Question:"But the Russians, presumably, would have to make their own [Strategic Defense Initiative]. You wouldn't offer it to them, would you, off the shelf?"

Answer:"Why not? I think this is something to be discussed at the summit."

There he goes again. Just as the administration seems to be getting its arms-control act together, there goes Ronald Reagan off again into the wild blue yonder, this time o ge foreseeable future the United States could share "the advanced, the most dangerous, the most important technology in America with the Soviet Union" was to him "a total nonstarter."

That's precisely the point about the president's vision. It is conditioned on a state of U.S.-Soviet relations that will be a long time coming and certainly doesn't exist now. If it did, the world would be a safer place. A whole lot of things would be negotiable -- including things like a nuclear-defense system that doesn't exist.

Hence a sensible effort on the part of more responsible elements in the administration to bring "Star Wars" back to earth. Serious talk is beginning of reopening the ABM Treaty for negotiations to eliminate argument over its terms as they apply to development, testing and ultimate deployment of nuclear-defense systems in space. In the process, a way might be found to agree on the pace of nuclear-defense programs on both sides.

That would put an end to the silly question whether SDI is a "bargaining chip" -- a question that regularly invites the silly answer that the president will never abandon SDI. His own special adviser on arms control, Paul Nitze, recently gave the more careful answer that the "research program is not on the table" but that, of course, "other aspects" (development testing and deployment) were negotiable.

Or it was, until the president revived his futuristic fancies.