Kremlin won't say 'stop' to Reagan's START proposal
A senior Soviet official says the Kremlin will agree to strategic-arms talks on the basis of recent Reagan administration proposals that have been lambasted by Moscow's media.Skip to next paragraph
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In a conversation with the Monitor May 17, the official echoed charges by Soviet press and broadcast commentators that the Reagan approach sought to secure American military superiority rather than fair and equal arms control.
But when asked to respond to Mr. Reagan's parallel call for resumed arms talks, the official said: ''Even with Reagan, there should be talks. There must be talks.
''We shall have talks even on the platform Reagan has suggested. We will put forward our own proposals, but we will have talks.''
Other Soviet officials said President Leonid Brezhnev was likely to shed more light on the issue at a keynote address May 18 to a national congress of Komsomol, the Communist Party's youth wing.
The official interviewed May 17 said it was impossible to say at present whether, as Mr. Reagan suggested in announcing his arms- control platform about one week ago, strategic-weapons talks could resume by the end of June. The Soviet official said the timing would depend on ''preparation of our counter-proposals.''
He said it was conceivable that political factors could delay negotiations. ''Antilinkage,'' he explained, smiling, in reference to the Soviets' own rejection of past US efforts to ''link'' arms talks with other political factors.
But he suggested Moscow's current plan was to favor an early resumption of the strategic-arms talks. ''We are prepared'' for this, he said.
A joint Soviet-Kampuchean communique released May 17 following a visit by the Kampuchean foreign minister also came out for an early resumption of strategic-arms talks, but did not specifically address the question of whether Mr. Reagan's proposals could provide a starting point for such negotiations.
When the former Carter administration presented a program for ''deep cuts'' in superpower strategic arsenals in 1977, the Soviets rejected it out of hand. Moscow saw the Carter plan as an unacceptably jolting departure from the more gradual negotiating approach under Presidents Nixon and Ford.
The Soviet official interviewed by the Monitor had warned, in a conversation several months ago, against a similarly abrupt approach by Mr. Reagan. The official said such ''Mao-like jumps'' should be avoided. ''We must look for a more modest pace,'' he said, although adding that the ''idea of reductions is, in itself, acceptable to us.''
Asked May 17 whether the Reagan proposal, envisaging a phased reduction beginning with a one-third cut in strategic warheads, was reminiscent of the Carter approach, the official played down the idea.
He said there was a ''certain similarity, in that both Carter and Reagan press for reduction of heavy missiles,'' the main pillar of the Soviet strategic force. But he said he did not want to suggest that the Reagan plan represented an unacceptably ''Mao-like jump.''
''It is a step in the wrong direction, but not because it is too big a step, '' the official said.
He also stressed that acceptance of negotiations on the basis of President Reagan's proposals should not suggest the Kremlin will be argued into accepting them. He expressed skepticism at prospects for early negotiating progress.