Soviets insist French and British missiles are Europe's
A senior Moscow official says any Euromissile accord must meet the Kremlin's ''bottom-line'' demand that the avowedly independent British and French nuclear forces be taken into account.
The official spoke to the Monitor Monday, two days after Soviet leader Yuri Andropov announced what was termed a refinement of ''exceptional importance'' in the Kremlin's Euromissile stand.
Mr. Andropov pledged for the first time to scrap - not just reposition - any of the recently installed SS-20 missiles that would be barred under an accord.
But Mr. Andropov reaffirmed the Kremlin demand - rejected by the United States and its allies - that British and French missiles be counted in the current talks. The West holds these arms are controlled independently of NATO - not meant for overall European defense - and are also less powerful than Moscow's force of some 250 mobile, three-warhead SS-20s targeted on Europe.
The Andropov statement, on Pravda's front page, is seen by Western analysts as the start of a likely escalation of diplomatic activity on the European-arms front with the approach of deployment, scheduled to begin in December, of new US missiles in West Europe.
The official interviewed did not exclude the possibility of some compromise formula whereby French and British missiles need not be balanced one-for-one by the Soviets.
''Our current stand definitely is that a one-for-one balance is necessary, at least in warheads - 162 SS-20s, or slightly less if you count warheads.
''It is conceivable, perhaps, other formulas might emerge if and when the US finally accepts the principle that British and French arms must be counted . . . but they haven't even done that yet.''
Mr. Andropov made clear his pledge to scrap SS-20s was aimed not only at US negotiators, but also at China and Japan. Both Asian neighbors have voiced alarm at the prospect that European-based Soviet missiles would be added to the estimated 100 SS-20s already pointed eastward from Soviet Asia.
Mr. Andropov said China and Japan could rest easy on that score.
The official speaking Monday also stressed the continued importance that the Kremlin attaches to an apparent recent thaw in Moscow-Peking relations. But he added that, with the third round of Sino-Soviet normalization talks set for October, there had still been no breakthrough on major issues of substance between the giant neighbors.
Specifically, Moscow seeks progress on the nations' longstanding border dispute. He said China's stress remains on ''third country'' issues, such as Soviet-backed Vietnam keeping its troops in Kampuchea.
On overall Soviet-American ties, he played down talk of a thaw in the wake of steps like the new grain-trade accord, Mr. Andropov's recent meeting with visiting US senators, and US agreement to discuss a new pact on cultural exchanges.
The official said that on the key substantive issues - particularly, arms control - there had been virtually no improvement so far.
''You can have 10 more cultural visits on each side, let's say. . . . Then each side puts in 10 more rockets, a step clearly of an utterly different magnitude. In this sense, you can't seriously talk about 'thaws.' ''
Asked if Mr. Andropov's Euromissile statement might presage a further move to soften insistence on counting British and French missiles, he said: ''No. In my opinion, this issue is the bottom line for compromise on our side. It is our 'zero option.' We know the Western position: that France isn't a member of NATO's military wing, or that these rockets are 'independent.' We know these arguments, listen to them, but to us, they are all pro forma.
''The immutable issue for us is that these arms are pointed at the Soviet Union. That is what matters. They must be counted.''