The Reagan administration is recalling and considering the replacement of its ambassador to conventional arms reduction talks with the Soviet Union and its eastern European allies because he has made unauthorized statements and has behaved erratically, according to informed government officials.
Richard Starr, a former assistant director of the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, was expected at the White House today to make an appeal to keep his job in a meeting with William P. Clark, the president's national security affairs adviser.
Starr could not be reached for comment last night, but senior administration officials acknowledged that he was "in trouble" and his replacement was likely. The State Department choice to replace Starr, these officials said, is Herbert S. Okun, who served in the Carter administration as the State Department's representative to strategic nuclear arms talks.
In another personnel move affecting U.S.-Soviet arms negotiations, arms control director Eugene V. Rostow and Secretary of State George P. Shultz have submitted to the White House the name of a career Foreign Service officer, Roger Kirk, as their choice to become Rostow's deputy director.
Kirk would replace Robert T. Grey Jr., whose nomination to the deputy's post was abandoned last week by the White House in the face of conservative opposition in the Senate led by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.).
Officials said efforts to remove Starr stem from a consensus in the State Department that his behavior over the past several months may have jeopardized the administration's credibility in negotiations to reduce conventional arms in Europe, formally known as Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) talks.
These negotiations, which have proceeded at a tedious pace for more than a decade, aim at reducing the array of tanks, artillery and non-nuclear missiles facing each other across the frontier between western and eastern Europe since the end of World War II.
Officials familiar with Starr's reports from the Vienna talks said that in recent months he has exhibited an overriding concern about security. They said he has sought permission from the State Department to clothe his negotiating team in bulletproof undergarments and arm them with pistols to protect them from potential terrorist attacks.
He also has asked, according to the officials, for armored protection for the security detail assigned to him and has expressed concern that his quarters were vulnerable to bazooka fire.
The officials said Starr has refused to eat in some east European embassies out of fear of being poisoned. There appeared to be no basis for Starr's worries, according to the officials, but one said Starr apparently had been very upset about the terrorist kidnaping in Italy of Brig. Gen. James L. Dozier in December, 1981.
On a more substantive level, Starr reportedly has given several speeches abroad in recent months that were not cleared by his superiors. A number of statements made in these speeches reportedly caused problems for the State Department, including an optimistic forecast by Starr that a conventional arms agreement could be reached this year.
In another speech, Starr reportedly stated that there could be no conventional arms agreement with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact until an agreement is reached on intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
Several conservative senators have reportedly expressed interest in Starr's case. One knowledgeable Senate staffer said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) sent an aide to investigate Starr's performance in Vienna last month. After the aide returned, Hatch decided not to oppose action against Starr, this staffer said, and privately reported that Starr represented "a national disaster."
Starr was named to his post in the fall of 1981 with a strong recommendation from Richard V. Allen, an alumnus of the Hoover Institution who was then White House national security affairs adviser.
Appointment of career Foreign Service officer Kirk to the arms control agency would be likely to run into opposition from Senate conservatives who want to place a Reagan Republican under Rostow to coordinate arms control policy with a sensitivity for domestic politics, according to a Senate Republican aide who is knowledgeable about the political struggle over the arms control agency.
The Senate aide and other officials said the White House also is considering several defeated Republican congressmen for the post, including Robert W. Daniel Jr. of Virginia, Robert K. Dornan of California and David F. Emery of Maine.
Kirk, 52, has served for the last four years as the U.S. representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency. He has also been ambassador to Somalia and deputy director of State's intelligence bureau.