The Soviet yesterday expressed deep concern over lack of progress in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks with the United States, and spelled out in unusual detail its view of the major remaining obstacles to a new SALT treaty.
In a strongly worded statement the Soviets renewed their insistence that Washington accept sharp restrictions on the cruise missile and other major U.S. weapons systems.
The Soviets specifically insisted that the new agreement must confine cruise missile launch capability only to heavy bombers, and said it must bar the transfer of the weapon to America's allies.
The 5,000-word statement, which was published as an editorial in the Communist Party newspaper Pravda, was the Kremlin's most detailed public comment on the technical aspects of SALT since last March.
At that time, Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko held a news conference to denounce the new arms limitation proposals put forward by the new Carter administration.
The SALT climate subsequently improved, and by the time the SALT I interim agreement on limiting offensive weapons expired last October, both sides were expressing hope that a new accord was near. The two countries agreed to continue abiding by the SALT I terms, and both President Carter and his chief negotiator, Paul Warnke, said they expected a SALT II treaty to be concluded by this spring.
In recent weeks, however, U.S. officials have become more publicly pessimistic.
The timing and detail of the Soviet statement was viewed by western diplomatic sources as reflecting Moscow's concern that the Carter administration feels the need to toughen its negotiating stance in the face of mounting congressional criticism of the proposed terms of the new SALT treaty.
One source said the Kremlin appeared to be trying to signal Washington that the Soviet leaders "have limits to their flexibility."
The Soviet declaration yesterday covered a range of SALT issues from U.S. deployment of cruise missiles to methods used to tabulate the number of multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) carried by balisitic missiles.
The Soviets also underscored their long-held position that they could not accept U.S. demands for a ban on upgrading land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles - the heart of the Soviet strategic strike force - without a band on improved American submarine-launched missiles, cruise missiles and related weapons.
Pravda declared that "the argument is made that the United States must have the right to deploy cruise missiles on any type of aircraft, transports included. This would practically allow an unlimited and uncontrolled number of aircraft to appear, stuffed with scores of longrange cruise missiles.
"What would be the worth of limitations contained in (such) a treaty? It would be a scrap of paper, not an agreement aimed at averting nuclear war. The Soviet Union is not going to affix its signature to such a scrap of paper."
The cruise missile is a small pilotless jet aircraft able to fly evasively for up to 2,000 miles and deliver a nuclear bomb on a fixed target with great accuracy. Present plans call for launching these missiles from some of America's aging B-52 bombers.
A Navy-backed version, however, can be launched from a surface ship or submarine. Proposals have also been advanced to convert wide-bodied jets, such as Boeing 747's into cruise missile launchers which could greatly complicate the Soviet Union's attempts at verification of missile deployment.
The editorial said a new treaty must also eliminate "loopholes" that might allow cruise missiles to be deployed in allied countries. "The sides must make unambigous commitments on this score," is said. NATO allies have expressed concern in recent months that a SALT agreement may prevent them from buying or deploying short-range cruise missiles as a tactical weapon.
Pravda also labeled as "ill-intentioned fabrications" recent reports that the Soviet Union has developed hunter-killer satellites capable of knocking out U.S. surveillance spacecraft essential to veryfying compliance with SALT and flashing warning of a ICBM attack.
The Kremlin sought to emphasize its own eillingness to compromise of reasonable issues by declarina its "readiness in principle" to agree that if a single missile of a certain type and size is tested with the more lethal MIRV warheads, then all missiles of that type should be considered MIRVed. Under the 1974 agreement between Soviet Presiden Leonid Brezhnev and then President Gerald Ford, a ceiling of 1,320 was assigned to MIRV carriers.
Pravda reiterated the Kremlin's rejection of a U.S. proposal to limit development of new land-based ICBMs without similar limitations on other strategic weapons systems.
"The two sides have by no means a similar composition of strategic forces. It becomes absolutely clear that (this) proposal is directly aimed against the principle of equality and undiminished security, that it is aimed at securing unilateral advantages at the expense of the Soviet Union," it said.
The editorial also renewed Soviet rejection of U.S. demands that a new medium-range bomber codenamed "Backfire" be covered by a SALT all to do with the negotiations because it does not belong to the class of strategic weapons."
Several observers speculated that this adamant refusal on Backfire may signal eventual rejection of a Carter administration proposal that the Soviets agree in a separate letter of understanding from Brezhnev that the bomber be limited in use.