Gorbachev Appeals to Reagan on Arms Tests : Negotiators Will Wait for Soviet Concessions

Times Staff Writer

U.S. negotiators will return to the Geneva arms control talks early next year with instructions to wait for new Soviet concessions that American strategists believe are under consideration in the Kremlin, the director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency said Wednesday.

Kenneth L. Adelman said there are signs, many of them originating from President Reagan’s summit with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in Geneva last week, that Moscow is less adamant than its public posture would imply about linking progress in arms control to limits on the U.S. space-based missile defense program.

‘Star Wars’ Connection

At a breakfast meeting with a group of reporters, Adelman said that the Soviets already have backed down from their earlier refusal to consider limits on intermediate-range nuclear forces in Europe unless the United States agreed to restrictions on its space-based defense program, popularly known as “Star Wars.”


He predicted comparable Soviet movement on intercontinental--or strategic--nuclear weapons after the fourth round of the current nuclear arms talks between the two nations in Geneva early next year.

“Before, they were saying we could have no progress unless it was tied to prohibiting space-strike weapons,” Adelman said, “but in Round 3 (of the arms talks), that was dropped. I would think over time the same thing will be dropped on the strategic side.”

Adelman emphasized that Reagan has no plans to offer any concessions of his own on the U.S. defense program, at least until current research efforts demonstrate whether an effective space-based missile defense is possible. He said that probably will not be known until the early 1990s, long after Reagan has left office.

In the past, Moscow has often refused to budge from its position in arms control talks while trying to force U.S. concessions by appealing to public opinion in the United States and Western Europe. Once the Soviets decided in previous arms talks that it was in their interest to engage in give-and-take negotiations, however, they made substantial changes in their position, ultimately producing the arms control agreements signed in 1974 and 1979.


Ready to Deal

Adelman said it appears that Moscow is now ready to deal.

“There has been progress in indicating to us that in arms control they are ready to entertain the possibility--and maybe even the reality--of deep cuts in offensive weapons, far more than I thought possible a few years ago,” Adelman said.

He said the Soviets even agreed to talk about cuts in missile throw-weight--the size of the payload the missile is capable of delivering--"when for years they just stonewalled.” The Soviets hold a large lead over the United States in throw-weight.


When Adelman was reminded that the Soviets have made such proposals conditional on U.S. abandonment of the Strategic Defense Initiative, the formal name for “Star Wars,” he said that “it is linked rhetorically"--an implication that the linkage might not be firm. “You have to presume the Soviets will change someday,” he said.

Asked if Washington planned to change its own proposals to make them more attractive to the Kremlin, Adelman said that the United States made a new proposal in the final days of the third round of the Geneva arms control talks, which ended earlier this month.

“There is no need to propose something else at the start of Round 4,” he said.