Arms Talks End; U.S., Soviets Disagree on Results
The chief U.S. and Soviet arms negotiators disagreed here Thursday on the results of the just-recessed talks, with the American giving the most optimistic assessment yet of the prospects for a new agreement, while the Soviet envoy bitterly attacked that view as distorted.
U.S. Ambassador Max M. Kampelman, recognizing that significant Soviet proposals were made within the last month, expressed hope that the session “has in some areas opened the way to a serious dialogue which will narrow our differences and lead to agreement.”
His optimism was echoed in a written statement from President Reagan in Santa Barbara, where he is vacationing. Commenting on the new Soviet proposals, Reagan said, “I am hopeful these proposals signal the beginning of a serious Soviet effort to join us in actually reducing nuclear arms.”
But the chief Soviet delegate, Viktor P. Karpov, four hours after Kampelman spoke, issued a statement charging that the American “assessments do not reflect the actual state of negotiations and present it (the last round of the talks) in a distorted light.
“Throughout the fifth round, there have been no changes in the position of the U.S. delegation that would contribute to mutually acceptable agreements,” he complained.
The differing assessments were somewhat predictable, with the Americans seeing the glass half full--by virtue of the new Soviet proposals that have been awaited for much of the 15 months of the talks--while the Soviets see it half empty in the absence of a U.S. response so far to their offers.
The bite to the Karpov statement was surprising, however, particularly because it referred to Kampelman by name. This may reflect Karpov’s anger at his being challenged by name by Kampelman six weeks ago. Kampelman’s charges came after the Soviet official, in a statement at the start of the round, criticized the U.S. air raid on Libya.
In Washington’s Court
Nonetheless, the rancorous exchange emphasized that the ball is now in Washington’s court as far as the arms talks are concerned, and that the “constructive response” to the Soviet proposals that was promised by Kampelman may make or break chances for a significant arms agreement in time for the next U.S.-Soviet summit, which is expected late this year.
That response could be presented to the Soviets after the talks resume here Sept. 14, but it might also be sent to Moscow earlier to speed up the process.
The next round of talks is scheduled to end Nov. 4, just before the U.S. congressional elections and not much in advance of a possible November or December summit meeting.
In his statement, Kampelman noted that the round began with U.S. proposals on the table in all three negotiating groups: long-range offensive missiles and bombers; medium-range offensive missiles, and space defense weapons.
The United States has offered a 50% reduction in long-range weapons, as have the Soviets. But in its latest proposal, Moscow introduced a new option that calls for lesser cuts of about 33%.
It coupled this alternative with the demand that the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which curtails work on anti-missile defensive systems, be amended to extend the “non-withdrawal” clause from six months to 15 years. This would forbid deployment of the Administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars” space-based missile defense program, for that period. Kampelman said that the “modified Soviet proposals” in space defense negotiations have been “responsive to some of our concerns” and he expressed hope that the proposals “will turn out to be constructive.”
He complained that in the third set of talks, dealing with medium-range missiles, the United States had made the most recent proposal and called for “a more determined Soviet effort in the next round to bridge remaining differences.”
“The latest Soviet proposals, introduced just a few days ago, are now being seriously considered and studied by us,” he added.