Arms control inches ahead on new fronts. Beyond Euromissile pact, superpowers grope toward `star wars' compromise to pave way for reducing long-range missiles by half
In addition to working toward a final pact eliminating intermediate-range nuclear missiles, the Soviets are inching toward a far more important arms control agreement that would halve intercontinental strategic offensive warheads. Moscow, however, is insisting on a price for a strategic deal: limitations on the American strategic defense initiative (SDI or``star wars'') and on comparable Soviet programs. And, so far, it is not clear if Moscow will end up offering a tradeoff that President Reagan could accept.Skip to next paragraph
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The talks last week in Washington, D.C., between Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and United States Secretary of State George Shultz were strikingly non-polemical. At these talks the Soviets showed some movement in both offensive and defensive strategic negotiations, according to the Sept. 18 press conference by Mr. Shultz and Western sources familiar with the negotiations.
Especially in the case of star wars this movement remains ambiguous, despite repeated American questioning of Sheverdnadze's team about the Soviet position.
In talks about a Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (START), Shultz told reporters, the Soviets specified last week for the first time that if 50 percent cuts in total warheads are agreed on, Moscow will also halve its present heavy missiles down to 154, with 1,540 warheads. Making `narrow' interpretations
In space negotiations, Shultz said the Soviets made vague suggestions about abiding by the traditional or ``narrow'' interpretation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Previously they have rejected this and insisted instead on writing additional restrictions to make the ``narrow'' interpretation still narrower.
The American response seems to have been as ambiguous as the Soviet offers. Shultz hinted publicly at some American flexibility, however, in addressing the Soviet concern about ``predictability''; and he lauded the ``tremendously productive'' summit at Reykjavik, Iceland, a year ago.
These comments suggested American consideration of a return to the 10 years tentatively set at Reykjavik as a period of initial agreed adherence to the ABM Treaty. Washington had reduced its offer to seven years after Reykjavik. Three key questions
At the heart of the sparring are three key questions:
What kind of SDI testing regime should prevail during any initial period of ``non-withdrawal'' from the 1972 ABM Treaty?
What unilateral freedom to deploy strategic defense should exist after that initial ``non-withdrawal'' period expires?
What linkage should exist between START and strategic defense?
On these points the Soviets may be signaling greater tolerance for SDI testing during a period of agreed ``non-withdrawal'' from the ABM Treaty - and possibly even greater tolerance for deployment of some kind of strategic defense thereafter.
Thus, in discussing the key list that they have proposed for magnitudes of technologies to be barred from space during the period of observance of the ABM Treaty, the Soviets clarified certain points in Washington, Western diplomats said. If specified parameters for such things as the power of a laser or the size of a mirror are not exceeded in space, they indicated, these would not be deemed violations of the treaty. In ``laboratories'' and test ranges on earth, however, these magnitudes could be exceeded without being deemed illegal. Linkages an issue
Still murky are the reasons for the differentiated Soviet formulas about linkage between strategic offensive and defensive arms control in the two draft treaties presented by the Soviets in Geneva last July. In their draft START treaty, the Soviets say that once the signatories have agreed to 50 percent cuts in offensive warheads, ``practical development and deployment'' of strategic defense by one side (i.e., Washington) would be grounds for releasing the other side (i.e., Moscow ) from its treaty obligations to reduce offensive weapons. In their draft space treaty, however, the Soviets do not use the phrase ``and deployment,'' leaving only ``practical development'' as grounds for resuming an all-out offensive arms race.