Moscow digs in its heels on arms talks
Kremlin officials seem to be pouring concrete on their own feet, hardening their position on the future of negotiations over nuclear weaponry. In a press conference here, Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, chief of the general staff of the Soviet armed forces, blamed the United States for the ''breakdown'' of negotiations at Geneva on intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) in Europe. And he said that parallel negotiations on long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (the START talks) ''are headed in the same direction.''
He restated the Kremlin's opposition to returning to the stalled Geneva negotiations unless the US performed certain ''deeds'' first. He implied these should include the removal of new medium-range NATO missiles from Western Europe.
His remarks were but the latest stage in an effort by the Kremlin to mold political opinion in Europe against the Reagan administration by dwelling on two key themes: that new NATO missiles endanger West European countries and that the Reagan administration has not negotiated seriously to try to prevent their deployment.
The Soviets also apparently wanted to counter optimistic statements made recently by officials of the Reagan administration and other NATO governments. They indicated the Soviets would eventually return to the negotiations. Such ''ostentatious optimism . . . is nothing else but the wish to evade responsibility,'' said Georgi Kornienko, a first deputy foreign minister.
Western diplomats scrutinized transcripts of the press conference but found few clues pointing toward new Soviet initiatives or a softening of any earlier positions. One noted, ''They made a very close link throughout between START and INF.'' He said he did not interpret this to mean the Soviets were preparing to break off the START negotiations.
Ogarkov and Kornienko shared the platform with a third top Kremlin official, Leonid Zamyatin, head of the international information department of the Communist Party.
The press conference was yet another effort by the Kremlin to underscore its continued opposition to the new missiles, even though the first of them have arrived in Europe and are now being prepared for deployment.
The officials also:
* Confirmed that Soviet leader Yuri Andropov is recovering from an unspecified illness, but said that he continues to attend to affairs of both the Communist Party and the Soviet state.
* Repeated demands that the independent nuclear forces in Britain and France should be taken into account during any future negotiations. Referring to reports that the Soviets might eventually drop this demand, Marshal Ogarkov said pointedly, ''There is no such hope.''
* Repeated claims that ''nuclear parity'' existed in Europe before the NATO missiles were being moved into place. Ogarkov said the SS-20s were to counter British and French nuclear forces, not to threaten Western Europe.
* Said it was ''pointless'' now to discuss merging the START and INF talks.
Some observers thought Kornienko meant it was pointless to discuss merging the two sets of talks since one set of talks was no longer taking place. But others noted that Ogarkov, in reply to a question on the possibility of merging the talks, merely said the issue was ''hypothetical'' - and did not flatly rule out such a move.