The Reagan administration yesterday rejected Pierre Elliott Trudeau's charge that western alliance summit meetings have ignored major issues of war and peace. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization "has preserved peace for over three decades," administration officials said.
In identically worded statements, White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes and State Department spokesman John Hughes took exception to the former Canadian prime minister's remarks here Tuesday in a speech and interview with The Washington Post.
"Our appreciation of NATO's political consultations differs from Mr. Trudeau's," the statement said. "NATO has preserved peace for over three decades. During this period it has dealt regularly and intensively with the questions of war and peace in a variety of fora -- at meetings of heads of government, at meetings of foreign and defense ministers and through bilateral contacts among NATO members."
Trudeau, who was here to accept the $50,000 Albert Einstein Peace Prize, was prime minister for 15 years and attended four of the six summits held by NATO since its founding in 1949. He charged that these meetings had failed to focus seriously on issues like the nuclear arms race and instead went "through the tedious motions of reading speeches drafted by others with the principal objective of not rocking the boat."
The administration's response contended that NATO meetings, whether at the summit level or the twice-a-year meetings of alliance foreign ministers and defense ministers, "have been intense and productive."
It cited as recent NATO accomplishments the December 1979 decision to deploy U.S. intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe, a 1983 meeting in Canada where defense ministers agreed to unilaterally reduce NATO's nuclear stockpile by 1,400 weapons, and the foreign ministers' meeting here last May that "reviewed the course of East-West relations of the past decade and put forward a comprehensive program for their improvement."
Some U.S. officials, speaking on condition that they not be identified, said Trudeau's criticisms appeared to reflect frustration and a "feeling of sour grapes" over his failure to gain serious attention for the personal "peace initiative" that he had pushed for two years before stepping down as Canada's prime minister last summer.
Trudeau had called for a summit meeting of the world's five principal nuclear powers. He visited 17 countries and conferred with more than 50 governmental leaders, but his efforts elicited only politely noncommittal responses in both West and East.
The officials also noted that the issues cited by Trudeau as dominating the closed-door talks in NATO meetings -- such as making NATO weapons uniform for all member countries and seeking increased military expenditures of 3 percent annually -- are not trivial matters. Instead, the officials said, these are the kind of nuts-and-bolts problems whose resolution is vital for NATO to continue functioning effectively as the deterrent to the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact forces in Europe.