President Reagan carried his campaign for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) to a partisan audience yesterday while two of his senior arms control advisers decried what they called ominous advances in the Soviet Union's missile defense program.
At a Republican fund-raising luncheon in Parsippany, N.J., Reagan vowed to continue research on his controversial missile defense, describing it as "a defensive shield that won't hurt people, but will knock down nuclear weapons before they hurt people."
Rejecting Soviet pressure to abandon SDI in exchange for deep cuts in offensive nuclear missiles, the president declared, "I ain't going to do it."
The president's reaffirmation of SDI came as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev lobbied in Paris to persuade Western Europe to join Moscow's efforts to ban the research program known commonly as "Star Wars."
In an attempt to shift responsibility for the space arms race to Moscow, the Defense Department released an intelligence report portraying Soviet strategic defense efforts as "an extensive, multifaceted, operational" network that dwarfs the U.S. program and threatens by the early 1990s to blunt the U.S. ability to launch a retaliatory nuclear counterpunch. A Pentagon official said 100,000 copies of the report were printed for worldwide distribution.
The report, compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency and Pentagon, was released at a rare on-the-record State Department briefing featuring Paul H. Nitze, the president's special arms control adviser, and Richard N. Perle, assistant secretary of defense for international security policy.
Nitze said the Kremlin's strategic defense program has been "far more extensive" than that of the United States but has been immune from the kind of public scrutiny directed at the U.S. effort. He said the report is intended to inform Americans and their allies of the "magnitude and nature" of the Soviet effort.
Perle said the report shows that Soviet strategic defense efforts have grown "unperturbed" by such arms control accords as the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. He said Moscow is attacking SDI in an effort to assure Soviet military supremacy in space.
The 27-page report, entitled, "Soviet Strategic Defense Programs," describes a broad and varied system that features an expanding antiballistic missile system around Moscow and research into such advanced-technology weapons as lasers, radio frequency signals and kinetic energy and particle beams.
Much of the report restates previously released data and administration statements, sprinkled with a few new details. The laser weapons program was quantified for the first time as being the equivalent of a $1 billion a year effort in the United States.
The report does little to challenge views that the Soviet strategic defense program is primarily aimed at countering U.S. bombers and cruise missiles -- weapons sometimes referred to as "air breathers" because they remain in the atmosphere -- rather than intercontinental ballistic missiles that fly through space.
As a defense against some U.S. missile warheads, Moscow has built a ground-based antiballistic missile system around Moscow, much like the one abandoned as ineffectual by the United States in 1976.
The report, enclosed in glossy white cover and filled with colorful graphs and pictures of Soviet weapons, details Russian advances in the kind of advanced technologies needed for a "Star Wars" nuclear umbrella, claiming that the Soviet effort "represents a far greater investment" in funds and manpower that the U.S. program.
Some of the report's conclusions conflict with other expert analysis. For example, Soviet capabilities in guidance and control systems for kinetic energy weapons are described in the report as "probably adequate" for use against objects in space. CIA analysts have concluded that the Soviets are far from perfecting those capabilities.
The report said that the Soviet laser weapons program is "much larger" than that of the United States, and its successes include a rocket-driven generator that has "no counterpart in the West."
In research on particle beam weapons, the report pointed to "very impressive" gains, saying that U.S. efforts to develop a weapon capable of destroying a missile in space are based on Soviet studies of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Last spring, the Air Force presented a different assessment of Soviet laser and particle beam work. In testimony to a House subcommittee, officials said that despite years of research, the Soviets "have no identifiable lead in applications of these technologies to a space-based strategic defense.