Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.), potentially a key figure in next year's Senate debate on the strategic arms limitation treaty, (SALT), has infuriated the Carter administration by attacking the new arms agreements at a meeting of NATO parliamentarians in isbon.
In a speech Monday and in subsequent public remarks in the Portuguese capital, Jackson has said the SALT agreements nearing completion in negotiations with the Soviets give Moscow substantial advantages and fail and fail to offer adequate protection to North Atlantic Treaty Organization members in Central Europe. His Monday speech was Jackson's first formal public statement of disapproval of the new SALT pacts.
"You just don't begin the SALT debate in a European forum like that one," a senior administration official complained yesterday. "At least Jackson owed the president an opportunity to respond" to his criticisms of the new pacts before attacking them publicly, this official added. "I really am appalled by it."
Though Jackson has long been known to harbor serious misgivings about the SALT negotiations, this was his first public statement suggesting that he would not support the agreements the Carter administration hopes to submit to the Senate early next year.
"As it is being negotiated," Jackson told the NATO group in Lisbon Monday, "the treaty will permit the Soviets to deploy a substantially superior strategic force than the United States will be allowed."
The Carter administration and its allies in the Senate hotly dispute that conclusion.
At one time the administration was anxious to win Jackson's approval for its SALT agreements. The Washington Democrat is an influential member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he did support - with reservations - the first SALT agreements in 1972.
The administration's initial SALT proposals to the Soviets were drafted largely to satisfy concerns expressed by Jackson.
But those proposals were discarded in subsequent negotiations, and administration officials held out only modest hopes that Jackson might support the new agreements before his Monday speech. Support now appears impossible, officials said yesterday.
Last night, officials expressed concern that Jackson and other U.S. delegates to the NATO parliamentarians' meeting, known as the North Atlantic Assembly, would force a potentially divisive vote on SALT in that body.
Jackson has backed a move by Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.), also a delegate, to amend a pro-SALT resolution introduced by a member of the Dutch parliament.
The Dutchman proposed a general endorsement of SALT and East-West detente. Hollings responded with a proposal to endorse "an equal, balanced, verifiable SALT II treaty that will constrain the further growth of Soviet nuclear forces deployed against members of the North Atlantic Alliance."
Administration officials said this language would be acceptable but they hoped for a compromise that would please all U.S. delegates to the assembly in Lisbon, including pro-SALT legislators like Rep. Phillip Burton (D-Calif.) and Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.).
In his speech, Jackson said West Europeans had displayed "an astonishing lack of interest" in the SALT II agreements, although - he charged - they "profoundly and adversely affect European security."
The Ford and Carter administrations decided to exclude medium-range atom weapons based in Europe from the SALT negotiations, a decision Jackson now feels makes the new pacts dangerous for NATO. A Soviet buildup of these "theater nuclear weapons" has progressed so far, Jackson charged, that the Soviets might be able to launch "a first, disarming strike "against NATO's nuclear stockpiles in Europe.
Jackson said the emerging SALT packs' restrictions on the range of land-based cruise missiles will make it difficult for the West to counter Soviet force in Europe, since the land-based cruise missile would have been the logical weapon that NATO could use to match the Soviet buildup.
A protocol to the new pacts would limit the range of land-base cruise missiles to 600 miles, limiting their effectiveness in Europe.
The administration and SALT supporters have noted that the protocol will remain in force for a period of several years, during which the United States can develop longer-range cruise missiles for subsequent deployment in Europe if necessary.
Jackson said in Lisbon it was "hopelessly naive" to argue that the protocol would not be extended beyond its initial duration once it was in force.