Before the November summit meeting, the United States and the Soviet Union are likely to hold policy-level discussions about Cuba, Nicaragua and other points of potential superpower conflict in Latin America, State Department officials said yesterday.
The discussions would be the latest and probably last in a recent series in which Washington and Moscow compare notes on regional trouble spots. They have met this year on the Middle East, Afghanistan, southern Africa and Asia.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz is expected to propose the Latin discussions when he meets Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze next week, officials said.
The Soviets are expected to agree without hesitation to the talks because they made it clear last spring through diplomatic channels their willingness to hold discussions with Washington on Latin American issues.
The Reagan administration's opposition to the Soviet role in this hemisphere has been particularly intense, but Soviet activity at the U.S. back door has been a major concern for every administration of the last 25 years.
The two superpowers came as close as they ever have to a nuclear conflict in 1962, when the Soviets placed medium-range missiles in Cuba, then removed them.
Some administration officials have said such formal talks with the Soviets about the Americas are controversial because they might seem to legitimize a Soviet role in the U.S. sphere of interest.
The dominant view in the State Department, however, is that it is worthwhile to exchange views with the Soviets about an area where they are a troublesome and to some degree dangerous presence.
The forthcoming talks' value, a senior official said, would be "to make our positions clear on Cuba and Nicaragua and Soviet support for subversion in South America."
As in the case of the earlier regional discussions, the Latin talks are intended to provide an authoritative exchange of views rather than the occasion for a negotiated settlement of differences. President Reagan charged last year that Central America has become "the stage for a bold attempt by the Soviet Union, Cuba and Nicaragua to install communism by force throughout the hemisphere."
Regional confrontations with the Soviets, such as those affecting the hemisphere, are expected to be among the topics for Reagan's meeting Nov. 19-20 with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, but in that forum Latin America would probably consume a few minutes in a lengthy agenda.
If they follow the pattern of previous regional meetings, the proposed U.S.-Soviet talks on the Western Hemisphere would take about two days and involve delegations headed by a U.S. assistant secretary of state and a counterpart from the Soviet Foreign Ministry.
Shultz and Shevardnadze are scheduled to meet next week here and in New York.
A State Department-Defense Department document released March 22 reported that Soviet military aid to Cuba and Nicaragua since 1959, when Fidel Castro came to power in Havana, has been greater than U.S. military aid to all of Latin America in that period.
The report charged that "the Soviet Union sees in the region an excellent and low-cost opportunity to preoccupy the United States . . . thus gaining greater global freedom of action for the U.S.S.R."
According to U.S. data, the Soviets provide Cuba with about $4 billion a year in subsidized trade, oil and cash and have suspended Cuba's payments on a $9 billion debt.
Nevertheless, Soviet-Cuban relations have not been smooth. Castro's failure to join other East bloc and Western leaders at the funeral of Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko in March generated widespread reports of strain in Soviet-Cuban relations.
In Nicaragua, the Soviet bloc has provided about $500 million in military assistance and $700 million in economic aid since the Sandinistas gained power in 1980, according to the State Department.
Moscow has repeatedly issued verbal attacks on U.S. policy south of the U.S. border. On Thursday, the Soviet news agency, Tass, charged the United States with "open interference in Latin America and Central America, and hegemonist claims to rule the Western Hemisphere as it does its own state."
Tass said "the 'communist threat' in the Western Hemisphere has been thought up by the Washington leaders to give them a free hand to pursue their policy of state terrorism and to justify their close links with reactionary regimes."
An unofficial U.S. delegation of experts and scholars held two days of discussions in Moscow this April about the two nations' interests and complaints about each other in Central America and the Caribbean.
Robert Leiken of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, one of the U.S. participants, said, "We didn't expect much agreement but had hoped for a conceptual framework for discussion."
"It came to be an exchange of polemics," Leiken said.