Reagan revives the idea of a US-Soviet summit meeting
President Reagan has called on the Soviet Union to make high-level consultations a ''regular and normal component'' of US-Soviet relations. Secretary of State George P. Shultz is to meet in Stockholm this week with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko for the first high-level encounter between the two sides in more than four months.
Given Mr. Reagan's statement suggesting regular top-level consultations, Shultz can be expected to propose to Gromyko more frequent meetings at the secretary of state-foreign minister level. In a major address on US-Soviet relations delivered Monday, Reagan also seemed to be reviving the idea of a US-Soviet summit meeting.
Widespread speculation about a possible summit ended last year after the Sept. 1 Soviet shootdown of a Korean civilian airliner. Soviet President Yuri Andropov's ill health and the Soviet suspension of three types of US-Soviet and East-West arms control negotiations made a summit seem even less likely.
But several Democratic presidential candidates have proposed that the US engage in more dialogue with the Soviets at the highest level in order to reduce the risk of nuclear confrontation. Former Vice-President Walter F. Mondale said in a nationally televised debate on Sunday that a US president ought to hold once-a-year summit meetings with the Soviets.
The Reagan administration has argued that summit meetings raise expectations and can do more harm than good unless they are well prepared and produce results.
Reagan administration officials have been unhappy with critics who say that there has been a total breakdown in negotiations with the Soviet Union. Officials point out that talks with the Soviets continue in a number of capitals , including Stockholm. Last week, the State Department seemed to be eager to publicize the fact that Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin was having lunch with a senior State Department official.
In his speech on Monday, Reagan pointed to discussions held in Washington last week on ways to improve direct channels of communications, including the Washington-Moscow ''hot line.''
''Cooperation begins with communication,'' said Reagan.
The President said that this week's Shultz-Gromyko meeting ''should be followed by others, so that high-level consultations become a regular and normal component of US-Soviet relations.''
Although Reagan's tone was conciliatory, he did not make new arms control proposals. The President stated that his strengthening of US military forces ''is making the world a safer place,'' because there is now less danger that the Soviets will ''underestimate our strength or question our resolve.'' He called for ''a constructive and realistic working relationship with the Soviet Union.''