Vice President Bush said yesterday that the United States and Soviet Union are preparing for the November summit in Geneva with a "basic difference" in approach, and predicted that the Soviets would engage in serious negotiations after staging a massive propaganda campaign.
Bush, speaking at the Alfred M. Landon lecture series in Manhattan, Kan., appeared to be giving the most detailed response yet from the administration to recent statements from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev accusing the United States of preparing for confrontation, and not substantive results, at the meeting with President Reagan.
Officials said the address was drafted by Bush with help from national security affairs adviser Robert C. McFarlane and Secretary of State George P. Shultz and that Bush intended to signal that the United States is not taking a confrontational approach to the Geneva meeting. The speech was "designed to change the course slightly" on the perceived U.S. view of the summit, one senior official said.
Bush said, "We look at meetings between heads of state, particularly the upcoming one, as opportunities, not for propaganda, but for setting an agenda that can lead to greater stability and harmony in relations. And that means we believe that the upcoming meeting must address the real and persistent issues that have irritated relations in recent years."
"We want this meeting to reflect as much substantive achievement as possible, but more importantly, to produce an agenda and work program that should reduce tensions between our countries," Bush said. Previously, U.S. officials have suggested that the summit may produce such an agenda but probably would not result in substantive agreements.
Gorbachev said in an interview with Time magazine that the administration appeared to be setting the stage for a bout between "supergladiators" in Geneva. His comments followed a McFarlane speech in California saying that "even incremental improvements" in superpower relations "will be extremely hard to reach" unless there is a change in Soviet thinking on international military issues.
The next day, the United States announced plans for the first test of an antisatellite weapon against a target in space, and the day after that accused the Soviets of using chemical "tracking agents" to identify U.S. diplomats in Moscow.
Bush, reiterating a view offered by McFarlane, said the summit should address why the Soviets have "resumed or initiated arms competitions in areas where there hadn't been any at all," such as on intermediate-range missiles in Europe. He also cited chemical weapons, which he said the United States wants to eliminate. "Surely we can get together on this," he added.
The vice president maintained that the Soviets had in the past come to the bargaining table once the United States and its allies demonstrated resolve. For example, he noted that the Soviets had launched a major propaganda effort to try and delay the deployment of medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe by NATO in Reagan's first term.
He said European governments had weathered the campaign and "soon after the final election, the Soviets were back at the bargaining table" ready to discuss these weapons and others.
Although the Soviets can be "extremely tough bargainers" because of this tactic, "it's important to keep in mind that they are not impossible in negotiations," Bush said.
"They prefer to see how public opinion plays out before moving seriously in negotiations.
"Whenever the Soviets have been convinced that Western opinion is united, they have set aside their public relations game, at least for a while, and accepted more conventional diplomatic rules, rules which dicatate that both sides, through careful give and take, work towards agreements that both can live with."
Other subjects for the summit, set for Nov. 19 and 20, should include the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Soviet support for Cuba and Libya and human rights violations in the Soviet Union, including the rights of Soviet Jews, Bush said.
A transcript of the Bush address was made available at the White House yesterday, although officials did not announce there that the vice president was to give a major address on U.S.-Soviet policy.
Reagan yesterday assured a group of Jewish leaders in a White House meeting that he would discuss the plight of Soviet Jews during the Gorbachev meeting, a participant, Morris Abram, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, said afterward.
Reagan also issued a statement late yesterday on the eve of renewed talks in Stockholm aimed at improving East-West relations, calling for "serious and detailed negotiations" that will reduce the risk of military confrontation in Europe.
Reagan last week refused to comment on the Gorbachev interview, but White House officials responded to it by saying the president would like to appear on Soviet television. Yesterday, Reagan told three college students that if he had a chance to address the Soviet people he would tell them the United States is not as aggressive as portrayed by Soviet news media, the students reported.
Bush struck a similar theme, saying better relations between the two nations should be based on "respect" and added, "It means you respect the sovereignty and abilities of the other side, even if you disapprove of its system, as we do the Soviet system."
Bush said the United States has "gone the extra mile" in trying to improve relations, but the Soviets have made the battle for world opinion "a central element" of their negotiating strategy.
In recent weeks, he said, the Soviets have pursued "a softer version of this strategy," including Gorbachev's interview and the appearance of Soviet officials on U.S. television.
"And in each case the message has been the same," he said. "They charge that the United States is hostile to the Soviet Union. The United States is doing and saying things that will undermine the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting and, more broadly, the U.S.-Soviet relationship."
Bush described the Soviets as wanting "more stable peace in a twinkling" by getting the United States "to accept Soviet strengths and give up our own."