President Carter and Soviet President Leonid I. Brezhnev will meet June 15-18 in Vienna at a summit conference to sign the new strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT), White House officials announced yesterday.
The long-awaited announcement was made simultaneously in Moscow, where the official Soviet news agency Tass called the dates for the meeting "tentative."
The summit conference, the first meeting between Carter and Brezhnev, still hinges on the completion of the final technical details of the SALT II accord, on which "basic agreements was governments was announced Wednesday.
It could also be affected by the deteriorating health of the 72-year-old Soviet leader, who is unable to travel long distances.
The choice of Vienna as the site of the summit amounted to a U.S. concession to Brezhnev's frail health. Under normal protocol, the meeting should be in the United States because the last two such summits have been in the Soviet Union. But Soviet officials argued that Brezhnev could not stand the vigors of a transcontinental flight, leading to the selection of the neutral European capital for the meeting.
White House officials said it has not yet been decided whether the arms treaty will be signed June 15, the first day of the summit, or later during the Carter-brezhnev meetings.
They said they expect about three days of talks, including private sessions between the two leaders, formal meetings between the two full delegations and "an exchange of hospitality," presumably meaning two state dinners.
The officials said they expect the discussions to cover three categories of issues, foremost being the treaty itself and related arms control matters. In addition, they said, Carter and Brezhnev will discuss bilateral issues such as trade and international development.
The president has often said that he hoped his first meeting with Brezhnev would cover a wide range of issues during several days of talks. Brezhnev's health, however, apparently will limit the length of the discussions and possibly the issues.
Nevertheless, White House officials have not given up hope that the summit will be productive, possibly including tentative agreement for regular summit meetings between leaders of the two countries. The U.S. side is planning to suggest such an arrangement during the Vienna talks, and the Soviets, one official said yesterday, "generally feel that consultations between the two major powers are useful."