Gorbachev casts doubt on summit. Soviet leader cool to US arms offer
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev says he sees no evidence of ``serious preparedness'' to reduce nuclear armaments in the latest arms control proposal he received from Washington. The proposal was contained in a letter from President Reagan that was delivered to Mr. Gorbachev over the weekend. The Soviet leader seemed to cast doubt on whether he would attend a summit meeting with Reagan later this year in the United States unless substantial progress can be made on arms control.
``There is no sense in holding empty talks,'' Gorbachev said yesterday in a major address to the opening session of the 27th Soviet Communist Party Congress.
He suggested that ``understanding could be reached'' in two areas: a cessation of nuclear testing and the removal of US and Soviet intermediate-range missiles from Europe.
``If there is readiness to seek agreement'' on these two issues, he said, ``the question of the time of the [summit] meeting would be resolved.''
So far, however, the Kremlin has refused to set a date for the summit, which is to be held in the United States.
His address to some 5,000 congress delegates lasted more than five hours and was nationally televised. Few new themes were evident during his address. He dwelt at length on shortcomings in the Soviet economy and the Communist Party.
He did not refer to former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev by name, but he made it clear that the Brezhnev years had been characterized by ``inertness.'' In so doing, Gorbachev followed a Soviet tradition of blaming the previous leadership for many of the problems facing the new party chief.
``For a number of years the deeds and actions of party and government bodies trailed behind the needs of the times and of life,'' he said. The country's problems ``built up more rapidly than they were being solved,'' he added, while there was a ``decline of dynamism'' and ``an escalation of bureaucracy.''
Now, he said, the Soviet Union faces ``an abrupt turning point. . . . Bureaucracy is today a serious obstacle to the solution of our fundamental problem'' of ``accelerating scientific and technological progress.''
Yet, he said, there was ``no other way'' than increased reliance on science and technology to improve Soviet labor productivity and the boost the quality and quantity of industrial output.
One document, to be approved by the congress during its 10-day meeting here, pledges this country to a virtual doubling of labor productivity and industrial output by the year 2000.
For too long, Gorbachev said, the Soviet Union has sought to solve its economic problems through the use of more manpower and more raw materials.
``The way out, as we see it, lies in the modernization of the economy,'' he told the delegates in the Palace of Congresses in the Kremlin.
Gorbachev outlined his by-now familiar prescription: conserve resources, make more efficient use of labor, step up the pace of scientific and technological advance, and remove bureaucratic obstacles to economic progress.
He hinted at more flexibility in state-controlled prices and stressed the need to recognize the value of money as an incentive to better, more productive work. But he stopped far short of calling for the sort of market-oriented reforms being attempted in China, this country's giant communist neighbor.
Gorbachev deplored the practice of workers ``working for warehouses'' rather than consumers, indicating that the country continued to churn out many products for which there was no demand and no need.
``Why should we put up with it? It's absurd,'' he said. At one point, he even chided delegates for failing to applaud when he inveighed against ``workers working for warehouses.''
The theme of ``criticism and self-criticism'' was repeatedly echoed throughout his speech.
Yet he said there was no need for a ``purge'' of the Soviet Communist Party, because the party was already ``ridding itself'' of corrupt and inept members.
Surveying Soviet foreign policy, Gorbachev professed that this country was prepared to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan ``as soon as a political settlement is reached that ensures an actual cessation [of conflict] and dependably guarantees the nonresumption of foreign armed interference in the internal affairs of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.''
He noted ``with gratification . . . a measure of improvement'' in relations with China.
While there remained differences ``in attitudes'' between the two countries, particularly toward the solution of international problems, Gorbachev said ``in many cases we can work jointly, cooperate on an equal and principled basis. . . .''
He made clear that the Soviet Union also favored peaceful relations with the United States, but that the two countries would undoubtedly cleave along ideological lines for the foreseeable future.
``The future of relations between the socialist and the capitalist countries, the USSR and the USA,'' he said, would be determined in large part by ``the degree of realism that Western ruling circles will show'' in pursuing relations with the Soviet Union.
But the US, he said, was in a period of ``social senility'' which ``augments its degree of recklessness'' in the conduct of world affairs.