Editor's Note: One of the links on this page will take you out of The Post's Web site. To return, use the Back button on your browser.
Return to Superpower Summits Archive
Go to International Section
Go to Home Page
Summit Brings Better Ties But No Breakthrough
By Don Oberdorfer
MOSCOW, JUNE 1 -- President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ended their fourth and possibly last meeting here today by putting into force the first treaty to require the destruction of nuclear weapons and saying they have moved toward "more productive and sustainable" relations.
Reagan and Gorbachev, who will officially say goodbye Thursday morning in a Kremlin ceremony, announced no major breakthroughs in the drive to negotiate an even more sweeping pact to reduce the nations' strategic nuclear arsenals by up to 50 percent, and Gorbachev expressed frustration that more was not accomplished.
The treaty put into force will eliminate missiles of intermediate range. But U.S. officials here conceded that the chances for completion of a pact dealing with the longer-range and more threatening strategic arms during Reagan's presidency have been further diminished by the limited progress made here, although both sides insisted they have not given up hope.
Significant gains were made on two strategic arms issues, mobile land-based missiles and cruise missiles launched from bombers, according to a joint statement. But no resolution is in sight of the two most contentious issues, which involve U.S. plans to develop a space-based antimissile defense system and to deploy large numbers of cruise missiles at sea on ships and submarines.
Gorbachev's complaint that there were, in his view, some missed opportunities at the summit suggested he may have been hoping for more concrete results from this meeting to take with him to an important Soviet Communist Party conference scheduled for June 28.
But all signs were that the presence of Reagan in the Soviet capital and his warm endorsement of Gorbachev's plans for reforming Soviet economic and political life were helpful to the Kremlin leader.
In a surprise development, Gorbachev disclosed that he had tried and failed to persuade Reagan to approve a joint declaration endorsing "peaceful coexistence" and renouncing the use of force to resolve disputes.
Gorbachev handed the proposed statement to Reagan in their first meeting in the Kremlin Sunday night without advance notice, according to U.S. sources. "I liked the whole tone of it," Reagan said today, but he added that his advisers found "certain ambiguities" in it.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz and other advisers reacted negatively to the proposed declaration. A U.S. official called it "ambiguous, freighted with the baggage of the past," and too close for comfort to Soviet-American principles of relations negotiated in the early 1970s that collapsed with the demise of what was called then an era of detente.
"Peaceful coexistence" was a propagandistic Soviet term of the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. official complained. Ruling out resolution of problems "by military means" as proposed by Gorbachev might undercut U.S. military budgets, and accepting "noninterference in internal affairs" might undercut U.S. appeals for improvements in the Soviet human rights record, the official added.
A watered-down statement was composed by senior diplomats on both sides Monday night, saying that the expanding U.S.-Soviet dialogue is "an increasingly effective means" of resolving disputes. But an unhappy Gorbachev returned to the issue this morning in a final -- and futile -- personal plea to Reagan in their final working session.
"I think we missed a chance to take an important step forward toward a civilized relationship," Gorbachev said in expressing his disappointment on this point. "It would have been a very important political signpost."
Unlike the get-acquainted summit in Geneva in 1985, the high-rolling Reykjavik summit that ended in deadlock in 1986 and the 1987 Washington summit where the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was signed, the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting that ended today was as much a celebration of past accomplishment as a forum for grappling with the future.
With less than eight months remaining in Reagan's presidency and his two most likely successors already identified by the two major U.S. political parties, Gorbachev gave special emphasis to the need for continuity to avoid more precipitous ups and downs in Soviet-American relations.
In the first televised news conference he has ever held in this country, Gorbachev called his four summits with Reagan "a unique process in postwar history" and said the major result this week was "the continuation of a dialogue which now has enormous consequences on key issues."
Reagan, in the first postsummit news conference he has held, said the United States has sought "a consistency of expression as well as purpose" in the summit process. While fundamental differences persist, Reagan said, the summits have made some U.S.-Soviet differences recede.
