Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) praised President Reagan yesterday as a "great arms control president" but warned that the United States should not rush toward a second arms control agreement after President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev sign the intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) treaty today.
In a speech to the management of the Gannett Corp., Dole, a 1988 Republican presidential hopeful, also defended his refusal to endorse the INF accord before the final version of the treaty is officially presented to the Senate for ratification.
"As elected representatives of the people, we have a responsibility to the people -- a responsibility no less solemn than that of the president -- to do everything we must to preserve this nation's security," he said of the Senate's role in the ratification process.
Dole's speech was a blend of lavish praise for Reagan and stern warnings that euphoria over the signing of the INF agreement should not cloud U.S. judgments about the policies and behavior of the Soviet Union.
The INF accord "is a watershed accomplishment and Ronald Reagan deserves every ounce of credit he is getting," Dole said.
"He deserves an apology, too, from his liberal critics, who have been castigating him for seven years for being 'anti-arms control.' Ronald Reagan was right all along," Dole said.
But after praising the INF treaty, Dole suggested that the agreement privately troubled U.S. allies in Europe and he cautioned against hasty attempts to reach another accord on strategic weapons.
The Reagan administration hopes this week's Washington summit will be followed by a summit in Moscow next year to sign a treaty reducing the superpowers' strategic nuclear arsenals by 50 percent.
"We finally did stuff the INF agreement down the throat of NATO, but it took a diplomatic 'Heimlich maneuver' to do it," the Kansas Republican said. "We can't afford a repeat of what we have seen on INF.
"And the best way to avoid it is to cool the talk about another Gorbachev summit," he continued. "Let it happen when arms control events, and not our political calendar, dictate.
"In the meantime, make sure that the next summit President Reagan joins is an alliance summit."
While he chastised right-wing critics of Reagan and the INF accord, who he said should be "profoundly ashamed of themselves for their attacks on a great president," Dole also adopted a hard line toward the Soviets.
He said recent events in the Soviet Union were a reminder that Gorbachev heads a system "that still denies basic freedoms to its citizens."
"Summits can solve problems, but they cannot wipe out the fundamental differences between our two great countries and societies," Dole said.
"No one ought to confuse glasnost for democracy or Gorbachev for Thomas Jefferson," he said.