A continuing standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union over a Soviet soldier who has taken refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan complicated final preparations here today for talks Monday in Moscow to lay the groundwork for the U.S.-Soviet summit meeting Nov. 19-20.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz, White House national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane and their delegation met for more than three hours at the U.S. Embassy here to plan strategy for the meetings Monday with Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and Tuesday with Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.
State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said the focus of attention in the U.S. delegation was on the Moscow trip, despite concern over the situation at the embassy in Kabul, which has been surrounded by Afghan and Soviet troops since a 19-year-old Soviet private took refuge there last Thursday.
Shultz's party reported that the Soviet soldier met Soviet Ambassador Fikryat Tabeyev and the U.S. acting ambassador, Edward Hurwitz, for 75 minutes at the U.S. Embassy this afternoon. "The upshot of the meeting was that the Soviet soldier has asked for more time to think over any decision he may make," a spokesman said. Another meeting is set for Monday.
At least five protests have been lodged with the Soviet and Afghan governments about the ringing of the embassy with troops, the cutoff of electricity and the training of searchlights on the embassy compound, officials said.
The Soviet soldier is reported to have told U.S. Embassy personnel after he darted into the U.S. compound, "I don't like this war. I want to go home." Until today he had declined to discuss his wishes with any Soviet official. A U.S. spokesman said today's meeting was held "at the soldier's request."
[The Associated Press quoted an American source as saying the embassy staff of about a dozen was staying inside the compound after one person trying to leave was "not treated gently" by Soviet and Afghan troops.]
The meetings of Shultz and McFarlane in Moscow, according to officials in their party, are expected to be the last at this level before President Reagan and Gorbachev sit down in Geneva Nov. 19.
There is little argument in the U.S. delegation with the statement of former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger, on public broadcasting's "American Interests" television program, that "whatever has not been settled before cannot be settled at the summit." In this context, this week's talks are seen as crucial to the summit outcome.
Given the extensive discussions of the past, beginning with a Shultz-Shevardnadze meeting here in July and Shevardnadze's meetings with Reagan and Shultz in New York and Washington in September and October, the U.S. team and, by all reports, Soviet officials are showing a surprising degree of uncertainty about the outcome.
Senior American officials continued to say today that they had no official response from the Soviets to the new U.S. arms proposals presented Friday in the Geneva negotiations on nuclear and space weapons, despite repeated criticism of the proposal by the Soviet news agency Tass and the Communist Party daily Pravda.
The arms negotiations "are between us in Geneva and not in the newspapers," Assistant Secretary of State Rozanne Ridgway told reporters today, saying the U.S. side continues "to look forward" to an official Soviet response.
Following submission of its own arms reduction plan early this month, Moscow challenged the United States to come up with a counteroffer. The chief of the Soviet general staff, Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, said in Pravda Oct. 19 that following Moscow's proposals the United States "now has the opportunity to go its part of the road and try and bring closer the sides' positions at the talks."
A senior administration official who briefed reporters on the latest U.S. and Soviet arms offers here today described the positions of the two nations as still far apart in all areas under negotiation in Geneva.
Asked why the Soviet Union appears willing to negotiate a separate arrangement on intermediate-range nuclear forces in Europe, the official said that "in the absence of such a position, the whole thing presented by the Soviet Union was vastly unattractive to the European members of NATO."
Shultz said yesterday that the United States also is willing to work on a separate accord on these systems. But neither Shultz nor the senior official who briefed reporters today expressed optimism about the prospects of an immediate accord.
Asked if the space arms area, where the two sides are farthest apart, is top priority for Moscow, the briefer said 90 percent of the words in the most recent Soviet proposal were addressed to limitations on offense, even though Soviet representatives said that space arms are "the most important problem.
Shultz also met today with Finnish President Muano Koivisto and Foreign Minister Paavo Vayrnen.