US readies an offer to break deadlock in troop-reduction talks
The Reagan administration and its European allies are preparing a concession in order to get the deadlocked East-West talks on conventional military force reductions moving.
The concession would involve a limited but new approach to counting troops on the two sides, administration officials say. It apparently has the support of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who has been urging an intensification of East-West contacts at a number of levels.
Administration officials said that President Reagan and Chancellor Kohl, who met at the White House on Monday for nearly two hours of talks, were in close agreement on approaches that the West should take to the new Soviet leadership.
There have been moments when Kohl seemed to be more eager than was Mr. Reagan to see a summit meeting between the United and the Soviet Union. But a State Department official said US-German differences on this and other approaches to the Soviets were more a matter of nuances than substance.
''The habit and practice of taking common approaches has been strengthened,'' the official said concerning the Reagan-Kohl talks.
Following the talks between the two leaders Monday, Kohl said he was again to recommend to Reagan ''an early, well-prepared meeting'' with the new secretary general of the Soviet Union, Konstantin Chernenko.
Reagan said he would explore ''every possible avenue for an improvement in relations,'' including a summit meeting, ''if such a meeting is well-prepared and holds the promise of fruitful results.''
Kohl has to deal with a delicate situation at home. As a recent staff report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee notes, the deployment of US Pershing II missiles in West Germany amounted to a major victory for the policies of Kohl and his Christian Democratic Party. But, says the report, the cost may be Germany's postwar consensus on security issues.
''In the absence of (nuclear) arms control negotiations, the divisive effects on the German body politic will continue to run deep, with long-lasting impact on the Alliance,'' the report says.
Soviet officials walked out of the US-Soviet negotiations in Geneva on intermediate-range nuclear missiles last November. They refused to set a date for the resumption of the talks in Geneva on long-range, strategic missiles. But they have agreed to resume on March 16 the 10-year-old East-West talks on mutual reductions in conventional forces in Vienna.
Officials say the modification the US and its allies will be proposing at the Vienna talks amounts to an attempt to get around what insiders call the data-base problem.
The Soviets have claimed that the opposing forces in Central Europe are roughly equal. The West argues that the Soviets have failed to count more than 150,000 of the Warsaw Pact troops.
Under the new allied proposal, troop counts would be based on the number of soldiers in combat or combat-related units, rather than on total numbers of troops, including support troops.
Last summer, Warsaw Pact nations agreed in principle to on-site inspection, through such means as permanent observation posts, to verify compliance with troop withdrawals. More recently, the Soviets have provided further detail as to what such on-site inspection might mean.
Jonathan Dean, a former chief US negotiator at Vienna who is currently with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, considers these Soviet moves of great potential importance. He says the Western concession now under consideration ''would appear to be a useful test of the Soviets' willingness to move forward in the negotiations.''