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US, Soviet negotiators set to begin arms talks. Soviets stress sharp differences with United States, particularly over `global threat' of space weapons

One 216-word statement has generated enough written and spoken words to fill a set of encyclopedias. The inspiration for all this prose: the joint United States-Soviet statement setting in motion the arms control talks that begin this week in Geneva.

The arms negotiations are to cover ``a complex of questions concerning space and nuclear arms, both strategic and intermediate range, with all the questions considered and resolved in their interrela- tionship.''

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At least, that's what the statement said. Yet in the two months since those words were penned, the Soviet Union has made clear it has major differences with the US over what the words mean. The disagreements further complicate, from the very outset, the negotiations arising from them. They also suggest that the negotiations will be detailed, lengthy, and difficult.

The Soviet position on the talks has been elaborated in the government-controlled press and in official speeches and papers. Here are some of its tenets, buttressed by representative quotations:

The Soviet Union, by agreeing to the talks, has proved its willingness to negotiate seriously. The US, however, has not.

Curbing space arms is the key goal of the talks.

The magazine International Life calls space arms the ``key link of the talks.''

There can be no progress in one area of the negotiations -- for instance, on limiting ground-based nuclear arms -- unless there is agreement on limiting space arms.

The Soviet Union believes that ``it is impossible to leave space aside,'' says Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko.

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``Without reaching an accord, simultaneous and interrelated in all the three directions, there can be no advance in the realization of what was agreed upon. . . .''

Research on the US Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which has the strong backing of President Reagan, must be stopped if the talks are to succeed.

The SDI has emerged as ``a kind of symbol of the incumbent US administration's efforts'' at militarizing outer space, said International Life.

There is an urgent need to forge some sort of agreement quickly, or the opportunity will be lost completely.

``We have come to such a Rubicon,'' says Georgi Arbatov, this country's top expert on the US, that delay ``may lead up to a situation that will make the drafting of agreement on arms limitation and reduction . . . practically impossible.''

Those countries that do not actively oppose the space defense initiative are endangering themselves.

``Those NATO figures who believe that . . . it is therefore necessary not only to approve the ambitious plans of their overseas ally but to join in their realization as well, are seriously mistaken,'' says Prav- da, the official Communist Party newspaper.

Pravda adds that ``the expansion of the arms race to outer space will create a global threat and affect the vital interest of people in all countries and continents.''

US security interests do not coincide with those of West European nations, and in fact run counter to them. There are ``certain forces'' in Western Europe, says the newspaper Soviet Russia, that are ``ready to cast prudence to the winds'' and support the American position.

``There is also a wish in these circles to keep up with the senior partner militarily and technologically, while members of Western Europe's military-industrial complexes (including those in the governments) are only willing to make money on the Pentagon's space contracts.''

There is nothing ``defensive'' about the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Pravda argues that some in Washington are ``disguising the most dangerous character of their aggressive concept'' and giving it a defensive and ``highly humane coloring.''

Foreign Minister Gromyko says that ``they say that shield is peaceable . . . [But] what if we change places with you, the United States of America?''

``Then you should reason like the Soviet Union,'' he says.

``In other words, if we tried to develop such a system, would you rely on our relevant statements, on our conscience? Would those statements be sufficient to you?''

Failure of the Geneva talks will call existing arms control agreements into question.

``It is of fundamental importance that the questions of nuclear and space weapons be resolved at the talks in their interrelationship. We insist on this firmly because militarization of space, the `star wars' plans, would give an impetus to a virtually uncontrolled arms race in all directions and derail a number of important agreements on limiting the arms race, which still remain in force.''

Failure will also inevitably lead to a major arms buildup on both sides, making the danger of nuclear war a very real possibility.

``There is growing apprehension,'' says the newspaper Soviet Russia, over ``the whole process of arms limitation and reduction, for the fate of international security and stability, and generally for the destiny of our planet once it comes under threat from the ominous combination of earth and space weapons.''

How many of these arguments are genuinely felt and will form part of the Soviet negotiating position?

Soviet officials privately insist their concern about halting arms competition is genuine. They admit that internal economic considerations form part of their concern: They simply do not want to spend the money for their own space defense system, or for more missiles to overcome a US system.

But they also claim to be deeply concerned about the destabilizing effect such a system would have on the nuclear balance, and they vow they will match any US efforts.

``If you don't believe that, then -- I'm sorry,'' says one Soviet official. ``But you will see we mean it.''

Western diplomats, on the other hand, argue that the Soviets, by making such claims, are merely trying to place themselves in a better bargaining position at Geneva. The spate of articles and speeches, says one Western diplomat, are ``meant to build up pressure prior to the talks themselves.''

Once the talks begin in earnest, he predicts, the real Soviet negotiating position will emerge. But, he says, if the Soviets insist on stopping SDI while it is still in the research stage -- and before work actually begins on building it -- there could be an impasse.

``Then,'' he says flatly, ``there will be no agreement.''