President Reagan will stick to his original proposal for banning all medium-range missiles from Europe at least until the March 6 West German elections, and may not offer a compromise even then, White House officials said yesterday.
European leaders generally favor a compromise as a first step toward Reagan's objective, and Vice President Bush, just back from western Europe, said Sunday that Reagan was considering whether to make some new move in deadlocked arms talks in Geneva.
Yesterday, however, it seemed clear from both public and private statements by White House officials that the president had decided not to do anything, at least until the crucial German vote, when he will again take stock of the situation.
Reagan's reported decision, however, is not necessarily a repudiation of the Allied views or of the recommendations Bush made when he returned Thursday from a 12-day trip through seven countries. Officials close to Bush said yesterday that he did not urge the president to make some new proposal now.
And White House officials carefully have not ruled out the possibility that Reagan may make a new proposal later in the year.
All Allied leaders have said publicly that Reagan's so-called zero-zero plan is the best possible solution to the nuclear arms problem in central Europe.
Under that plan, the Soviets would dismantle all 600 of the medium-range missiles already based in their country and targeted mostly on western Europe. The United States, in turn, would forgo deployment of 108 Pershing II and 464 cruise missiles that are scheduled to begin arriving in West Germany, Great Britain and Italy in December.
But the Soviets have rejected that plan, and the Allied leaders have also all said publicly that it might be possible to reach intermediate agreements with the Soviets that could at least reduce forces in a balanced fashion. In an interview with The Washington Post in London last week, Bush confirmed that the Allies also had made this point to him in private.
But authoritative U.S. and Allied officials have said that the Allies did not press Bush very hard either in demanding a new American move or on the timing of any such move. Officials said that the views Bush got varied from country to country and were important but not unified and therefore not decisive.
Most important, conservative West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is understood not to have asked for anything specific from Washington by way of a new proposal before his election test against Social Democrat Hans-Jochen Vogel.
Although the White House says it wants no part in West Germany's politics, the election there is crucial because Kohl supports Reagan on deploying new missiles unless an arms agreement is reached first, while Vogel has said he may review that decision.
The feeling in the White House and most Allied countries is that if Kohl is returned to office the Soviets will believe that the Allies are determined to deploy the new missiles and thus will negotiate more seriously at Geneva.
No matter what happens in Bonn, however, strong demonstrations in western Europe this year by groups opposed to the western missile deployments are certain.
Thus Allied leaders and some U.S. officials in Europe also told Bush that at some point a new American effort to break the negotiating deadlock, at least as a sign of good faith, would be helpful if Allied leaders are to overcome public protests and go ahead with the deployment.
At the regular White House news briefing yesterday, spokesman Larry Speakes was questioned repeatedly about Bush's public remarks and stressed that "At present, there are no plans to offer any new proposal at Geneva. Our plans are to listen to the Soviets, and should they have a serious new proposal, we will certainly entertain it and look at it closely. But there is no new proposal from the administration."
American officials do not expect Moscow to offer any negotiable proposals soon, as the Kremlin also awaits the results from Bonn.