Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko accused the United States today of "striving to establish military superiority" over Moscow and blocking progress at Geneva disarmament talks with rigid negotiating proposals "designed to kill an agreement rather than achieve one."
Speaking at a press conference on his first trip to a western capital since the death of Leonid Brezhnev in November, Gromyko blended his harsh criticism of the United States with an appeal for West Germany "to follow its own interests in developing better relations with the Soviet Union and not listen to whispers from other sides when they affect these relations."
Gromyko's three-day visit coincides with an intense election campaign here that has focused on the issue of nuclear arms. He has sought greater sympathy for Soviet leader Yuri Andropov's offer to reduce Soviet medium-range nuclear missiles to a level deployed by British and French independent nuclear forces--and also thereby preventing NATO's planned deployment of medium-range rockets.
Last week, the opposition Social Democrats' candidate for chancellor, Hans Jochen Vogel, returned from a trip to Moscow saying the Soviets were prepared to make new concessions in order to break the deadlock in Geneva.
Some West German commentators have accused Moscow of seeking to bolster Vogel's chances in the March 6 elections because the Social Democrats favor a more flexible U.S. approach to secure an agreement that would nullify missile deployment.
Gromyko rebuffed charges that he was meddling in internal politics and said he had not come to Bonn to support any political party, but to appeal to "the whole German public to soberly assess the current situation and do everything in order to divert the threat of a nuclear arms race in Europe."
At the same time, he rejected the Reagan administration's "zero solution," endorsed by the Bonn government, that calls on the Soviet Union to dismantle its 600-plus intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe. NATO would then cancel plans to deploy 572 Pershing II and cruise missiles later this year.
Gromyko said if the Soviet Union accepted the Reagan proposal, NATO would hold an enormous strategic advantage with "twice as many launcher systems and three times as many warheads as the Soviet Union."
"We will in no case accept this zero option," he said. "Anybody who puts such proposals on the table is not guided by serious intentions."
In his two-hour meeting today with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and multiple sessions with Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Gromyko reiterated earlier Soviet disarmament schemes and offered what he called "a real and honest zero option," according to Foreign Ministry officials.
The Soviet Union, he said, was prepared to carry out a total abolition of medium-range and tactical nuclear systems, or those with a range of less than 1,000 miles, if NATO would do the same.
Gromyko called that offer "our most dramatic proposal" but also reminded his West German hosts of Moscow's suggestion to reduce all intermediate and tactical systems to one-third of their existing levels.
At a dinner last night, Gromyko also said the Soviet Union would limit its shorter-range nuclear-weapons systems aimed at western Europe on the basis of "reciprocal" action by NATO.
West German officials, however, said they found nothing new in the proposals, which had been tabled in previous sessions of the Geneva arms negotiations with the United States.
Vogel, on his return from Moscow, said that Andropov told him the Soviets were willing to destroy some SS20 missiles, pull back others to place them out of range of western Europe and seek a balance in warheads and not just missiles.
During his press conference, Gromyko confirmed that "some rockets could be completely destroyed and others could be redeployed behind a line in Siberia where they could no longer hit targets in West Europe."
But West German officials said that when Genscher raised the subject of reaching a balance in warheads, Gromyko dodged a direct answer and said that further discussion of the issue would have to wait for the next round of talks in Geneva starting Jan. 27.
Gromyko stressed that the Soviets must take into account the 162 French and British nuclear missiles since both countries belonged to the western alliance and their weapons "could strike important points in the Soviet Union and its eastern allies. People would regard us as rather odd if we closed our eyes and said, 'No, we don't want to see them.' "
Gromyko also said that despite some elements of agreement in the talks here, "I would be exaggerating if I were to say that our differences had been overcome."
In a veiled warning, Gromyko said, "We cannot ignore the fact that West Germany is the only state due for deployment of Pershing II rockets, which can reach strategic targets deep in the Soviet Union in a few minutes."
Kohl seemed anxious to distance himself from Gromyko's alternating pleas for amity and threats about missiles. After stressing that he brought up the "unsatisfactory situation" in Poland and Afghanistan, Kohl insisted that any dialogue with the Soviet Union must not be tainted by intimidation.
"There must be no doubt that we belong to the West," he said. "Whoever tries to separate us from the United States endangers our vital interests and damages East-West relations."