Last Wednesday in the Kremlin, Nobel laureate George Wald presented Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev with a "comprehensive disarmament" plan on behalf of himself and 58 other Nobel prize winners during a long meeting.
After many complications, Wald, 79, succeeded here today in presenting the plan to the U.S. government via Joseph Lehman, public affairs director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
Wald did not seem indignant or surprised about the disparity in his reception by the two nuclear superpowers. He told Lehman he recognized that the first four items of the Nobel winners' five-point plan "go right down the Soviet line" but that they were directed to "the logic of trying to stop the arms race" rather than the superpowers' political positions.
The appeal to the two governments began with a meeting of five Nobel laureates in Maastricht, the Netherlands, Oct. 27, during which the disarmament plan was drawn up. Others approved the proposal by telephone or correspondence before Wald flew to Moscow Nov. 13 to present it to the Soviets.
"To my great surprise I was met at the airport in Moscow by big black limousines and taken to the Kremlin to see Gorbachev," Wald said. "They said the meeting was to last 20 to 30 minutes, but it went on for 2 1/2 hours, including an hour on human rights."
Gorbachev's formal statement in the meeting with Wald, made public by the Soviet government, was his last major public statement before coming to Geneva to meet President Reagan. It was in this statement that Gorbachev said, in a much-quoted remark, that he would "not go empty-handed" to Geneva.
The Nobel laureates' plan called for the nuclear superpowers to agree to a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, demilitarization of outer space, a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, reductions in nuclear weapons stockpiles and establishing a "joint framework" for working against accidental nuclear war.
"After Gorbachev's formal remarks [the text that was released by the Kremlin], it was an intensely personal conversation with a warm and open personality," Wald said of last week's meeting. "There was a play of expression on his face, even when we were discussing human rights."
Wald, a Harvard University professor emeritus who won his Nobel prize in 1967 for medical research, discussed the cases of several Soviet scientists who have been penalized for their views. He said Gorbachev indicated that Andrei Sakharov would not be permitted to leave the country because of his knowledge of atomic weapons, and that he professed not to have heard of physicist Yuri Orlov, who has spent six years in a labor camp.
Gorbachev called the Soviet Union is "the freest country in the world," Wald said.
Wald, a Boston resident, wanted to present the laureates' plan to a U.S. official of high rank but willingly settled for Lehman after a day of waiting.
In a discussion in a corner of the U.S. press room here, Lehman said some of the topics in the letter were probably being discussed by Reagan and Gorbachev.
"I'm relieved that I delivered the message," Wald said.