IN a single sentence, President Reagan has explained how our approach to arms control fits our overall policy in dealing with the Soviet Union: Nations do not distrust one another because they have weapons, they have weapons because they distrust one another. Therefore, when the President sent Secretary of State George Shultz to Moscow to meet with General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, Shultz stuck to the administration's longstanding policy of pursuing a broad agenda: regional conflicts, bilateral relations, human rights, and arms reductions. This agenda built upon our experience that concentrating on arms control alone will not insure better relations with the USSR. The US reminded the Soviets that changes in their actions on these first three pillars will improve the chances on the fourth pillar: achieving and keeping an arms reduction agreement.
Six years of patiently adhering to this approach has brought us close to concluding an agreement on deep reductions in intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF). On April 23, negotiators resumed work in Geneva that could, if the Soviets are serious, result in a verifiable treaty on intermediate-range forces. We have indicated we could sign a treaty which embodies the Reykjavik formula of completely eliminating longer-range missiles (LRINF) from Europe while allowing, as an interim step, 100 LRINF warheads to remain on each side globally - deployed in the US and Soviet Asia. But we need not settle for this agreement alone.
While we welcome reductions of intermediate-range missiles, Western security requires that we make progress in reducing other weapons as well, both at the strategic and conventional/chemical warfare ends of the spectrum. Since his Eureka College speech in 1982, President Reagan has been repeating his call for deep, equitable, and verifiable reductions of strategic offensive arms. Finally, in 1985, at the Geneva summit, General Secretary Gorbachev agreed to seek reductions of these weapons by 50 percent. Last year at Reykjavik, they agreed further to a formula for reducing strategic nuclear delivery vehicles to no more than 1,600 on each side, with no more than 6,000 warheads on each side.
Earlier in April, in Prague, Gorbachev said that reduction of strategic arms was of paramount importance and called it ``the root problem,'' of arms control. Yet when he met with Secretary Shultz in Moscow a few days later, he refused to drop his demand linking any reduction in offensive arms to unreasonable, and therefore unacceptable, restrictions on testing and development of strategic defenses. These constraints are not acceptable because they would cripple the US Strategic Defense Initiative, our hope for a more stable deterrent based on defensive systems. We need to challenge the Soviet leaders to get at the ``root problem,'' the central and devastating weapons targeted against each other's homelands. The US is determined to move forward as rapidly as possible this year toward completion of an agreement reducing strategic systems by 50 percent.
We also need to get the Soviets to deal rapidly and positively with conventional imbalances. As we move to reduce nuclear weapons, we should not be deluded into thinking that this precludes the need to correct the conventional and chemical weapons imbalances as well. There is no objective reason why progress at both ends of the spectrum - strategic and conventional - should not keep pace with progress in the intermediate area.
Returning to intermediate-range forces, our final goal remains their complete elimination on a global basis. One hundred warheads in Soviet Asia now remain in the formula only because the Soviets have refused to agree to their full elimination. Since weapons of this class are easily moved, their complete elimination will aid in ensuring effective verification.
Together with our allies in Europe and Asia, we are studying the new Soviet offer, presented in Moscow, in response to our insistence to limit shorter-range missiles (SRINF). As with LRINF, the US principles for dealing with SRINF are that any such agreement be global, equal, bilateral, and verifiable. These principles make up the cornerstone of our negotiating position.
In any arms control agreement the Reagan administration will sign, the Soviets will have to accept verification measures of unprecedented strictness and intrusiveness. Mere promises of compliance will not suffice. ``The devil is in the details.'' We will watch closely the verification details the Soviets may put forward in the next few weeks in Geneva.
While the President wants a sound arms reduction agreement, he is also realistic. He is mindful that the Soviets are masterful at 11th-hour negotiations. If we allow them, they will put off agreeing to the specifics of verification until the last minute. Then, playing upon our desire not to be held responsible for failing to reach an agreement, they may tempt us to take unwarranted risks with our national security.
In the coming weeks and months we must press for resolution of the full scope of our arms control objectives. We should welcome any progress the Soviets are willing to make in the reduction of longer-range and shorter-range INF weapons. But we must not assume that such progress is inevitable. Much hard negotiating remains ahead of us, especially in insisting that the Soviets agree in writing to their oral statements regarding verification. And we should not be satisfied with progress in this field alone. The US must insist that rapid progress be made in the reduction of strategic weapons, the correction of imbalances in conventional weapons, and a ban on chemical weapons. Only then can we say we are doing everything we can to create a more stable deterrence and a safer world.
Ambassador Rowny is special adviser to the President and secretary of state for arms control matters.