With President Reagan leading the way, U.S. and Soviet officials Monday sought to calm the tense atmosphere after the failed summit by emphasizing that arms negotiations will go forward in an effort to salvage as much as possible from the stalemate in Iceland.
"Our dialogue will continue, the talks will continue," said Vitaly Churkin, a Soviet Embassy spokesman here. "We will seek possible ways to untie the knots. Lots of problems were created by Reykjavik."
'Going to Push Ahead'
John M. Poindexter, Reagan's national security adviser, also insisted that Iceland was not the end of the road. "It's going to take a little time--both sides need to reflect on what happened--but we're going to push ahead in all these areas.
"Even though (Soviet leader Mikhail S.) Gorbachev linked all other agreements to (the "Star Wars" missile defense issue), he himself said the agreements are still out there. . . ."
"We're going to pocket these various pieces," Poindexter added, meaning that the United States will act as if Soviet concessions at Reykjavik on strategic offensive arms, intermediate-range missiles and and nuclear test issues are firm, new positions.
More Fragile Ties
Yet, despite the expressions of hope on both sides, the prospect now is almost certainly for a more fragile relationship between the superpowers and further delays on arms control. Although neither side is likely to halt the arms talks in Geneva, chances of quick progress seem slim.
Although the Administration will attempt to hold Moscow to the concessions it made in Iceland, the Soviets have withdrawn statements and reversed policies before.
Poindexter said Gorbachev in Iceland "certainly went back on" earlier positions, including promises to separate the medium-range missile and nuclear-testing issues from "Star Wars," the informal name for the space-based missile defense system proposed by the United States. The proposal is officially known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).
Talks Position Unclear
It was also not clear why the lower-level Soviet negotiators at Geneva might accept what Gorbachev refused to accept in Iceland--particularly before Moscow sees the fruits of its attempt at Reykjavik to bring public and political pressure on Reagan to trade "Star Wars" for a historic package of cuts in offensive weapons.
"The Soviet strategy (at Reykjavik)," said former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, "was to put the blame for it all on one U.S. program," Reagan's missile defense effort.
"The Soviets will not drive it (the summit collapse) to a showdown now," such as by walking out of the Geneva talks in the next few weeks, Kissinger added.
"Nor are they going to hibernate," said Arnold Horelick, director of the Rand/UCLA Center for Soviet Studies. "A crisis is not in their interest, or ours, right now. But I think the chances for a separate . . . agreement (on medium-range missiles) now are poor, and there won't be another summit meeting until there is some breakthrough in the arms impasse."
Waiting for Results
Beyond the immediate future, prospects for U.S.-Soviet relations will remain uncertain until the Soviets see how well their strategy to pressure Reagan into concessions has worked, in the opinion of several experts. This, in turn, will depend on how successfully Reagan defends himself.
"What happens in Soviet-American affairs now largely depends on what happens at home," said Horelick. "The summit has finally brought to a head the question of whether this Administration and this President will constrain SDI in exchange for offensive arms cuts, a so-called 'grand compromise' between defense and offense.
"The real issue now is, can the Administration make its case at home and in the (NATO) alliance for holding out on SDI? Can it be justified in giving up what they walked away from in Iceland?" Horelick added.
In his television address Monday night, the President made essentially two defenses: that SDI is a necessary insurance policy against Soviet cheating on any arms reduction agreement; and that it would be foolish to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to restrain the "Star Wars" program because the Soviets have been violating that treaty and could violate its successor.
U.S. Case on ABM
Of all the Administration's charges of Soviet arms violations, its case on the ABM treaty is most widely accepted among experts. The Soviets have built a huge radar station deep inside their territory at Krasnoyarsk even though the treaty insists that any such system should be at the borders of each nation and looking outward.
Reagan's "insurance" rationale for SDI is also well regarded by Horelick and others. In addition to being able to verify Soviet compliance or non-compliance with treaties, the United States must be able to penalize the Soviets for any violations by some action short of abrogating the treaties. Thus, a vigorous SDI program could be accelerated if the Soviets reneged on any agreement to reduce offensive arms.
Critics of SDI nevertheless contend that the system is a decade away from being proved feasible, and thus could remain largely in the laboratories for 10 years--as Gorbachev demanded at the summit--with only marginal slowing of its pace.
Also, some changes could be made in the ABM treaty to bar tests on targets in space, without endorsing Soviet violations of the ABM treaty, according to one expert.
Out on a Limb
However, a senior White House official suggested that one reason that the missile defense system was the critical obstacle to success at Reykjavik was that Gorbachev is too far out on a political limb to be able to compromise on anything short of ending the U.S. program.
Either that, the official said, or SDI was an excuse when Gorbachev and his aides suddenly got cold feet at the prospect of cutting nuclear forces in half in five years and to zero in 10 years.
One likely result of the summit failure is to precipitate a national debate in the United States on these issues.
It will be a difficult debate, owing to the highly technical aspects of the argument. And it will contain a large political component because it comes in the final days before the mid-term congressional elections in which Republican control of the Senate hangs in the balance.
Indeed, Reagan had rejected earlier Soviet proposals for a summit in Washington this fall before the elections, just to avoid injecting foreign policy into the campaign.
Whether Reagan will soon forgive Gorbachev for enticing him to Iceland in October, and for presenting him there with an enormously difficult, even historic choice--without advance notice, according to U.S. officials--will be an imponderable psychological factor in the future relations of the two leaders as well as of their countries.
"It was inconceivable to expect the President to decide in just 36 hours of negotiations to abolish all nuclear weapons," said Kissinger, who had opposed the Iceland summit on that grounds that it was inadequately prepared for.
If the Soviet arms package had been introduced at the Geneva talks and worked its way through the negotiation process, he added, it might have led to a successful outcome through negotiations. But presented "in the compressed atmosphere of the summit, Reagan had no choice" but to refuse, he said.
Beyond arms control, the gridlock created at Iceland will freeze any movement on regional conflicts and bilateral relations, Horelick said, although the Soviets might make some concession on human rights--releasing some dissidents, for example, to maximize their effort to look eminently reasonable in the face of Reagan intransigence.