Reagan's final evening in Moscow included a performance at the Bolshoi Ballet, an intimate dinner of the president and Mrs. Reagan with the Gorbachevs at their dacha, or suburban country house, and an unscheduled midnight visit to the floodlit Red Square just outside the Kremlin walls.
Accomplishments as well as deep disagreements were on display in this final full day of Reagan's Moscow visit, the first by a U.S. president in 14 years and Reagan's first trip to the place he previously -- but no longer -- described as an "evil empire."
There was substance and ceremony this noon as the two leaders exchanged ratification documents placing the INF treaty officially into force.
Such a ceremony would have been routine except for the fact that the 1979 Strategic Arms Limitation treaty and 1972 and 1974 test-ban treaties were never ratified by the Senate and therefore never entered into force.
Today, Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) and Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.), who led the Senate to its approval of the INF treaty last Friday, looked on in the Kremlin as the ratification ceremony took place.
The exchange of documents, declared Gorbachev, "means that the era of nuclear disarmament has begun."
Reagan, in reply, paid tribute to Gorbachev for his "personal intervention" in the negotiations, which, he said, "proved decisive." Noting that many doubted medium-range nuclear arms could be completely eliminated by negotiations, Reagan said, "We have dared to hope, Mr. General Secretary, and we have been rewarded."
On the strategic arms negotiations, there was unexpectedly rapid progress toward agreement on the basic concepts for verification of limitations on land-based mobile intercontinental missiles.
The U.S. team published 11 points of agreement that were reached here on these issues as well as a list of eight points yet to be resolved. Sunday night, U.S. negotiators for the first time presented a list of land-mobile verification concepts to the Soviets. Monday morning, the Soviets provided their list, including most elements of the U.S. document.
Slower progress was made toward resolving the issues of counting and verifying air-launched cruise missiles on heavy bombers. Eight points on which agreement has been reached were listed by the U.S. side tonight, along with five points on which there is yet no agreement.
No progress was made toward resolution of the two most fundamental issues in the way of a treaty: limiting sea-launched cruise missiles and dealing with space-based weapons.
Gorbachev announced, however, that the Soviet Union has proposed a package of "confidence-building measures" to exchange information, consultations and visits regarding antiballistic missile systems. U.S. sources said the Soviet proposal was actually made about a month ago in Geneva, and followed some similar U.S. ideas on the subject.
It was announced tonight that regional talks involving Assistant Secretary of State Chester A. Crocker and Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Adamishin produced agreement to support a Sept. 29, 1988, deadline for agreement on mutual troop withdrawal and settlement of political differences in southern Africa involving South Africa, Angola and Cuba.
U.S. sources said the idea of such a deadline was first proposed in U.S.-South Africa-Angola-Cuba talks in early May by the chief Cuban delegate, Jorge Risquet, as a way of spurring progress toward resolution of the long-simmering dispute. The date was chosen because it is the 10th anniversary of U.N. Security Council Resolution 435 calling for independence of Namibia, contiguous to South Africa and Angola. Another meeting of the four-nation talks under U.S. sponsorship is expected within 10 days, officials said.
On the darker side was Gorbachev's strong protest, bordering on a threat, that there will be "far-reaching consequences" if the political accords on Afghanistan signed in mid-April in Geneva are "ruined" by continued fighting as Soviet troops withdraw.
Gorbachev told his news conference that Soviet troops are being fired on in Kabul and Kandahar and some are being killed. He mentioned Pakistan as the source of arms for the Afghan resistance and said Moscow would react in unspecified fashion to "provocations."
Another indication of deep differences came on the issue of future negotiations to reduce conventional land armies in Europe.
The United States and Soviet Union and their European alliances have been sparring for months over a proposed new set of negotiations to reduce conventional land armies in Europe, and this week Gorbachev presented new proposals on the subject to Reagan.
U.S. officials said they consider the Soviet offers a recycling of past proposals and seemingly designed more for political appeal than serious negotiation. They denied an account presented by Gorbachev at his press conference suggesting problems in the way of the new East-West conventional forces negotiations had been virtually settled last month by Shultz and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, only to be reopened again by the U.S. side in recent days.