Soviet Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, a negotiator credited with breaking deadlocks at the Geneva nuclear arms talks, yesterday agreed with top U.S. military leaders to consider unprecedented exchanges between superpower military officers.
The decision, which could ease relations between U.S. and Soviet military services, came during an extraordinary meeting of Akhromeyev, Soviet first deputy minister of defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.
The superpowers have no established military-to-military contacts, such as official visits or educational meetings, although both countries' forces participate with other armed forces.
The military leaders agreed they should discuss better communication between the armed forces, but stopped short of suggesting joint military operations or major exchange programs, knowledgeable Pentagon officials said.
The official said military leaders on both sides at the meeting "seemed to think it was a good idea."
Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted Akhromeyev at breakfast, and the marshal then visited with the full Joint Chiefs of Staff for about 25 minutes in "the tank," their conference room.
Akhromeyev, 64, described by Crowe as "very much a soldier's soldier and very forthright," is the highest-ranking Soviet official ever to visit the Pentagon.
Akhromeyev's unusual visit underlines the pivotal role he and another senior Soviet officer, Col. Gen. Nikolai Chervov, have played in Moscow's negotiations with the United States.
According to U.S. negotiator Maynard W. Glitman, a Chervov suggestion last June cleared the way to the agreement eliminating all U.S. and Soviet shorter- and medium-range missiles (INF) that President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed Tuesday.
At the talks, Chervov dropped Soviet insistence on retaining 100 intermediate-range warheads, which helped overcome U.S. negotiators' fears that a partial elimination would be impossible to verify, Glitman said.
Akhromeyev also helped the two sides overcome last-minute differences over INF verification last month, Glitman said.
The Soviet military was sometimes "very imaginative and useful," during the INF talks, Glitman, who headed the U.S. delegation.
Akhromeyev's trip to a building full of officers who spend most of their time figuring out ways to counter his government's military might caused a flurry of consternation, enthusiasm and outright awe.
He met with Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci and a small group of top officials for about 65 minutes Wednesday afternoon, then returned for his early morning sessions with the military brass yesterday.
"You can't trust the Russians as far as you can throw them," said one longtime Pentagon employe. "I think they're very deceitful."
But one young military officer countered, "Anything that would bring the two countries closer together and further away from any kind of armed conflict is good. If you can do that without giving away any kind of national secrets or the blueprints to the Pentagon, that would be great."
As for the chances of Akhromeyev leaving the Pentagon with any secrets, one officer commented, "The marshal won't learn anything in this building he doesn't already know."