A group of U.S. senators and top Soviet officials in an all-day Kremlin meeting exchanged sharply different views yesterday on approaches to strategic arms limitation by the two countries.
"There were sharp differences of fact and concept," said Sen. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) at the end of the morning session in a room of the ornate palace of the Kremlin.
Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.), co-leader with Sen. Henry Bellmon (R-Okla.) of the dozen visiting senators, said, "There were no holds barred on either side . . . The discussions were frank and forthright."
The delegation, here at the invitation of the Supreme Soviet, or parliament, conferred with a Soviet delegation headed by Boris Ponomaryov, a candidate member of the Communist Party's ruling Politburo, who called on the senators to support ratification of a new SALT treaty.
"We know perfectly well that the strategic arms limitation issue is an object of acute internal political wrangling in the U.S." He declared in opening remarks.
Ponomaryov set forth the prevailing Soviet view that difficulties in the Moscow-Washington relationship were the Americans' fault. He questioned why the negotiation of a second treaty has taken so long when the first treaty, concluded in relatively short time, had laid the foundation for a successful superpower relationship based on "recognition of each other's security interests" and a mutual pledge to avoid seeking one-sided advantage.
He said the soviets had made "difficult" decisions to be willing to "accept the American positions on a number of issues," but that the United States, while making "some positive moves," is also pressing "proposals that would give unilateral advantages to the U.S."
His speech was made public by the Soviets in a press conference outside the meeting room, an unusual case of openness here. The senators, for their part, brushed past reporters and had little to ay, aside from Javits and Ribicoff.
Ribicoff later met privately with Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko for 90 minutes and reportedly gave him a letter he and Bellmon signed on human rights issues. It was not known whether the letter contained the names of Jews or other who have been denied permission to emigrate. Neither the U.S. Embassy nor a spokesman for Ribicoff would provide details of the meeting beyond saying the two men talked of a range of important Soviet-American issues.
Ribicoff in his prepared remarks to the Soviets emphasized that Congress plays a wider role than previously in foreign policy and that the senators in considering a new SALT accord "must understand and have confidence in Soviet intentions in regional problems."
"Whether in Africa or the Mideast," he said, "Americans are concerned that the Soviet Union and Cuba will not seek to benefit from instabilitily, whether under the title of 'socialist solidarity' or whatever. While the SALT agreement may be good for both of us, it is extremely difficult to explain to the American voter why the U.S. cooperates on strategic matters and clashes on regional disputes."
The talks will continue today and there is a possibility the senators will meet with Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev on Friday.