Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau launched a personal peace crusade tonight to seek improved relations between Washington and Moscow, distancing himself from the hard-line anti-Soviet rhetoric recently voiced by his political opponents.
In what was billed as a major speech, Trudeau declared that "the delicate framework of securing Europe cannot be balanced on the fate of one or two sets of negotiations alone."
Trudeau offered a five-point plan of his own which he hopes will spur a U.S.-Soviet arms accord and improve the "atmosphere" of international relations.
Trudeau's initiative comes at a time of acute East-West tension, amid threats by Soviet leader Yuri Andropov to break off nuclear arms reduction talks if NATO proceeds with deployment of cruise and Pershing II missiles in Western Europe this December. The level of rhetoric in both capitals has gone up in the aftermath of the Soviet downing of a Korean airliner and now, with the U.S. invasion of Grenada.
It also comes at a time when Trudeau's foreign policy has come under strong attack in Parliament by the new Canadian Conservative Party leader, Brian Mulroney. With Mulroney criticizing him for not taking a hard enough line against the Soviets, Trudeau's renewed interest in seeking to play a role in East-West relations has domestic political implications as well. The Trudeau government has been generally supportive of U.S. policies up until this point.
Although he promised in 1980 to retire from politics at the end of his present term as prime minister, Trudeau's exact intentions remain unclear. A national election is expected to be called next spring.
Trudeau will bring his five-point plan of action, outlined only in general terms tonight, to the leaders of France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium during a four-day European trip next month.
In the speech delivered tonight at a disarmament forum at the University of Guelph, 30 miles west of Toronto, Trudeau said he has already begun "a process of close discussion with President Reagan" about his efforts to improve the East-West climate. But apparently, what he described as a "close discussion" so far consists of a letter and a message sent to Reagan earlier this week, to which there has been no reply so far.
Decrying a "political vacuum" that has stalled progress on a variety of bilateral and multilateral arms talks, Trudeau said there is need for a "third rail of high-level political energy to speed the course of agreements." The disarmament talks include conventional weapons and forces, intermediate-range missiles and Soviet and American strategic nuclear arsenals.
Noting that talks on the intermediate-range missiles are now underway, Trudeau said, "Canada is not at the table and we have no wish to insert ourselves into this vital and delicate process. It is my hope, however, that we might help to influence the atmosphere in which these negotiations are being conducted and thereby enhance the prospects for early agreement."
His address, strong on philosophical points but offering few specifics, was termed by the prime minister as his personal attempt to bring "my own recommendations for a strategy of political confidence building" to western leaders. It was understood that he has no plans as yet for a personal visit with either Reagan or Andropov to make the same points.
He said he intends to bring fresh initiatives in five areas: finding political and economic ways to help stabilize East-West relations; improving the regular superpower dialogue; persuading the five nations with nuclear weapons to begin negotiating limits on their arsenals; stopping nuclear weapons proliferation; and raising the "nuclear threshold" in Europe.
This was understood to mean either adding conventional NATO forces or reducing Warsaw Pact conventional forces as a way to bring about reductions in nuclear forces in Europe