Soviets say verification issues are no problem
Last-minute problems over the verification of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty are ``purely technical'' issues for which an easy compromise can be found, a Soviet official said Tuesday. Col. Vladimir Chernyshev, a military commentator for the official news agency Tass, was commenting on a United States Senate decision Tuesday to postpone discussion on ratifying the INF treaty. Senators have alleged that Moscow was backing off key provisions of the new treaty.
``These are not fundamental issues, they will be resolved quite quickly,'' Colonel Chernyshev predicted.
They were disagreements among specialists and could easily be settled at a higher diplomatic level, he added, suggesting that they could even be ironed out today when Secretary of State George Shultz and his Soviet counterpart Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze meet in Geneva.
But he emphasized that both sides should start implementing the INF treaty as quickly as possible. The experience thus gained would help fill in the empty spaces in another important arms-reduction document, the draft treaty to halve US and Soviet strategic missiles.
The fact that an ``artificial'' INF verification issue was being presented as a serious obstacle ``causes us some concern,'' Chernyshev said.
Like other Soviet officials, he attributed the US hesitation to a desire to hold up the agreement. Soviet commentators have accused the US arms industry and conservative politicians of trying to prevent the treaty's ratification.
A letter in last week's Literaturnaya Gazeta from a young engineer indicated the Soviets had similar problems: ``Let there be no more arms reductions,'' Sergei Sukharev quoted his boss saying after the INF agreement was announced.
But on Tuesday evening a Washington-datelined report in Izvestia, the Soviet government paper, suggested that the coming presidential campaign had influenced the Senate's decision. The Senate's Democratic leadership wanted to play down the significance of a treaty that had been signed by a Republican president, the report asserted.
President Reagan and Soviet Communist Party leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF treaty in Washington last December. Officials of both nations hope that the exchange of ratified treaty documents will be the high point of the Moscow summit, which begins on May 29.
Chernyshev said that he saw no obstacle to this happening. But Soviet and US officials agree that a strategic arms reduction treaty, which would cut both sides' strategic arsenals in half, cannot be concluded by the summit.
Over the weekend US arms adviser Paul Nitze told journalists that work on the treaty could probably be completed by September. Chernyshev said that Mr. Nitze's prediction was ``certainly not pessimistic.''
Chernyshev said he personally did not rule out considerable progress on a srategic arms reduction treaty during the Moscow summit. ``When the general secretary and the President meet one-on-one and see that very few fundamental questions are left to resolve, then major movement is possible.''
He said that the INF treaty could play an important role in moving along start negotiations. Verification measures play a major role in both treaties. Implementation of the INF treaty would provide practical experience that could be used by START negotiators. ``The sooner we start implementing INF, the better.''