The Reagan administration yesterday called upon Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze to bring "concrete" proposals for arms reductions to the White House today, and a senior official said that President Reagan would be "disappointed" if Shevardnadze fails to do so.
The Soviet foreign minister met with Secretary of State George P. Shultz in New York Wednesday, but did not broach any concrete new proposals. Soviet and American officials have said Shevardnadze's meeting with Reagan today is an important step on the road to Geneva, where Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev are scheduled to meet Nov. 19-20.
Robert C. McFarlane, the president's national security affairs adviser, briefed reporters yesterday on the Shevardnadze-Reagan encounter. "We surely would welcome a concrete proposal that would be put forward in the spirit of give and take," McFarlane said.
But he indicated no give in the administration's insistence that it will go ahead with active research on a missile defense system formally known as the Strategic Defense Initiative and commonly called "Star Wars."
Congressional sources quoting Soviet officials have said they expect Shevardnadze to propose a 40 percent reduction in the nuclear arsenals of both the United States and the Soviet Union in return for "significant" limitations on the SDI that would prevent it from growing beyond the stage of fundamental research.
U.S. officials have been cautious about reacting to this prospective proposal before they see it in writing and have examined the details. A senior official who has participated in preparations for the Reagan-Shevardnadze meeting said yesterday that the sublimits on land-based missiles in the Soviet proposal will be one of the key determinations of whether the plan is an acceptable basis for negotiation.
The Soviet proposal has been described as containing a provision that would require that no more than 60 percent of a nation's arms be deployed on land-based or submarine-based missiles or on bombers. This could allow the Soviets to keep 780 land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, including its modern force of 308 giant SS18 missiles, each with 10 warheads.
Neither side has made any secret of its major aim in arms control discussions. The Soviets are trying to limit Star Wars to the laboratory, while the United States, which has the preponderance of its missiles on submarines, wants to reduce the Soviet land-based ICBM force which, because of its potential accuracy, is considered a threat to America's land-based missiles.
Shevardnadze and Shultz discussed arms control issues for more than two hours at the Wednesday meeting that was described by both sides as "frank," a word used in diplomacy to indicate disagreement.
McFarlane said Reagan will tell Shevardnadze that discussions at the summit should be focused on the four subjects the administration has listed in the past: "Reduction of the use of force in settling disputes; nuclear arms reductions; compliance with obligations assumed to respect human rights, and steps to improve the working relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union . . . . "
The Soviets have not agreed to discuss human rights, which they regard as an internal matter, but McFarlane said Reagan would raise it anyway both today and in his summit meeting with Gorbachev.
A senior official who briefed reporters in advance of today's meeting expressed optimism that a new arms control agreement with the Soviets could be reached within a year but he said that the best that could be hoped for would be that the "general guidelines" of this would emerge at the summit.
"I don't think anyone pretends that the precision that must be reflected in a final arms control agreement . . . could possibly be achieved in the time remaining," the official said. "If there could be some basic agreement on each side's concept of stability, how we view the matter of reductions, the relationship between offense and defense -- even these things are going to take months to iron out -- some general guidelines could well emerge."
Reagan and Shevardnadze are scheduled to meet for two hours this morning and then have lunch at the White House. At 4 p.m., Shevardnadze will resume discussions with Shultz at the State Department, after which Shevardnadze and his wife, Nanuli, will be dinner guests of Shultz and his wife, Obie, at their home.
Reagan also issued a statement on the resumption yesterday of East-West troop reduction talks in Vienna, pledging to give close scrutiny to any proposal that would equitably reduce conventional forces in Europe.
"We hope for a similar approach from the Warsaw Pact," Reagan said.
The four-paragraph statement was issued perfunctorily at the White House, reflecting the relatively low expectations of the administration for success in this negotiating arena.