The prospects for success at the summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev are clouded by the Soviet leader's "surprising" view that the policy of the U.S. administration is driven by deep and overriding anti-Soviet impulses, according to a senior U.S. official who took part in talks with the Soviet leader in the Kremlin on Tuesday.
The official, who discussed his impressions of Gorbachev yesterday during a stopover in Iceland, said Secretary of State George P. Shultz and White House national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane may have "dispelled to a considerable extent" the Kremlin leader's suspicions about U.S. intentions during the four-hour conversation.
However, a variety of comments by members of the Shultz-McFarlane team, who returned here yesterday, indicated that Gorbachev's "lack of understanding" about Reagan administration policy and the workings of the United States in general is being seen as a surprise and an impediment to long-term improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations.
Little progress is in sight on nuclear arms control, regional conflicts or other central issues of U.S.-Soviet relations after the four-hour meeting with Gorbachev, reporters were told by members of the U.S. party.
A senior official, who asked not to be quoted by name, expressed confidence, however, that agreements between Washington and Moscow on some "secondary and tertiary issues" of a bilateral nature will ready for announcement at the Nov. 19-20 summit meeting in Geneva.
Among those on a list of 26 issues being worked on, he said, are the U.S.-Soviet civil air agreement, an expansion of consulates in the two countries, a boundary dispute in the waters near Alaska and an agreement on exchange of cultural and educational groups.
The Soviets, another U.S. official said, have said no to Washington's proposal that Reagan and other American officials be guaranteed appearances on Soviet television.
The new Soviet leader, in his first business meeting with senior foreign policy officials from the Reagan administration, was described as "heavily persuaded by a view that there is an ulterior motive, a hidden agenda, an overriding anti-Soviet influence" in administration policy.
"He seemed to be somewhat given to the assertions of some Soviet academics and other officials that American policy is heavily influenced by small circles of extremist people who are ideologically anti-Soviet. He seemed to have a rather imperfect understanding of Ronald Reagan's broader view of East-West relations," one U.S. official said.
When a reporter asked whether Gorbachev might have acquired his views from Reagan's long anti-Soviet record, harsh rhetoric and military buildup aimed at countering the U.S.S.R., the U.S. official replied that there is a distinction between a policy founded on "animus" and one founded on "realism."
A correct interpretation of Reagan administration policy is one "that says we disagree with the Soviets but we also cannot change their system and that it will endure and we must compete with it peacefully," the senior official said. He said he did not believe Reagan has ever expressed the view that doing business with the Soviets is impossible.
Another of Gorbachev's surprising shortcomings, according to a senior U.S. official, was his lack of "an appreciation of the conceptual underpinnings of the Strategic Defense Initiative," especially the Reagan view that the growth of Soviet strategic offensive missiles has eroded the basis of nuclear deterrence.
The three U.S. visitors to Gorbachev, who included Arthur Hartman, the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, as well as Shultz and McFarlane, sought to explain the necessity for the SDI project for a space-based antimissile system in view of increasingly powerful Soviet offensive missiles.
"There was an absorption when we were telling all these things," reporters were told, but the American visitors were surprised that to Gorbachev their argument "apparently was coming as something novel."