White House officials said yesterday that any summit meeting this year between President Reagan and Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev depends, in effect, on the behavior of the Russians.
"President Reagan has made it clear that our longstanding criteria for a formal summit meeting remain in place, that is it would have to be first, carefully prepared; second, it would have to be justified by the overall state of our relations at the time; and, third, hold reasonable prospects for positive results," deputy White House press secretary Larry Speakes said in a prepared statement. "There are no currently no specific plans or preparations for such a meeting."
Speakes was responding to a report in The Washington Post yesterday that Reagan will accept Brezhnev's invitation for a "well prepared" summit this October, a statement that was not specifically denied by the deputy press secretary.
But Speakes emphasized that the president still wants to meet Brezhnev in New York City this June where Reagan will go to address a United Nations disarmament conference.
During a meeting with reporters in the Oval Office on April 4, Reagan urged Brezhnev to attend this meeting and suggested that the two of them meet while he was there. The 75-year-old Brezhnev, who is in ill health, rejected the offer two weeks later and called instead for the October summit in Europe.
Though Soviet leaders have many times expressed their interest in a genuine summit, there is no sign that they took the Reagan offer to meet in New York seriously. Even Reagan administration officials admit that it would be difficult to prepare for a June meeting in New York, especially since Reagan will spend the first part of the month on a long-planned trip to Europe.
An administration official said yesterday, however, that the president "liked the idea" of the New York meeting and wanted it known that he didn't consider the Soviet rejection to be final.
Speakes said yesterday that the president had not formally invited Brezhnev for the New York meeting. He said this would be done if Brezhnev accepted the U.N. invitation to attend the disarmament conference.
The imponderable in the behind-the-scenes maneuvering about the summit is Brezhnev's health. Administration officials privately acknowledge they don't know whether he would be able to withstand the rigors of either a trip to New York or an October summit in a neutral European country.
Administration officials also stressed the necessity of being "well-prepared" for any summit, a point that also has been made by the Soviets. This would seem to argue against any June meeting in favor of a later full-scale summit.
Both Austria and Ireland have been mentioned in disc;ssions in the administration as possible sites for the prospective summit meeting.