaceful cooperation," Gorbachev said.
His speech, reported by the official news agency Tass, said the arms race has reached a critical point.
"Even today advances in military technology have made arms control extremely difficult," Gorbachev said. "We have come right down to a line beyond which the situation may become uncontrollable altogether."
Checking Arms Race
Speaking of his summit meeting with Reagan in Geneva next week, Gorbachev said: "The Soviet Union stands for the (summit) meeting to help in practice to resolve the key issues of our times, those of enhancing international peace and security, improving relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, checking the arms race and preventing its extension to outer space."
Once nuclear weapons are put into space, the Soviet leader said, "it will be an exceptionally difficult undertaking to bring them back."