The Soviet delegation to the Geneva arms talks yesterday introduced a draft treaty to reduce U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles, but officials in Washington said the document appears not to go beyond proposals announced Jan. 15 by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
In Switzerland, chief U.S. negotiator Max M. Kampelman told the Associated Press that the Soviet proposal "was merely a formal treaty carrying out statements they had previously made to us."
"It appears at first glance to be a more formal codification of previous Soviet statements," White House spokesman Larry Speakes said yesterday, "but we will certainly analyze the proposal to see whether this constitutes constructive movement toward seeking common ground."
Some U.S. officials, recalling that Soviet negotiators did little more than read Gorbachev's Jan. 15 speech into the record during the last round of the Geneva talks, said yesterday's action could be considered a step forward.
"We hope this would indicate that the Soviets are becoming serious," Speakes said.
In that January speech, Gorbachev proposed eliminating all European-based Soviet SS20 and U.S. Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles over the next five to eight years.
He linked the reductions to U.S. agreement not to transfer those systems, or longer-range Trident II submarine-launched nuclear missiles, to the British or the French. Gorbachev also called for a pledge from those countries not to build up their own systems, but rather freeze them at current levels.
Verification of such an agreement, the Soviet leader said, would include not only the traditional spy satellites maintained by both sides but also on-site monitoring of the destruction of missiles.
Reagan administration officials criticized the Gorbachev approach on the grounds that it allegedly excludes Soviet SS20s based in the Far East. The U.S. officials also said the Soviets would have to deal directly with the British and the French with regard to their nuclear systems.
A U.S. proposal introduced in Geneva in February proposed removing all U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range missiles, including those in Asia, over a three-year period. It also contained specific verification procedures featuring on-site inspection not only of weapons destruction but also of weapons production facilities.
Sources said the Soviet draft introduced yesterday contains a provision prohibiting the transfer of nuclear missiles from the superpowers to other nations, but nothing about freezing British and French nuclear forces. It also does not contain any specific on-site verification procedures although such proposals may be included in a separate annex to be introduced later, a source said.
The Soviets gave little advance notice that they planned to introduce the document, an approach some Washington officials said contrasted with earlier, well-publicized Gorbachev initiatives. A special negotiating session was requested Tuesday and the text of the draft treaty presented yesterday in a session that lasted 50 minutes. It was followed by a regularly scheduled meeting of the intermediate-nuclear forces (INF) delegations, which lasted another 90 minutes.
In preparing for the current round of INF talks, U.S. officials had identified 12 to 16 areas where the two sides had positions which "converged," according to one source. One goal of the current talks is "try to get the Soviets to discuss the areas of convergence and work them out into larger areas," this source said.
U.S. and Soviet officials have looked at the INF talks as the most promising area for an arms control breakthrough. At the Geneva summit last November, President Reagan and Gorbachev called for accelerated progress toward an "interim" INF agreement. In addition, Gorbachev has said that the INF reduction could take place even without progress on the strategic nuclear weapons and space defenses.
Before the latest round of arms talks began last week, key Reagan aides said Moscow would have to come up with new positions to get the deadlocked negotiations moving. One official associated with the negotiations who read the first reports from Geneva said yesterday that the presentation of a treaty text "would be a lot more useful if it contained new, concrete proposals."