Superpowers show little give. Neither seems set to yield on medium-range missiles
Secretary of State George Shultz's second day of talks here with Soviet leaders has seen a marathon session with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, but so far has not produced any firm indications of a breakthrough in arms control. Spokesmen for the Soviet Union and the United States continue to describe their talks in neutral or mildly optimistic terms. A military observer with the Soviet news agency Tass, however, said in a Monitor interview yesterday that he doubted that President Reagan was interested in an arms control agreement.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
A 4-hour meeting between Mr. Shultz and Mr. Gorbachev yesterday probably offered the best chance of a breakthrough. Soviet officials were in particular hoping that a letter Shultz was carrying from Mr. Reagan to Gorbachev would contain new proposals on medium-range missiles.
At the beginning of the Shultz-Gorbachev talks, it became clear that the letter contained an invitation to Gorbachev to visit the US. The Soviet leader had earlier remarked that he does ``not usually go anywhere without a reason.'' And the Soviet leadership regularly says that Gorbachev will not attend a summit in the US unless he is sure that it will produce tangible results - such as an agreement on medium-range missiles. At press time, however, it was not clear whether the talks produced any clear progress on arms control.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Bogachev, a military analyst with Tass, struck a pessimistic note in an interview yesterday.
``My personal impression is that [US Defense Secretary Caspar] Weinberger has got the upper hand'' in arms control policy, Mr. Bogachev said.
Mr. Weinberger ``doesn't want any agreement'' on arms control, he claimed. ``He was dissatisfied with Reykjavik,'' Bogachev added, referring to the 1986 superpower summit in Iceland, ``and now he is building barriers'' to further agreements. Asked if he felt that Reagan was interested in an arms control agreement, Bogachev replied, ``I personally doubt [it], but he's not as outspoken as Weinberger.''
Bogachev stressed that he was expressing his private opinion, but the personal views of Tass observers rarely diverge from the official line.
The only way to break out of the present deadlock on nuclear arms control is ``to follow the agreements reached at Reykjavik,'' Bogachev said. But he asserted that the US is talking instead of a ``basic revision'' of the Reykjavik understandings.
He reacted unfavorably to the idea mentioned by some officials traveling with Shultz that all medium-range missiles should be eliminated. US and Soviet officials are now discussing an agreement under which medium-range missiles in Europe, would be eliminated, while each side would retain 100 warheads on their own soil. ``This is not the time for more revisions'' of the ideas already under discussion, Bogachev said.
He also expressed disquiet at reports that the Reagan administration would be willing to adhere to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty for five years instead of the 10 years proposed at Reykjavik, and that the US now felt that it would take seven years to achieve a 50 percent reduction of strategic weapons. In Iceland, Reagan had proposed effecting the cut in five years.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Gerasimov sounded a mildly optimistic note at a press conference yesterday. Talks Monday between Shultz and his counterpart, Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, had taken place in a ``favorable'' atmosphere, Mr. Gerasimov said. The two sides' views had ``sometimes'' been close, but more often diverged. But, like US State Department spokesman Charles Redman, Gerasimov refused to give any but the most general details of the discussions.
The Soviet news media have been equally reticent in their coverage of the talks. Reports have been succinct and noncommittal - similar to the deadpan briefings that US correspondents are receiving from the US officials accompanying Shultz.
The official view of US-Soviet relations - given, for example, to intellectuals or party workers - still portrays the superpowers working from fundamentally different concepts of security.
The latest edition of the Soviet journal USA, distributed just as Shultz arrived here, depicted the Reagan administration flirting with the idea of the surviving a nuclear war, and adhering to the idea of negotiating from a position of strength. The Soviet leadership wants equal security, the journal said, and holds that there would be no winners in a nuclear conflict.