Soviet leader Yuri Andropov has accused the Reagan administration of showing no interest in reaching a fair agreement at the Geneva negotiations to restrict medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
In his first interview with western journalists since taking power, Andropov told the West German newsmagazine Der Spiegel that "it has become clear that the aim of the United States at the Geneva talks is to add powerful new weapons to the existing, comprehensive nuclear arsenal of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, whatever it may cost."
In the interview, Andropov also criticized President Reagan's call for development of an antimissile defense system and said the Soviet Union would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan when outside "political interference" ended.
The Soviet leader said the U.S. proposals on medium-range nuclear missiles presented so far are "unrealistic and do not help to reach a solution. Why? Because they want to disarm us and rearm NATO. But we won't permit that to happen." Andropov charged that the Reagan administration has blocked progress in the arms control talks by "keeping to its old one-sided positions, without showing the slightest desire to take account of our legitimate interests and to reach a genuine agreement that would be acceptable to both sides."
Der Spiegel's interview with the Soviet leader, to be published Monday, includes written responses prepared in advance as well as oral answers to questions posed by the magazine's publisher, Rudolf Augstein, during an hour-long session in Moscow last week. The text was released today.
With Chancellor Helmut Kohl planning to visit Moscow this summer, Andropov issued a sharp warning to Bonn about the impact on bilateral relations if Pershing II missiles are deployed in West Germany in December.
"If this happened, it would have the gravest consequences for West Germany itself," he said. "Judge for yourself what damage these relations would suffer if West German territory were to be used as a launching pad from which the Soviet Union and its allies could suffer from a nuclear attack."
Concerning the recent expulsion of Soviet diplomats from France, Andropov said he did not want to blame the ruling French Socialists or their coalition partners, the Communists, "for this gross, provocative act against the Soviet people."
"It is well known to us that behind this action stand forces that do not want France to have good relations with the Soviet Union," he said. "It is possible that these forces can be found not only in France but beyond its borders as well."
Andropov said that the espionage charges against the Soviet diplomats were "arbitrary and made up." He said that among those expelled were Russians who had not spent more than two weeks in France. "Is that not absurd?" he asked.
Andropov dismissed as "nonsense" the notion that the Soviet Union had indirectly admitted its guilt by not retaliating against French diplomats in Moscow.
"Anyone who interprets our behavior in this way shows that he does not understand Soviet foreign policy," he said. "By acting with restraint, we are letting ourselves be guided by long-term interests in French-Soviet relations, which we value and have developed over a long period of time in the interest of maintaining detente in Europe."
Questioned about the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, Andropov said, "As soon as there are guarantees" that outside political interference "will not occur again, we will immediately withdraw our troops."
He stressed that because the Soviet Union maintains "a big mutual frontier, we are not indifferent about what kind of Afghanistan it will be. But I repeat: we absolutely do not intend to stay in Afghanistan."
Most of Andropov's written responses dealt with nuclear arms control. diplomats here surmised the responses had been carefully drafted and approved by Soviet defense and foreign ministers.
Andropov criticized the United States for failing to respond in good faith to Soviet proposals for comprehensive arms reduction, encompassing land-, sea- and air-based nuclear weapons, as well as a renunciation of the nuclear first-strike option.
"I have already spoken about our duty not to be the first power to use nuclear weapons," Andropov said. "If the U.S. and other NATO members gave a similar commitment, people all over the world would breathe easier. But this Soviet initiative has met a wall of silence."
The Soviet leader also repeated his earlier demand that French and British nuclear deterrent forces be counted in an overall assessment of the East-West nuclear balance.
In the spoken interview, Andropov argued that it was unfair to place the onus of arms control on Soviet land-based missiles when the United States enjoyed superiority in sea- and air-based weapons.
"We count everything together, what is on the continent and what is in submarines," he explained. "And we say: this is the rough parity, the rough balance. And on this basis we suggest: a freeze, then a gradual reduction, up to complete elimination."
Andropov declined to give a precise answer when asked whether the Soviet Union would break off arms talks or install new missiles near the United States if the planned NATO deployment goes ahead.
"If the American missiles were stationed in other European countries, we would have to consider how to respond," he said. "That means both with regard to the territory of the United States and also in the European area."
Andropov also attacked Reagan's call for intensive development of a futuristic, "Star Wars" missile defense system. "The adventurism and danger of this whole plan lie in the calculation that it is possible to emerge unscathed--that a nuclear first strike can be launched on the assumption one is safe from counterattack," he said.
"This is not far removed from the attempt to place a finger on the launch button," Andropov added. "That is where the danger of the new U.S. military concept lies. It can only bring the world closer to the nuclear precipice."
The interview in Der Spiegel also cast some light on Andropov's private pursuits.
Describing Andropov as "obviously nearsighted" but in apparently good health, Augstein said that the Soviet leader spoke English and understood a little German. Andropov also expressed fondness for classical music.
"What I like best is Beethoven, and best of all is the Pathetique" piano sonata, Andropov said. Of the Russian composers, he said "Tchaikovsky and Rimsky Korsakov, I love very much. Prokofiev, and of the moderns, Georgy Sviridov."