Soviet public backs superpower summit, but has some doubts on nuclear forces treaty

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Public opinion polls published in the Soviet press last week show that strong support for the Washington summit is tempered by hesitation about the effect of the newly signed treaty on intermediate nuclear forces. Eighty-six percent of Muscovites questioned in a phone poll felt that the outcome of the summit was good or very good, according to the party newspaper Pravda. Pravda said the poll was carried out by the the Institute of Sociological Research, but did not say when.

Twenty-eight percent of those questioned said they expected ``significant'' improvements in US-Soviet relations after the summit, while another 61 percent said some improvement was likely.

The feelings expressed in the poll about the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty - which eliminates missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310-3,440 miles) - were more mixed. Thirty-seven percent said the treaty would strengthen the Soviet Union's security; 43 percent said it would at least not harm security; 8 percent said the treaty would jeopardize security; and 12 percent had no opinion.

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One aspect of the treaty that seems to be causing some public concern is that Moscow is to destroy almost twice as many nuclear warheads as the US. But Vitaly Zhurkin, deputy director of the Institute for the US and Canada, justified the pact in a briefing Thursday saying the Soviet Union had sacrificed ``quantity for quality.''

At the same briefing, a military specialist, Gen. Gely Batenin, said the Soviet Union was carrying out its own research into space-based defense. Moscow is pursuing fundamental research and laboratory research in all areas included in the US SDI program, he said. But, he added, this was intended to counteract the US Strategic Defense Initiative, not to create a Soviet counterpart.

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