Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko pledged today to do their best in pursuit of peace as they arrived in the bitter chill of this Swiss city to work out plans for resumption of U.S.-Soviet arms control negotiations after a yearlong suspension.
At arrival ceremonies about eight hours apart, Shultz and Gromyko spoke of the desire for "responsible," "constructive" and "serious" discussions beginning here Monday in the glare of intense international attention. In deference to the occasion and to diplomatic tradition, they made only the barest reference to the wide and, in some respects, basic differences between them on issues to be confronted during the next two days.
Shultz, who arrived first, after an all-night flight from Washington, said, "We have no illusions that progress will be easy to achieve," but he promised to "work as hard as we can to achieve a positive outcome from these discussions."
Standing in the numbing wind of a record-breaking cold wave, blamed by meteorologists on icy blasts from Siberia, Shultz said it was a sign of U.S. seriousness that he was accompanied by "a high-powered team" including White House national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane. Also along are a number of sometimes feuding senior officials of the State Department, Defense Department, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and National Security Council.
In an interview with reporters aboard his plane, Shultz said he goes into the meetings with "some very interesting and reasonable positions," but he steadfastly declined to make any prediction about the outcome.
"These are not talks to negotiate substantive agreements," he said, but are "political-level" discussions designed to pave the way for future full-scale negotiations on arms issues between the two nations.
Gromyko, speaking to the cameras and reporters in English in what seemed to be a bow to the extraordinary international press attention, harked back to the Thanksgiving Day U.S.-Soviet joint statement of agreement to the current talks.
The veteran Soviet minister noted that the two nations in the joint statement had agreed in principle to enter into new substantive negotiations on a complex of issues including space weapons and offensive nuclear arms.
The task before him and Shultz, he said, is to work out "a common understanding as to the subject and objectives" of such negotiations.
The Soviet position, he said, is that the later negotiations should aim to "prevent an arms race in outer space" and move toward "radical reduction of nuclear arms" and, in the long run, their elimination.
Since separate U.S.-Soviet negotiations on strategic offensive arms and medium-range missiles in Europe were broken off by Moscow late in 1983, the arms control dialogue has been complicated by the increasing focus of both sides on President Reagan's space-based Strategic Defense Initiative, also called "Star Wars" -- a plan intended to protect the United States against nuclear missiles.
The central priority of the Soviet Union, according to U.S. officials and public statements from Moscow, is to head off the placement of U.S. weapons in space for defense or any other purpose.
The U.S. position as enunciated by Reagan, McFarlane and others is that space-based defense systems may offer an opportunity to escape from the postwar pattern of security based on the threat of nuclear retaliation.
U.S. officials have made it clear that Shultz is primed to reject Soviet proposals that interfere with testing or development of the Star Wars program, which is still in its early research stage.
Soviet officials, on the other hand, have described agreement on at least the objective of halting militarization of outer space as "the key" to everything else in the arms control arena. This suggests that Moscow will refuse to move toward reductions of offensive arms control unless there are prospects of an accommodation in the space area.
Shultz and Gromyko will begin their talks at the Soviet Mission here Monday. Accompanying Shultz into the talks will be McFarlane, special adviser Paul H. Nitze and Arthur Hartman, U.S. ambassador to Moscow. Gromyko is to be accompanied by strategic arms negotiator Viktor Karpov; Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, and one other official.