The Soviet Union named three experienced negotiators tonight to head its team at the Geneva arms talks in March and reminded Washington that success at the negotiating table can only come if all areas of the arms race are considered together.
An agreement to resume arms talks on strategic, intermediate and space weapons, after more than a year's hiatus, was reached earlier this month in a meeting between Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and Secretary of State George P. Shultz.
Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Lomeiko, at a briefing tonight, announced that veteran diplomat Viktor Karpov would head the Soviet team. Karpov, 56, who led the Soviet delegation at the strategic arms talks (START) until they broke off in December 1983, again will take charge on strategic issues, Lomeiko said.
Yuli Kvitsinsky, 47, the chief Soviet negotiator on medium-range weapons until those talks broke off in late November 1983, will return to Geneva to head the subdelegation on space weaponry, Lomeiko said.
The third member of the Soviet team, Alexei Obukhov, formerly Karpov's deputy at the START talks and now deputy head of the Foreign Ministry's U.S. department, will lead negotiations on medium-range weapons. Obukhov once attended the University of Chicago as an exchange student.
Lomeiko described the negotiators, all of whom hold ambassadorial rank, as "experienced, knowledgeable" and "confirmed patriots."
Answering questions from reporters, Lomeiko repeated Moscow's insistence that the talks "strictly follow" the terms of the agreement reached between Gromyko and Shultz, namely that negotiators consider the entire complex of interrelated nuclear issues.
"These questions must be looked at and decided in their mutual relationship," he said.
"Only strict observance of the achieved accords in all its parts during the forthcoming talks can ensure real progress toward ending the arms race," he said.
Lomeiko also made clear that the Soviet Union is entering the new negotiations without preconditions, although he echoed Gromyko's earlier remarks that continued deployment of NATO medium-range weapons in Europe and U.S. insistence on pursuing space-weapons technology could jeopardize the success of the talks.
Answering a question about recent articles in the Soviet press raising doubts about U.S. sincerity in reaching a final agreement, Lomeiko stressed that questions about Washington using talks as a "screen" had applied to the earlier separate negotiations in Geneva.
"We are for talks that are serious and businesslike and in which no one tries to achieve advantages over the other," he said.
Lomeiko declined to characterize the Soviets' strategy for the negotiations, which he said would become clear during the talks.
But his generally positive tone, and his care to play down any conditions other than strict adherence to the Shultz-Gromyko agreement signaled the seriousness with which the Soviet Union appears to be approaching the Geneva negotiations.
The same tone, cautious but positive, was struck by Gromyko during a television interview with Soviet journalists in the days after his meeting with Shultz.
The Soviets, both in public statements and in the press, repeatedly have given high priority to halting the proposed U.S. space-based Strategic Defense Initiative, known as "Star Wars."
In the view of some diplomats here, Soviet concern about ongoing U.S. research into a defense system in space is one of the main reasons they offered to sit down at a new set of talks.
Lomeiko again challenged President Reagan's assertion that the proposed system in space -- still years away from deployment -- would stabilize the nuclear balance.
"These weapons are offensive, and that plan as a whole is openly aggressive," he said. "The development of a ramified missile system in space would undermine strategic parity and cause another round in the arms race," said Lomeiko.
U.S. officials maintain that the Soviets are conducting similar research. According to one western diplomat here, the Soviets already have tested lasers against satellites.
Washington has argued that banning space defense research, at this early stage, would be meaningless since it would be impossible to verify.
Many diplomats here, however, sense that the Soviets' chief concern is that the United States will outstrip them in the race for this highly sophisticated and expensive technology, creating a new shift in a relationship they see as now being roughly equal.
In this view, the resumption of talks on strategic and medium-range nuclear weaponry -- broken off after deployment of U.S. Pershing II and cruise missiles began in Western Europe -- are interconnected with the space issue.
When the START and medium-range missiles talks broke off, the Soviets insisted that they would not resume until the missiles were removed from Europe. Although they maintain that the negotiations in March are a "new" set of talks, it is clear that in those areas, the Soviets have backed down, shifting to demands for a moratorium on deployment in Europe.
By pressing for a package deal on the issues of earth-based and space-based systems, the Soviets have found a way to justify, domestically and abroad, their return to the negotiating table.
How progress in the three areas will be measured and the definition of what constitutes an agreement in any one of the three parallel talks, appear to be issues that have not been decided. For these procedural reasons as well as more substantive differences on weapons systems, few observers here expect quick results from the talks.