West German calls to examine again an informal compromise suggested by U.S. and Soviet negotiators last year on medium-range missiles in Europe found no support today at a meeting here of senior alliance officials.
Assistant Secretary of State Richard R. Burt told reporters that no delegation "endorsed or suggested we come forward in negotiations" with the controversial "walk in the woods" formula tentatively offered last year by U.S. negotiator Paul H. Nitze and his Soviet counterpart, Yuli Kvitsinsky.
The plan would have limited the Soviet Union to 75 SS20 missiles and the United States to 75 cruise missile launchers in Europe. It also would have canceled deployment in West Germany later this year of Pershing II missiles.
Last week West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher suggested that the concept deserved to be explored again as a possible way to break the impasse in the Geneva arms-control talks.
But U.S. and European officials expressed concern today that the West German plea for new initiatives in Geneva might be construed as undermining a unified allied position.
One European delegate at today's meeting of NATO's Special Consultative Group, which monitors the Geneva talks, said any West German call for proposals that cancel deployment of the Pershings inevitably raises doubts about Bonn's determination to station new missiles if the negotiations fail.
At a dinner last night, several Europeans, including the British and Italian representatives, strongly questioned the West German motives in raising the "walk in the woods" formula at such a sensitive stage in the Geneva negotiations.
The West German representative, Friedrich Ruth, insisted today that Kohl and Genscher merely wanted to emphasize their desire to see all possible solutions explored in Geneva before the December deployment deadline.
He said that barring any breakthrough in the arms talks, West Germany was prepared to abide by its commitments to station Pershing II missiles starting in December, according to delegates at the meeting.
Senior advisers to Kohl now believe that the Soviet Union is unlikely to make any serious concessions unless Washington offers a proposal that severely limits or drops deployment plans for the Pershings.
If the Pershing II should be dropped in any possible agreement, it is widely believed that West Germany would be compelled to accelerate stationing of cruise missiles in order to preserve political linkage with Britain and Italy as the first states to deploy new missiles.
The allies today sought to place blame for the deadlocked negotiations on Soviet intransigence and cited Moscow's failure to respond to a range of interim solutions proposed by U.S. negotiators at the latest round in Geneva.
Burt said the United States introduced a new draft treaty offering various possible levels of warheads, ranging from 50 to 450 on each side.
He said Nitze did not address in his proposals what kind of "weapons mix" or combination of Pershing and cruise missiles were involved, because "the Soviets were unprepared to engage in serious discussions" about the level of warheads.
"The Soviet refusal to accept either zero, or low, equal limits exposes the political nature of the Soviet position and the responsibility of the Soviet Union for delaying progress toward an equitable agreement," Burt said.
The NATO delegates also discussed the probability of a "hot autumn" of antimissile demonstrations in Western Europe as the deployment deadline for the new U.S. missiles grows near.