Kremlin toughens stance
Moscow — Moscow is seeking to regain arms-negotiating leverage in the wake of the Korean airliner crisis. It has rebutted Western predictions of a Kremlin softening at the Geneva Euromissile talks. A leading Soviet spokesman termed recent remarks to this effect by the West German foreign minister ''wishful thinking.''
First Deputy Foreign Minister Georgi Kornienko added that Moscow would not be nudged by the air disaster toward arms control concessions.
''There is no connection, nor can there be any connection between the two'' issues, he told a Moscow news conference Wednesday.
A senior military official sharing the dais meanwhile declined comment on United States charges that the Soviets had begun building further sites for their SS-20 rockets. This is a military secret, said Sergei Akhromeyev, first deputy chief of staff. But he said Moscow was holding to its 1982 moratorium on siting new SS-20s in the European part of the country.
Speaking to the Monitor later, another senior official argued that the US has ''already started'' trying to ''use'' the airliner issue to try to put the main negotiating onus in Geneva on the Soviet Union.
''You (Americans) know our proposals. They are constructive . . . and you are trying to spoil everything (in the talks) with the Korean airplane,'' he said, repeating Soviet charges that the US provoked the air tragedy by using the KAL jet for spying.
The Geneva Euromissile talks center, on the Soviet side, on the SS-20 missiles. NATO is pledged to begin siting new US rockets in Western Europe in December barring an accord before then.
The Soviets are insisting, however, the US include not just its own planned Euromissiles in the talks, but also 162 rockets already separately deployed by Britain and France.
By this formula - rejected by the West on the grounds the British and French forces are outside NATO control - the Soviets would be able to retain a matching European force of SS-20s. Moscow says, regardless of who controls the British and French rockets, they are in effect NATO arms aimed at the Soviet Union.
West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher's prediction of possible Soviet flexibility referred to these British and French weapons, and came after talks with his Soviet counterpart Andrei Gromyko.
Mr. Gromyko was said to have hinted that British and French arms might be shifted from the Euromissile talks, and covered instead in the simultaneous US-Soviet talks on longer-range, ''strategic'' weapons.
At the news conference Wednesday, Mr. Kornienko did not utterly retract the reported Gromyko remarks. But he did, in clarifying them, effectively rule out any early shift.
He said the main point, for Moscow, was that British and French arms had so far ''not been counted in any accord.'' He suggested the US was thus slipping them through a loophole.
And he added Moscow was not about to change the negotiating label on these arms on ''the hypothetical possibility'' of an accord limiting them in another forum.
The official interviewed later, like other senior sources questioned recently , said that, in principle, there might indeed remain ''room for maneuver'' in Geneva on British and French arms.
But he and the other sources added that the US has ''not even accepted the principle'' that these arms must be counted in the balance.
The officials also suggest that Moscow would seek some firm guarantee of an accord on these arms, not just agreement to include them in what could become extremely drawn-out talks.
Yet the main purpose of Wednesday's press conference was clearly to put such speculation on the back burner, amid Soviet concern that negotiating pressure on the US has been easing.
Marshal Akhromeyev reiterated that deployment of new US missiles in Western Europe would trigger ''appropriate countermeasures'' from the Soviets.
Mr. Kornienko said the current round of Euromissile talks was ''decisive,'' adding that hopes for an accord ''depend on the United States and NATO.''