Moscow in arms-control shift hints willingness over weapons verification
The Soviet Union, in a treaty proposal for outer space with earthbound implications, may be offering its first specific concession to Reagan administration policy on arms control.
The apparent Soviet overture, in a draft of the Soviet space proposal published here Aug. 12, concerns the issue of verification of arms-control agreements.
New US arms negotiator Eugene Rostow has said the Soviets must be more forthcoming with relevant arms information, and that Kremlin willingness to cooperate in this sphere could be "a litmus test" for further negotiations.
Mr. Rostow has suggested that verification of any future arms accord with the Soviets must go beyond mere "national technical means," arms-control jargon for each side's satellites and spy planes.
Although mutual "understandings" and "agreed statements" attached to the still unratified SALT II accord envisage an exchange of information in some areas, the main body of the accord terms such a process "voluntary" and limits verification to "national technical means."
An "understanding" appended to the agreed definition of "heavy bombers" in the treaty says only that, in this area, the signatories "may take, as appropriate, cooperative measures contributing to the effectiveness of verification by national technical means."
The new Soviet proposal on "demilitarization" of outer space is seen by some foreign analysts here as a signal that the Kremlin is ready to consider Reagan administration concerns over arms-control verification.
The timing of the proposal is also viewed as a possible sign of a continued Soviet search for early arms talks, despite the recent US decision to produce the neutron weapon.
As a space treaty, diplomats here say, the Soviet proposal is almost certainly a nonstarter, a clear effort to get the Americans to swear off military uses for the new space shuttle.
The proposal's three-paragraph article on verification, however, may have more farreaching implications.