In a speech aimed at President-elect Jimmy Carter on the eve of his inauguration, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev declared a readiness today to work "jointly with the new administration . . . to accomplish a new major advance in relations between our countries."
Addressing a rally in Tula, a city south of Moscow, Brezhev stressed, as he has on a number of occasions since Carter's election, Kremlin interest in breaking the stalemate in strategic arms talks of the past year.As Brezhnev sees it, some sort of SALT agreement to replace the one expiring next October is by far the most urgent matter in Soviet-American relations. The talks have been bogged down over what weapons should be included in the limits.
"The Soviet Union," he said, "is prepared to advance further in questions of limition strategic armaments, but it is necessary to consolidate what has already been achieved and to implement the accord reached in Vladivostok."
Those comments seem to be a cautiously negative answer to Carter's campaign suggestions that the limit of armaments agreed at the Vladivostok meeting between Brezhnev and President Ford two years ago might be reduced in further negotiations. "By adding new questions to those already being discussed," said Brezhev, "we will only further complicate and delay the solution of the task in general."
Brezhev also touched on the U.S. Soviet role as co-chairmen of a Geneva conference on the Middle East. Sharing the optimism that Carter expressed recently over the chances for a settlement in the region, Brezhnev said, "the Soviet Union and the United States, given a mutual desire, could do much to help the sides in the search for mutually acceptable solutions."
The start of a new period in Soviet-American relations was also marked here today by the presentation of credentials by new U.S. Ambassador Malcolm Toon. Toon's appointment was delayed for several months this fall analysts said, in part, because of Kremlin reservations about his reputation as a hard-liner - a designation Toon belittled at a press conference on his arrival here several weeks ago - and in part because of the virtual freeze then in force on relations in general.
In remarks to Soviet President Nikolai Podgorny at the presentation ceremony, Toon struck a personal note. In returning to the Soviet Union, he said, "I follow a long-standing interest in your country and a personal commitment to better mutual understanding."
Brezhnev, in his speech, kept up the Soviet attack on assertions in Washington recently by present and former government officials and outside experts that Moscow has shifted from a drive for parity with the United States to a push for superiority in military might.
"Frankly speaking," he said. "this noisy and idle talk has become quite tiresome. The allegations that the Soviet Union is going beyond what is sufficient for its defense, that it is striving for superiority in armaments with the aim of delivering a (nuclear) first strike, are absurd and totally unfounded."
The Soviet Union, Brezhnev said, "will never take the path of aggression, and will never raise a sword against other nations."