Back to Square 1 seems to be the conclusion of United States officials looking at the post-summit spat about ``star wars'' between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan. In this case, Square 1 is an agreement to disagree and suspend the dispute about the US Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI or ``star wars'') testing until the next summit.
Paul Nitze, chief arms control adviser to President Reagan, told the National Press Club Tuesday that he expected the Soviets to raise the issue again.
But a senior administration official said Wednesday on background that he had ``seen no evidence'' the Soviets would be willing to finesse the issue again at the Moscow summit next spring. He said the most authoritative Soviet negotiator, Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, continued to raise the issue in his contacts with American negotiators through the conclusion of last week's superpower summit.
The latest quarrel arose when Mr. Reagan told reporters Friday that the wording in the joint summit statement Thursday ``resolves'' the disagreement about SDI testing. The statement, he said, allows ``whatever is necessary in the research and development [of SDI] without regard to an interpretation'' of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty limiting ABM, or SDI, tests in space.
Bristling at this, Gorbachev stressed in a speech broadcast in the Soviet Union Sunday that there was still a conflict over SDI testing, and that if it is not settled it could upset the ``nascent'' moves toward mutual arms reductions.
On Tuesday Reagan retreated, telling reporters at a photo session that the Americans and Soviets still are ``in disagreement'' over the issue.
Senior American officials indicated that Reagan's earlier claim was probably a mistake and that the US should not ``gloat'' over negotiating successes. Such claims just force Gorbachev ``to answer to [his domestic] critics,'' they suggested.