The Reagan administration is making no plans to match Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's Euromissile moratorium with a corresponding U.S. arms initiative under present circumstances, administration officials said yesterday.
At the same time, officials disclosed that U.S.-Soviet diplomatic contacts on possible agenda items for a summit between Gorbachev and President Reagan have recently intensified, and expressed approval of the Soviet leader's positive attitude toward a summit. A senior administration official said in Santa Barbara, Calif., that "we're getting more feedback" from the Soviets in arms control and in bilateral relations, such as cultural and scientific exchanges, that could be discussed at a summit meeting.
After a day of gauging domestic and foreign reactions, the administration responded in split-level fashion yesterday to the first foreign policy initiative by the new Soviet leader. While rejecting Gorbachev's moratorium proposal as "one-sided" and "discredited," the administration spoke approvingly of his summit-related comments.
"His [Pravda] interview obviously was designed to drive a wedge between us and our European allies, and so far we figure it didn't work," said a State Department official.
National security affairs adviser Robert C. McFarlane, interviewed on NBC television's "Today" program, indicated that U.S. negotiators in Geneva had previously made known U.S. opposition to a Euromissile freeze when it was raised at the bargaining table.
"We have pointed out the problems that we find with this kind of one-sided proposal, at a time when the Soviet Union has 1,200 warheads already deployed, a more than 8-to-1 advantage," he said.
No high-level administration meetings are planned to carve out a U.S. arms initiative to be announced in response to Gorbachev, officials said.
The basic U.S. positions in the opening round of arms negotiations were taken by Reagan before the talks opened March 12. As of yesterday it did not appear that the course of the talks requires major new decisions from Washington.
The Soviets were reported to be taking a tough line against the "Star Wars" plan, formally known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, at every opportunity in Geneva and not yet willing to be specific about reductions in offensive weapons. Informed sources said it is unclear whether any narrowing of the gap between the two nuclear superpowers will be possible in the two weeks before the first round of Geneva talks is completed April 23.
A second round is to begin May 30.
"We're in the first half inning of what may be a 38-inning game" in the arms talks, said an official. "It doesn't strike us that we need to stake out a new position yet."
Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), in a statement, called on Reagan to respond to Gorbachev by offering "a much broader moratorium" covering the testing of antiballistic missiles, antisatellite weapons and underground nuclear warheads. Hart said Reagan "will make a very serious mistake if he merely rejects the Soviet offer out of hand."
Gorbachev's positive statements about a possible summit meeting and about the "extremely necessary" improvement in Soviet-American relations met with approval from a variety of U.S. officials, some of whom said they regarded them as more surprising and perhaps more significant than the Euromissile deployment moratorium.
McFarlane called Gorbachev's summit remarks "a basis for hope, surely." He said U.S.-Soviet exchanges have "quickened a bit" in a variety of areas.
An official said the White House has several scenarios for the timing and scope of a summit.
One would be a get-acquainted meeting relatively soon. A second would be a full-scale, traditional summit to ratify a series of pacts.
A third, considered most likely, would be a meeting this fall combining a get-acquainted session with one or two pacts.