U.S. Reported Readying New Disarmament Offer; Leaks Assailed
The Reagan Administration, preparing for senior-level talks with the Soviet Union and a new round of arms control negotiations, is preparing a set of disarmament proposals “that would narrow the differences” between the superpowers, a well-placed Administration official said Sunday.
However, sources familiar with the preparations said that President Reagan has yet to approve new negotiating positions.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes, meanwhile, issued a denunciation of news leaks about the re-evaluation of the Administration’s proposals and insisted that the White House “will have no comment on the discussions that take place within our government or at the table in Geneva,” where the U.S.-Soviet arms talks are being held.
Under one proposal, the number of ballistic missile warheads and air-launched cruise missiles that would be allowed on each side would be 7,500--a 25% increase over a previous U.S. proposal and just 500 below the 8,000 proposed by the Soviet Union--according to an official close to the arms control efforts, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name.
While this figure represents a 25% increase in the maximum number of allowable weapons, it comes as little surprise to those familiar with the U.S. nuclear forces, and it was seen as reflecting a thorough count of the anticipated strength of the nuclear arsenal.
Another element of the revised arms control position, this source confirmed, would set a limit of 3,300 on the number of warheads on land-based missiles allowed on each side--a 10% increase in the limit proposed by the United States.
However, the official cautioned that while these figures “do represent a set of numbers under consideration, it would be inaccurate to say it has been finalized.”
He said that one of the major obstacles facing the Administration is the formulation of a new approach involving long-range mobile missiles.
The Soviet Union’s work on the SS-25 mobile missile has placed it well ahead of the United States in this area. Work on the small mobile U.S. missile dubbed the Midgetman is not expected to produce a deployable weapon until late 1992 at the earliest.
Thus, the Pentagon, facing the task of drawing up war plans and targeting U.S. weapons on the movable Soviet missiles, has argued against any scaling back of efforts to ban these weapons, sources said.
While President Reagan completes the third and final week of his annual late-summer vacation at his ranch northwest of Santa Barbara, arms control and other foreign policy experts from the National Security Council, State Department and Pentagon are hashing out the revised position.
They are preparing for a new round of arms control discussions scheduled to begin in Geneva on Sept. 18 and for the talks between Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze in this country beginning one day later.
One Administration official said the group is “looking at the alternatives and options and plans, to make adjustments. We’re looking at things that would narrow the differences.”
However, he said it is uncertain what proposals would meet with the President’s approval and that it is premature to speculate about specific numbers.
Speakes, the White House spokesman, said that Reagan would make no final decisions “until nearer the time that talks resume.”
In a written statement, Speakes, who accompanied Reagan to Santa Barbara, said the new round of talks in Geneva was considered “important in the process of reaching an agreement for meaningful arms control” and that the “discussions come at a critical juncture in the process.”
“We believe the principle of confidentiality is essential to the successful outcome of these discussions,” he said, adding:
“We deplore those in this Administration who make this information public. Breaching the principle of confidentiality serves to undermine the opportunity for a successful outcome in arms control.”
“Quite frankly,” he continued, “we must question their motives. Their actions ill-serve the President, the American people and the cause of world peace.”
His statement was prompted by a report in the New York Times on the modification of the arms control position.