New data on Soviet 'cheating' further dims arms-talk hope.
The prospects for progress on arms control this year appear to be growing fainter and fainter. Neither Soviet nor American leaders are responding positively to offers made by the other side.
And now those in the Reagan administration most wary of arms treaties have new ammunition for their cause: more evidence that the Soviet Union over the past 25 years has continually violated existing arms agreements with the United States.
These charges are made in a recent classified report by the General Advisory Committee on Arms Control, a presidentially appointed panel. According to those familiar with its contents, this report is much more comprehensive and goes well beyond the one on Soviet arms control violations made public by the administration four months ago.
''It shows that there has been a conscious, premeditated, planned violation of many arms control agreements by the Soviet Union,'' said Rep. James Courter (R) of New Jersey, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. ''And it's this clear pattern of attempting to take unilateral advantage of the difficulty of corroborating arms control that is most disturbing to me.''
The Reagan administration hesitates to release this new information for fear of stirring up charges that it is not seriously seeking nuclear arms reductions. In fact, it is just such details about Soviet conduct which compel US officials to be extremely wary of such things as Moscow's recent offer to ban antisatellite weapons.
''They raise questions about the integrity of the arms control process that may be far more significant than the short-term military impact,'' Assistant Defense Secretary Richard N. Perle told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently.
''The fact that the Soviets have cheated in the past does not rule out the possibility of mutually beneficial agreements in the future,'' he said. ''But it does rule out the type of ineffective agreements based upon wishful thinking that we have negotiated in the past - and which some propose today.''
This week, President Reagan rejected suggestions from Senate Republican leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R) of Tennessee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Charles H. Percy (R) of Illinois that Reagan hold regular summit meetings with his Soviet counterpart.
White House officials say the President would still prefer to have the Soviet Union return to the stalled arms talks at Geneva.
''We are ready to resume negotiations without preconditions,'' Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth W. Dam told Senator Percy's committee this week. Others are not so sure if even this resumption of arms talks would be productive without fundamental changes.
Former White House national-security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski recently observed that ''a very strong argument can be made that we've come to the end of the road on traditional arms control.'' This is true for political reasons, Dr. Brzezinski said, and because nuclear weapons are becoming much more mobile and accurate.
But Brzezinski also says an initial and more limited agreement could be reached leading to eventual deep reductions in nuclear arms.
He suggests that both sides first agree to limit strategic warhead launchers to 1,800. This is the number included in Moscow's most recent offer on intercontinental nuclear weapons.
Brzezinski says this figure should also be combined with an interim limit on warheads at 7,000 apiece, which is some 1,000 to 2,000 fewer than each side now has deployed.
''Such a relatively simple agreement, confined to two aggregates only, could be politically negotiated and could cap some of the dynamics of the arms race,'' he says.
The parallel talks on intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF, or Euromissiles) in Europe have also been stalled, with each side blaming the other for the impasse.
The Dutch parliament this week voted to delay for two years the deployment of US-built nuclear cruise missiles pending a US-Soviet agreement on limiting such weapons.
US officials are not happy with this crack in NATO steadfastness on deploying cruise and Pershing II missiles, believing it can only bolster the antinuclear movement in Europe and add to Soviet intransigence at Geneva. Moscow has said it will not return to the INF talks until those new NATO missiles already deployed are removed.
In a study published this week by the Brookings Institution, a former State Department official outlined steps that NATO could take to get these talks started again.
Leon V. Sigal, now a professor of government at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, says the Western alliance should:
1. Announce a one-year halt in deployment of the Pershing IIs and indicate that these more-threatening missiles are negotiable.
2. Promptly complete the planned withdrawal of 1,400 battlefield nuclear weapons and redeploy the rest away from the Warsaw Pact-NATO front to avoid early escalation to nuclear exchanges during any conflict.
3. Offer a moratorium on nuclear sea-based cruise missiles of more than 600 kilometers' (372 miles) range as long as the Soviets do the same.
This would relieve the Soviet fear that the West is developing a European-based first-strike potential, Mr. Sigal says, while retaining NATO's ability to improve its theater nuclear forces by deploying some new cruise missiles.
Warning of ''a vicious circle in which both sides would feel compelled to use nuclear weapons before the other side does,'' Sigal says, ''The US and its allies can no longer afford to wait for the Soviet Union to return to the negotiating table.''