The second round of the Geneva arms talks is ending Tuesday with the United States and the Soviet Union having achieved no tangible progress toward an agreement on nuclear weapons and space defenses, according to senior western officials.
When the negotiations resume in September, there is scant expectation of any new gambit by either side to crack the stalemate before President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meet in Geneva on Nov. 19. Even then, these officials say they are skeptical of chances for a breakthrough, and NATO Secretary General Lord Carrington has said that no real movement toward a pact should be anticipated for at least another year.
Gorbachev's swift consolidation of power has stirred speculation that he might soon feel confident enough to launch a dramatic initiative to reach a quick accord so that Soviet resources could be concentrated on economic reforms rather than new kinds of weaponry.
After two rounds, Gorbachev's imprint has not yet been detected in the negotiations. Soviet positions and tactics have reflected the intransigent style of Andrei Gromyko, whose 27-year reign as foreign minister ended two weeks ago when he was elevated to the largely honorific post of president.
Senior administration officials say it is premature to assess whether Gorbachev will aggressively pursue an arms control deal, if only for economic reasons, or choose to uphold massive investment in the Soviet military sector. But the analysts say that if Gorbachev wants to reach an early arms pact, he already appears to have acquired the internal authority and political clout to enforce his will.
U.S. negotiators are understood to be disappointed but not surprised by the refusal so far by their Soviet counterparts to put forward ideas or suggestions that would indicate an early willingness to compromise at the arms talks, which opened in March.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz told reporters traveling with him in Asia this week that "word has been passed" to various Americans by "some reasonably authoritative Soviets" about proposals they have in mind for the Geneva talks. Shultz added that it is "hard for us to respond until such views are officially presented."
U.S. negotiators in Geneva, however, say they have not yet heard any promising intimations from their Soviet counterparts about new initiatives.
Only the polemics at the negotiations are said to have improved, with the Soviet negotiators much less strident than during the first round, when they harangued the Americans about the risks of Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. Members from both delegations also are engaging in more frequent informal contacts outside the negotiating room.
But the Soviet side has not altered its opening, hard-line positions on space and intercontinental nuclear weapons. By this account, Moscow has even moved backward on intermediate-range arms by disowning a final offer in previous negotiations that collapsed in December 1983, when Soviet negotiators walked out as the West began deploying Pershing II and cruise missiles to counter the Soviet arsenal of SS20 rockets.
The Soviet side has not relaxed its insistence on linking progress in all three negotiating areas, a condition that is blocking the two parties from building on earlier negotiations to reduce strategic and intermediate weapons. The two sets of talks are, in effect, being held hostage to rigid Soviet opposition to allowing any kind of exploratory work on space defense.
Both the Soviet and American delegations have denied a New York Times report saying members of the Soviet team informally approached the U.S. side in late June to suggest Moscow was no longer seeking to ban all research on space defenses.
Throughout the second round, Yuli Kvitsinsky, the Soviet negotiator on space and defense arms, repeatedly emphasized Moscow's determination to prevent all research, testing and deployment of "space-strike weapons." The adamant Soviet view was described as "every bit as strong" as in the first round by sources familiar with the talks.
Max M. Kampelman the head of the U.S. delegation and its chief negotiator on space and defense arms, is still seeking at this stage to engage the Soviets in discussing the "philosophy" of the U.S. position, which aims to shift away from the "mutual assured destruction" theory, based on massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons, toward a more defense-oriented rationale based on antimissile protection systems.
According to the western officials, when the U.S. negotiators probed for flexibility in the Soviet position by noting that research was specifically allowed by the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty, the Soviets responded by saying the basic conception of American "Star Wars" research program is anathema to the treaty.
When the U.S. side pointed out that Moscow has carried out a large-scale program in antimissile defense for many years, the Soviet negotiators tried to rebuff that argument by contending their country's research efforts are being conducted within the bounds of the treaty.
When discussing the talks on strategic or intercontinental nuclear weapons, U.S. officials have given differing accounts of what the Soviets actually have proposed at Geneva..
American negotiators claim to have seen "no numbers yet" from the Russians at Geneva despite earlier reports quoting Paul Nitze as saying the Soviets had proposed in the second round a mutual reduction of 25 percent in strategic launchers, which includes missiles and bombers. In April, Gorbachev told a Warsaw Pact meeting that such an offer had been made, but U.S. negotiators have still not seen it presented as a formal position.
The administration has already dismissed the offer because it is said to be a repetition of one put forward two years ago to reduce launchers to 1,800 from about 2,500 on the Soviet side and 2,200 on the American side. The United States refused the offer because it did not restrict the number of warheads.