Soviets to take case of failed arms accord to Europe. They plan propaganda blitz to stress Kremlin's concessions in Iceland
Angry but not despondent at the outcome of the Reykjavik summit, Soviet officials are talking of a diplomatic and propaganda offensive to try to force President Reagan to change his position on arms control. Although Communist Party and government officials concede that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev may be disappointed by the summit's lack of results, they say the failure of the meeting will in no way weaken his position in the leadership. ``He is strong enough these days to deal with any criticism,'' said a senior official.
The propaganda campaign will be aimed primarily at Western Europe, officials say, because Mr. Gorbachev's Iceland initiatives responded to many of the demands of West European leaders. The officials also claim that an offensive will be needed ``to put the record straight'' after Mr. Reagan's declaration that the US had offered Moscow ``the most far-reaching arms deal in history'' at the meeting.
The tone of any propaganda blitz will probably be similar to the comments of Soviet officials interviewed here yesterday.
``We made massive concessions in Iceland,'' said a senior staff member of the party Central Committee. ``On strategic weapons and medium-range missiles, we basically adopted the US positions. We made five steps towards Reagan. And he wouldn't even make half a step in return.''
But the Soviets say that the extent of their concessions in Reykjavik will make Moscow's position on the main sticking point -- the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) -- even firmer.
The chances of agreement on medium-range missiles are still good, a Soviet official said. ``We're not going to withdraw any of our [Iceland] proposals.''
But he added that there would be an ``iron link'' between the Soviet demand for concessions on SDI (or ``star wars'') and progress in other fields. Another official, a Soviet military analyst, described the Reykjavik proposals as a ``package''and said it would be difficult to separate the component parts.
Officials say their government's insistence on concessions on SDI was based on a number of factors.
First, the Soviets say that the United States' attachment to star wars ``at a time when we were conceding all their other demands'' leads them to suspect that Washington was still aiming for strategic superiority. Second, an official said, ``While we don't believe that star wars will work as a defensive system, it is potentially dangerous as an offensive weapon.'' Finally, they say SDI development could spin off new and dangerous forms of nuclear weaponry.
The officials, speaking yesterday before Gorbachev returned from Iceland, were somewhat divided in their assessment of Reagan's reasons for rejecting the agreement.
One senior official said that events in Reykjavik had deepened his skepticism about Reagan.
``In his confidential correspondence, Reagan said that he was willing to limit SDI to laboratories for 7 years,'' he claimed. ``But in the face of our enormous concessions he wasn't willing to concede 2 years.'' The source remarked that this left him with the ``personal'' impression that ``all previous US arms control proposals were made on the assumption that we would not accept them.''
Another source noted that Gorbachev himself had made the distinction between Reagan -- who, it was implied, was disposed toward an arms control agreement -- and some of Reagan's more hawkish presidential advisers.
This official commented, however, that time was running out fast for an agreement. Midterm US congressional elections would probably prevent any movement in the immediate future. ``And once the official presidential election campaign is under way, US-Soviet relations will be paralyzed for the duration.''
A third Soviet source was more charitable. The US side was not expecting the package, he remarked. ``Perhaps they need a little time to go through it.''
But all the officials expressed confidence that the Soviet leader was coming back in fighting form.
The Central Committee staff member said Gorbachev would probably first call a short meeting of the Politburo. Then in the next few days, he would probably make a major statement on the subject -- either on television or during the visit of Argentine President Ra'ul Alfons'in, who arrived in Moscow yesterday. After that, word would go out to the official news media and the Foreign Ministry for the propaganda offensive.
Moscow is also looking with some hope to the US Congress, however.
Recent congressional moves to exact concessions from the Reagan administration were watched with great attention here. And yesterday the Kremlin's Americanologists were studying the first reactions of US legislators.
``Some of them look quite angry,'' one specialist remarked with restrained satisfaction.