The Administration today rejected a pre-summit proposal by the Soviet Union for an immediate cut of 200 to 300 land-based nuclear missiles as an inequitable move that would strengthen Moscow's first-strike advantage.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz confirmed that the Soviets offered a first-slice reduction in land-based forces as part of an arms proposal presented last month but remarked, "I don't think it's any big deal."
"There are some obvious problems with small, absolute reductions," he said. "When you start from inequitable levels, if you go down absolutely you don't get to an equitable end point. Furthermore, small reductions usually get made from systems that are not that meaningful anyway."
Offered at Arms Talks
Speaking at a pre-summit news conference, Shultz said the proposal was offered at the arms talks in Geneva in conjunction with a Soviet plan for a 50% reduction in nuclear weapons. He denied a report that the proposal was repeated during his recent talks in Moscow.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes said the mutual cut in land-based missiles--systems viewed by the United States as most threatening--"would not meet our criteria of stability, balance and equity."
Amid signs the Soviets could unveil the offer at the superpower summit next week, Speakes indicated that the move would permit the Soviets to retire older missiles without diminishing their advantage in land-based forces.
"The resulting symmetry," Speakes said, "would mean the Soviets reducing relatively fewer warheads. And at the end of the reductions, the ratio of warheads to targets would move further toward the advantage of the U.S.S.R. and away from stability."
"Such a proposal," Speakes said, "would enhance the Soviets' first-strike capability."