Kremlin to US: What is 'strategic' in war?

The Kremlin, through a Pravda article calling current arms talks in Geneva ''futile,'' appears to be prodding Washington to treat all strategic systems equally in any new accord.

A Soviet statement, appearing in Pravda Jan. 2, said US negotiators had recently rejected a proposed ''draft on the fundamentals'' of a new treaty. Presumably the draft incorporated Kremlin objections to the US approach, especially the focus on reducing land-based missiles.

Moscow has meanwhile hinted it hopes to tackle an issue deferred in past strategic-arms talks - US ''forward-based'' aircraft capable of reaching Soviet soil from takeoff in Europe - in the parallel Geneva talks on European nuclear forces. The forward-based systems, the Soviet statement says, must ''at least not be built up'' as a means of ''bypassing'' a new strategic-weapons pact.

In its fullest public review yet of the strategic-arms talks, the Kremlin has underscored concern over US plans to deploy the radar-elusive cruise missile, the MX, and the submarine-based Trident missile.

The statement made more explicit a longtime Kremlin bid to bar deployment of the long-range cruise missile altogether - a weapon that, under US proposals, would be excluded from a first-stage strategic-arms reduction.

The Pravda statement followed remarks by new Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, in a cabled interview with the American Hearst newspaper chain, that he sees ''every possibility'' for compromise arms accords. He said, ''There are solutions to the questions under discussion which do not prejudice the interests of either side.''

In late November, a senior official told The Christian Science Monitor he saw ''prospects for changes in the positions of both sides'' in Geneva, but that such movement was not likely in the immediate future.

The US proposes initially to concentrate on reducing land-based intercontinental missiles. These make up a much greater part of the Soviet arsenal than of the American one. But the US argues that the Soviets' larger and powerful land-based force gives Moscow the ability to eliminate most US land-based missiles in a first strike.

Other weapons - such as the cruise missile and long-range nuclear aircraft - could be tackled later, US officials say.

Pravda repeated a recent Andropov statement that Moscow would answer deployment of the American MX and cruise missiles with similar systems, both of which are said to be in the testing stage.

But the emphasis was on negotiations. And despite firm rejection of the Reagan administration's approach, the general tone was in keeping with a reciprocal paring of rhetorical extremes since former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev's passing in November.

The fundamental Soviet objection to Mr. Reagan's proposals, voiced from the start by Mr. Brezhnev and repeated in Pravda, is that the Americans allegedly seek to penalize the Kremlin for its traditionally heavy reliance on land-based missiles.

US officials say they want both sides to move toward a more even emphasis on other strategic weaponry - such as submarine-based missiles.

The problem, as some Soviet sources suggest gingerly in private remarks, is that the US proposal would favor weapons systems in which the US has a technological lead. The Pravda statement, interestingly, revived a Brezhnev-era call for a mutual ban on late-vintage submarines.

A Soviet arms-control analyst remarked in September to the Monitor that among objections to the Reagan plan is that ''it not only allows, but forces, quick modernization'' of weaponry.

Another Soviet concern, alluded to in the Pravda statement, is that particular new US systems that would be permitted under at least the first stage of cuts envisaged by Mr. Reagan - the MX missile and the submarine-based Trident - could give the Americans the same ''first-strike'' capability Washington is attributing to Moscow.

Finally, a Soviet official says, ''The proposal does not take care of the cruise missile.'' Though too slow to be a ''first-strike'' weapon, the cruise's sophisticated guidance system would allow it to hug the ground, elude detection, and hit a target with great accuracy. Limits on the cruise were included in an already expired protocol to the SALT II pact, and Soviet officials argue they had hoped and expected a more permanent curb in follow-up talks on a ''SALT III'' treaty.

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