The announcement that President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev will soon meet drew bipartisan praise today from Capitol Hill, where lawmakers predicted it will affect their fight over proposed limits to U.S. weapons programs.
House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) said, “When you have your opposition sitting across the table, there’s always the possibility of a breakthrough.”
O’Neill praised the release of Nicholas Daniloff, the American journalist who had been jailed by the Soviets on spy charges, and said the freeing of Daniloff had cleared the way for the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting in Iceland.
“I’m happy they finally got things straightened out,” said O’Neill. “I’m delighted they’re going to Iceland.”
Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) was critical of the arrangement by which Daniloff was freed and Gennady F. Zakharov, an accused Soviet spy, was to be returned to the Soviet Union.
“I am troubled by the transparency of trading human lives for Soviet spies,” Kemp said. “However we try to portray what happened, the world sees that in return for Daniloff and two Soviet dissidents, we are releasing Zakharov, softening the spy expulsion order and holding a ‘pre-summit’ summit in Iceland.”
“I’m afraid the Soviets believe they won this round,” he said, “and that’s the wrong kind of environment going into a critical high-level meeting. . . .”
While O’Neill hoped for a breakthrough from the summit, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) cautioned against high hopes.
“If we get carried away by inflated expectations, we risk a big disappointment,” warned Dole, adding that the meeting “opens the opportunity for agreement on a number of substantive issues.”
The announcement of the Iceland meeting came as lawmakers struggled over arms control provisions that the Democratic-controlled House added to a stopgap budget bill.
The restrictions would limit nuclear weapons construction and tests, ban tests of anti-satellite weapons, freeze spending for the “Star Wars” defense program and ban chemical weapons.
The Republican-controlled Senate has not yet approved those limitations and Reagan has threatened to veto the bill unless the restrictions are removed.
No Harm Seen
O’Neill, asked if the restrictions would weaken Reagan’s hand in the upcoming meeting, said, “I would say absolutely not. . . . I don’t think they tie the President’s hands.”
Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) criticized the House restrictions as “unwise and foolish” and said the approaching meeting “underscores the essential foolishness of Congress trying to legislate arms control.”
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said the Iceland meeting was “timed to stoke the fires of those opponents of arms control” and he told Reagan, “We are not undercutting you, Mr. President, we are helping to spur you on.”