Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev has thrown forth Moscow's latest rephrasing of a call for nuclear missile limits in Europe -- wording which, if taken literally, could signal a major shift. But Monitor correspondent Ned Temko reports that diplomats here say the reformulation, made at a dinner for West German Social Democratic Party chairman Willy Brandt, is vague enough to make reliable interpretation all but impossible.
In February, Mr. Brezhnev called for a "moratorium" on deployment of medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe, including the European part of the USSR. He said this would include "all preparations for the deployment of . . . additional weapons," explicitly counting in NATO plans to base new US missiles in Western Europe starting in 1983.
In his latest remarks, the President said only that the US must "tell us that during the talks [on missile limits] it will not build up its medium- range nuclear means in Europe." This could allow NATO to hold firm on its decision to deploy new missiles as long as none was introduced during the talks -- a safe bet at least until 1983.
Western diplomats have watched with growing skepticism a series of what they consider decorative reformulations of the February proposal. Some suspect the comments, like earlier Soviet rephrasings, might be geared largely toward piquing Western -- particularly West European -- curiosity and thus increasing momentum toward earl y talks.