The Warsaw Pact alliance today proposed a freeze in the numbers of Soviet and U.S. troops worldwide and reaffirmed the Soviet Union's recent arms control proposals. It also sought to focus pressure on the United States for concessions in the coming meeting between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Reagan.
Following two days of talks here among Gorbachev and the leaders of Moscow's six Eastern European allies, a press statement said the Warsaw Pact had agreed on "full support" for Soviet calls for a ban on space-based arms and a 50 percent reduction in nuclear weapons capable of striking the United States and Soviet Union.
The pact leaders also backed Moscow's position that no progress in arms control negotiations will be possible unless Washington offers new initiatives. "Now it is the turn of the U.S.A. to follow the positive example of the U.S.S.R. and take similar constructive steps," the statement declared.
In apparent deference to Eastern European concerns, the final statement issued here tonight stressed that progress was possible on reducing intermediate-range nuclear forces in Europe even without a Soviet-U.S. agreement on strategic and space weapons. However, western diplomats said the meeting had produced no real changes in Eastern Bloc military policies. "What has emerged is an endorsement of the Gorbachev position going into the summit" with Reagan, one senior diplomat here said.
The principal new initiative proposed by the alliance was a freeze on the numbers of Soviet and U.S. armed forces, "including those outside their national borders," at the level of Jan. 1, 1986. The Warsaw Pact previously has suggested deep cuts in Soviet and U.S. forces stationed in Central Europe, but officials said the new proposal is the first to cover all military forces of the two superpowers.
Western diplomats said the troop proposal was vague and would be unlikely to advance negotiations on conventional forces, stalled on issues such as verifying the numbers of troops on each side.
The pact's positions were communicated in a press conference that diplomats here described as unprecedented in a Warsaw Pact meeting. Western observers said the handling of the summit reflected the more open style of Gorbachev in comparison with previous Soviet leaders as well as Moscow's heightened concern with reaching western public opinion.
The press conference, held in the hotel where most western journalists are working, was conducted by Bulgaria's deputy foreign minister, Ivan Ganev, and attended by Vladimir Lomeiko, chief of the press department of the Soviet Foreign Ministry. Ganev's six-page press statement was followed tonight by the release of a communique and a separate political declaration.
All three documents focused on nuclear arms control issues and the coming Reagan-Gorbachev talks. Echoing the key Soviet concern, the final declaration said the United States should "stop any activities on developing, testing and deploying space-based strike weapons" and said the "particularly alarming threat" of an arms race in outer space could "lead to a destabilization of the overall strategic situation."
But the alliance suggested that progress on nuclear arms control need not be tied to a U.S.-Soviet agreement on space weapons. It stressed that a "separate agreement" could be reached on intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe "without a direct relation to the problem of space and strategic armaments." The lack of such a connection, the declaration said, would make progress "easier and faster."
The political document noted that steps such as a freeze on current nuclear arsenals, a suspension of testing and deployment of new weapons and the halt of deployment of medium-range nuclear missiles could be taken "even before an agreement is reached" between Moscow and Washington on strategic arms. Western observers said the emphasis on the potential for progress in arms talks independent of the issue of space arms appeared in line with Eastern European concerns that a U.S.-Soviet impasse over the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative could block progress on reducing intermediate-range missiles, including Soviet warheads stationed in Eastern Europe.