I read with interest The Post's lead editorial of March 15 entitled "A Nuclear Freeze." I agree that concern about nuclear warfare is a legitimate emotion. The Post notes, quite rightly, that there are contending schools of thought on how we should seek real arms reductions. It points out that the administration would match the Soviet buildup on "the not wholly ridiculous theory that you need something with which to pressure the Soviets to make a deal." I would not have chosen exactly those words, but their import is on the mark.

The Post also notes that the second school, the "freezers," believes the administration's goal to be an illusory one, behind which it hides pursuit of an arms buildup. While this may be what some freezers think, I do not share The Post's view that the administration "suspects the freezers are incipient unilateralists" prepared to "make a flabby and dangerous deal." To my knowledge, no administration officials harbor such suspicions about the freezers. Where administration officials differ with those who advocate a freeeze is not over the objectives--which we share-- but on how we can best reach shared objectives of real arms reductions.

The administration goes the "freezers" one better by calling for negotiations leading directly to reductions. In opposing a freeze, the administration is not opposing reductions. The president has spoken out forcefully for reductions. The key question is whether reductions would in fact be possible after a freeze; I think the answer is clearly no. Furthermore, a freeze prior to negotiations for reductions would eliminate Soviet incentives for coming to grips with verification provisions.

The history of arms negotiations indicates that the Soviets will conclude a genuine agreement only when given a clear and unquestionable incentive. The long process leading up to the ABM treaty saw a Soviet willingness to move forward only after the United States had made a firm decision to build and deploy its own ABM system. A freeze, in that instance, too, would have hindered rather than helped negotiations, since it would have removed any incentive for the Soviets to come to serious terms.

More recently, had the Soviet Union simply achieved parity with the United States, there would be compelling logic to the view that a freeze could lead to reductions. But during the past 15 years of U.S. restraint, the Soviets have moved inexorably to a position of clear advantage. Freezing now, while the Soviets are ahead, would eliminate any Soviet incentive to reduce to equal levels.

As the president's chief negotiator for the strategic arms reduction talks, I am dedicated to the objective of reducing the risks of nuclear war by achieving real reductions in nuclear destructive power. Importantly, any agreement we enter into must be verifiable. These objectives would best be served if others who abhor the thought of nuclear war and want to do something about it would give serious consideration to how their concerns can advance our shared objectives. My own conviction, after 61/2 years of face-to-face negotiations with the Soviets, is that they would not see any incentive to enter into serious arms negotiations leading to significant reductions if they felt there was strong support in America for a freeze. At the same time, I feel our success at the negotiating table would be furthered if American public opinion showed strong support for the president's proposition that we seek not a freeze but real reductions in nuclear weapons on both sides.