The United States and the Soviet Union made progress this week toward completing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), but remained at loggerheads on Soviet compliance with the recently signed Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), administration officials said yesterday.
The Soviets offered a "package deal" to settle most of the outstanding issues in the way of the START treaty, according to Soviet officials, but the United States has not yet formally responded. A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said the Soviet positions did not lay the basis for an easy compromise.
On several issues, the U.S. officials said, Soviet negotiators reconfirmed agreements that had been tentatively reached last December when Secretary of State James A. Baker III met then-Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in Houston. The moves this week followed a temporary suspension of some parts of the deal by the Soviet Foreign Ministry, apparently under pressure from the General Staff of the Soviet Armed Forces.
After Shevardnadze's December resignation, which may have been prompted partly by his disputes with the Soviet military, "they walked back some of what we had agreed to at Houston," a senior U.S. official said. In the past few days, "they walked back partially on the walkback," the official said.
One of the main questions now, this source continued, is whether the agreements made here during the visit of Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh earlier this week will hold up after he returns to Moscow and submits them to broader scrutiny.
A Soviet source said Moscow's deliberations have "become more complicated" since military officials reasserted their authority in recent months, but suggested that the positions taken in the discussions here this week had been cleared by all relevant Soviet factions.
Among the members of the Soviet delegation were two prominent military officials from the General Staff -- Lt. Gen. Fyodor Ladygin, chief of the arms control directorate, and Major Gen. Alexander Peresypkin. However, the General Staff officers have participated before in cases when the agreements have not held up.
The areas where the Soviet Union returned to previously negotiated agreements, according to the U.S. sources, were issues concerning perimeter monitoring of missile production and Soviet inspection of the B-1 and "stealth" bombers. A disagreement about future construction of SS-18 missile silos was also resolved, sources said.
The Soviet negotiators made proposals in two other disputed areas: the definition of permissible "throw-weight" or rocket lifting power, and limits on the number of warheads permissible on some multi-warhead missiles. These items are to be taken up in the next week or two in special meetings in Geneva between Undersecretary of State Reginald Bartholomew and Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Obukhov.
A U.S. official disputed a Soviet contention that the two sides agreed to put aside a disagreement over coded missile test data, known as telemetry encryption.
The two sides also could not agree on what Soviet reductions are required by the treaty limiting conventional arms in Europe, signed by the leaders of the United States, Soviet Union and 20 other nations in Paris last Nov. 19. To put in force, the treaty must be ratified, but the Bush administration has told the Soviets it will not submit the treaty to the Senate until the current controversies are resolved.
Moscow's representatives, to the surprise of nearly all the other signatories, have insisted that "naval infantry" units, coastal defense forces and protective ground units for nuclear missile sites should be exempt from the treaty limits.
The General Staff representatives in the Soviet delegation made the arguments on these questions, according to U.S. sources, with Foreign Ministry negotiators playing a much less prominent role.
"It is 21-to-1" on most of the conventional force disputes, said a U.S. official, with the Soviet Union's former Eastern European allies joining the West in maintaining that Moscow's recent maneuvers are impermissible. Under a schedule established when the treaty was signed, such disputes about definitions and data under the conventional forces treaty are to be resolved by Feb. 17, which is 90 days after its signing.