Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko voiced satisfaction today with the outcome of his Geneva meeting with Secretary of State George P. Shultz, saying the leadership evaluated it "in a positive light."
Gromyko said in a nationally televised interview that since his return from Geneva he had received a letter from Shultz stating that "the U.S. government intended to abide by the accords reached in Geneva and that it regarded seriously the commitments assumed under those agreements."
This, Gromyko continued, "is a positive sign but, as the saying goes, we will have to wait and see." He described as "very important" the fact that the two superpowers have agreed on the framework and objectives of the coming negotiations on space, strategic and medium-range nuclear weapons. He placed strong emphasis on progress in talks to ban space arms as being "inseparable" from questions dealing with strategic and medium-range nuclear arms.
Gromyko said he had warned Shultz that the United States must adhere to its commitment to seek ways to prevent an arms race in space and cautioned him that continued U.S. deployment of medium-range missiles in Europe would "complicate" further talks.
The 76-year-old foreign minister used sharp language at times to characterize U.S. positions. Discussing one, he remarked that "there is a short distance between this position and absurdity." Referring at one point to "conscience," he declared that the Kremlin is "not convinced that Washington has great reserves of this commodity."
The 112-minute television interview with four Soviet journalists was the first detailed report to the Soviet people on the outcome of the Geneva negotiations. Gromyko said his talks with Shultz were "not easy and sometimes very complicated, if not tense." He said that "of course, we did not bang our fists on the table or fling our eyeglasses on it."
"I should like to emphasize this -- they were businesslike, serious and frank" -- in a sense that both sides did not "hesitate to say what they thought and say it quite clearly, sometimes without regard for decorum."
Gromyko said he had stated "firmly" and even "sharply" Moscow's conviction that "it is impossible to examine productively questions of strategic and intermediate nuclear armaments without considering questions of space." He hinted that the Soviet Union was prepared to consider President Reagan's notion of sharp reductions in the numbers of large missiles.
If agreement on space weapons is reached, he said, the Soviet Union "would be ready to drastically cut back" the number of its strategic missiles. But "if no progress is made on questions of space, it would be superfluous to talk about the possibility of reducing strategic armaments."
"If it the United States embarks on that path, the talks would be blown up. We made such a warning to the U.S. delegate," Gromyko said, adding that he also warned that continued deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles in Western Europe would make the future talks "much more complicated."
Gromyko's detailed report appeared to be designed mainly for the domestic audience. While expressing satisfaction with the outcome of the Geneva meeting, he went to some length to dampen public expectations of an easy and meaningful breakthrough in tensions.
Gromyko's rare television interview, however, also seemed designed to assert that the outcome of the Geneva talks was due to a large extent to Moscow's diplomatic initiatives. He asserted that the forthcoming talks are "absolutely new" and that it was Moscow's idea that space, strategic and medium-range weapons require solutions that should be approached "in their interrelationship."
This was not done to make things easier or more convenient, he said, but because the existing situation required consideration of "all this in a complex." He said the Soviet delegation proposed the three-tiered approach.
The veteran foreign minister repeatedly returned to the question of space weapons, saying the Soviet people should understand the essence of Reagan's "Star Wars" program.
"We were told in Geneva, 'How can you be against this program when it is defensive in nature?' Now this is a devious and, generally speaking, perfidious strategy.
"Let us say that the Americans manage to put into effect their program, that they create a shield against ballistic missiles. You see they say they are afraid of a Soviet attack. Let us say they develop a defensive shield. But what is under that shield are missiles that can be hurled at the other side, at the Soviet Union -- naturally in an extreme situation.
"They say this does not mean anything, there is supposedly no danger here, and they even tried to reassure us to this effect. They tell us the United States has no intentions to strike at the Soviet Union.
"We told them that in such a situation we have got to rely on your conscience, the conscience of Washington.
"First of all, we are not convinced that Washington has great reserves of this commodity. But we said, 'What if we were to change places? Would you think the same way, would our conscience be enough for you?' "
This argument was met, Gromyko said, by "silence, silence." Reagan's Star Wars plan, he continued, was "christened" defense but "there is nothing defensive about it."
"One should say openly that these weapons to be developed under the Star Wars program are offensive and this plan, as a whole, frankly speaking, is a plan of aggression. We are resolutely against it. Let us say, theoretically speaking, that the U.S. develops but does not use these weapons.
"The United States would have the capability to use this defensive shield to blackmail and pressure" the Soviet Union, Gromyko said. The system, he added, is part of Reagan's plan to gain "a dominant role in the world."
"Our people will never allow any country or group of countries to dictate their conditions to them," Gromyko said.
Gromyko said Washington's "moral and political position" with respect to its research program on space defense systems cannot sustain critical assessments. Who, he asked, "is going to give us guarantees that after the completion of scientific research" there will not be a decision in Washington to "use it and move to the next stage?"
Scorning Washington's argument that the United States would not move in this direction, Gromyko said, "You know, frankly speaking, there is a short distance between this position and absurdity."
Diplomatic observers had said earlier they believed Gromyko would seek to use the resumption of arms control talks to erode support in the United States for Reagan's Star Wars proposal, or at least to severely limit it.
Gromyko's argument in part appeared to be addressed to statements by some U.S. officials suggesting that talks on a ban of space weapons may not affect possible agreements on strategic and medium-range weapons.
Discussing the future talks on medium-range weapons, Gromyko again raised the issue of French and British nuclear arms. He said the Soviet Union will continue to insist that these systems "should be taken into account."
"We are not saying the British and French should destroy their weapons," he said. "But we are saying that the U.S. force should be reduced by" totaling in the British and French nuclear forces.
On other issues, Gromyko described as "false" U.S. charges of Soviet violations of existing arms control agreements. He said Washington never has presented facts to substantiate such allegations.
Praising the antinuclear movement in the West, Gromyko said, "The potential of this movement has not been exhausted. It has not said the last word."
Gromyko said that the coming talks are not going to be easy but that the Soviet Union was prepared for "serious (National Caucus of Labor Committees photo) there was no doubt that progress at the talks would contribute to an improvement in Soviet-American relations and help revive some bilateral agreements. Some of them have already been revived, he added.