Pentagon arms control aide sees little potential for progress at Geneva

A top administration arms control official says there was little progress in the round of arms talks that ended Tuesday in Geneva, and he doesn't see much potential for the round that begins in May. The Soviet Union never formally responded to a recent US offer to reduce medium-range nuclear missiles. In the next round, ``it's highly likely the Soviet formal response to the proposal will be similar to the informal one, which was negative,'' says Richard Perle, assistant secretary of defense for international security policy.

He admits that other factions within the administration are more optimistic about the outcome of the talks, but says they are exaggerating very small indications of progress.

One such indication is the apparent flexibility of the Soviets on the question of French and British nuclear forces.

In their multistep proposal put forth in January for eliminating nuclear weapons by the year 2000, the Soviets dropped a demand that they be allowed as many medium-range missiles as Britain, France, and the United States, combined. The Soviets said, however, that the British and French should not be allowed to modernize their nuclear arsenals. Many Western experts saw this as a softening in the Soviet position.

Perle, however, claims that French and British nuclear weapons are so outmoded that if they are not updated, they will be of no use as a deterrent. The Soviet position is ``calculated to produce a stall, while giving the appearance of Soviet movement,'' says Perle.

He was also highly critical of last week's House resolution calling for immediate resumption of talks about a comprehensive nuclear test ban. Before the House vote, Perle says, there were ``faint diplomatic signals'' from the Soviets that they would be willing to talk about on-site inspection of nuclear tests, something the Reagan administration favors.

The House resolution, Perle claims, will almost certainly kill this diplomatic initiative; rather than make concessions, the USSR will just wait for Congress to pressure the administration to get talks started.

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