Superpowers move with caution toward agreement
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze says ``encouraging outlines of meaningful agreements'' with the United States ``have been emerging.'' In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, Mr. Shevardnadze also said that a ``summit meeting is a realistic possibility if that is what the US side wants.''
But the silver-haired diplomat from Soviet Georgia did not indicate what Moscow intends to do about the most pressing problem in US-Soviet relations -- the case of American journalist Nicholas Daniloff, who is being detained in Moscow on charges of espionage.
The Soviet foreign minister met privately with US Secretary of State George P. Shultz at the UN Tuesday, however, to discuss the US demand for the release of Mr. Daniloff, a correspondent with U.S. News & World Report.
President Reagan complained to the General Assembly on Monday that the arrest of Daniloff has cast a ``pall'' over US-Soviet relations.
But Shevardnadze said his country is ``far from regarding our relations with the United States as holding no promise.''
To be sure, he had some harsh words for the Reagan administration. Accusing the President of using his speech Monday to mouth ``propaganda,'' he said charges made by Mr. Reagan against the Soviet Union were unworthy of a reply.
But he did take specific issue with Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the proposed space-based defense against nuclear missiles.
While not directly responding to the President's offer of an arrangement for sharing SDI technology, he charged that the real purpose of SDI is to add another weapon to the American arsenal. ``The so-called defensive shield, no matter how you choose to define it, is being designed to carry out a first strike,'' he warned.
He argued that the US had already violated the SALT I and II treaties in pursuit of ``military superiority.''
Now, Shevardnadze claimed, the US is also planning to undermine the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which he termed the ``linchpin'' of security in a nuclear age.
Shevardnadze also used the occasion to plump for the Soviet Union's proposal for a moratorium on nuclear testing.
``The Soviet Union is ready -- at any time and anywhere -- to sign a treaty of the prohibition of nuclear weapons testing,'' he said and suggested that the UN might be an appropriate venue. He was interrupted by applause from many of the delegates, who the day before had sat in silence through Reagan's speech.
The US has refused to join in a moratorium because the Reagan administration claims that that would lock into place a Soviet advantage on weapons testing, would prevent research into SDI, and would call into question the reliability of the US nuclear deterrent.
The vision of the world outlined by Shevardnadze was, not surprisingly, in stark contrast to the one voiced by Reagan on Monday. Shevardnadze implicitly accused the US of spawning terrorism. He charged the US with exploiting the developing world. And whereas President Reagan credited Western-style market economics with helping the world economy to rebound, Shevardnadze claimed it was gripped by an ``uncontrollable crisis phenomenon'' for which the West was largely to blame.
Shevardnadze generally gave a downbeat assessment of the state of world affairs. But he did allude to some ``bright spots,'' including the recently concluded Stockholm agreement on confidence-building measures in Europe.
He made only fleeting reference to Afghanistan, where an estimated 115,000 Soviet troops are supporting a government widely viewed in the West as totally subservient to Moscow.
He said the situation in Afghanistan is the outgrowth of ``a national democratic revolution.'' Moscow, he said, ``is in favor of looking for new solutions'' to the country's turmoil.
But, he said, any solutions must take ``into account the legitimate interest of the people of Afghanistan, its friends and its neighbors.''
Shevardnadze also blamed the US for creating turmoil in Nicaragua, ``all because this small country has dared to choose its own path of development.''
The United States is sponsoring guerrillas opposed to the Nicaraguan government on grounds that the country's Sandinista government is bent on exporting unrest -- and communism -- to neighboring states in Central America.