NATO's decision yesterday to modernize its nuclear missile strength has brought an expected barrage of sharp rebuke from the Soviet Union, but Western analysts here are still confident that the Kremlin's eventual goal is the bargaining table.
The official Tass agency in a dispatch from Brussels, NATO headquarters, declared that the decision to proceed with construction and deployment in Western Europe of Pershing II rockets and cruise missiles "destroys the very foundation" for any nuclear arms reduction talks in Europe.
"There is no parallelism or double track, nor can there be any," Tasds asserted in rejecting the NATO ministers' communique calling for both arms improvements and renewed negotiations to reduce the so-called long-range theater nuclear forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations.
The Soviets, seeking to exploit possible fissures between Washington and the NATO government described the Brussels action as "arm-twisting tactics" by the United States only partially successful. The Netherlands and Belgium have postponed complete approval, while West Germany, Britain and Italy of the 15-nation alliance have agreed to accept the new missiles to be based on their soil and capable of being targeted on Western Russia.
Initial Soviet reaction excludes any mention of last week's Warsaw Pact communique, in which the Soviet Bloc indicated the door may well be open for talks in the lengthy period between yesterday's decision and final deployment of the planned new forces of 108 Pershing rockets and 464-jet-powered cruise missiles.
Western sources concede that, at the least, Soviet propaganda efforts against the deployment scheme may have exploited differences of opinion within the Western alliance. The Soviets in the decade of the 1970s have generally sought continual improvement of relations with the rest of Europe at the expense of Washington. The Soviets have tailored the anti-Pershing campaign along these lines, beginning with what might be considered the kick-off speech by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in East Berlin Oct. 6.
The Soviet president warned Western Europe against accepting the new missiles, and hardly mentioned the United States. His efforts have continued, with personal letters to Western heads of government, and the Soviets here spent a good deal of time at a recent Socialist International meeting wooing West European delegates.
The campaign is reminiscent of Soviet efforts two years ago to stop deployment of enhanced radiation warheads, the neutron bomb, and to frighten Britian, France and Italy away from conventional arms deals with Moscow's bitter rival, China.
President Carter eventually decided to continue development of neutron warhead technology, but postponed deployment. In the present instance, the NATO decision was accompanied by Carter's speech yesterday outlining new military spending programs for the United States in the 1980s.
In what was otherwise a relatively factual account of the president's new program, Tass in a lengthy dispatch from Washington today concluded, "President Carter's speech indicates that the U.S administration ignores public opinion in most countries of the world. To judge by the president's statement, he did not heed the voice of reason and so far shows no willingness to have a constructive discusion of the Soviet Union's peace initiatives aimed at achieving military detente."