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Reagan (left) and Gorbachev (right) shake hands during a 1986 summit in Reykjavik. (AP)

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  • Reagan-Gorbachev Summit Talks Collapse as Deadlock on SDI Wipes Out Other Gains

    By Lou Cannon
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, October 13, 1986; Page A01

    REYKJAVIK, ICELAND, OCT. 12 -- The summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev collapsed tonight after the two leaders had tentatively agreed to sweeping reductions in nuclear arsenals but deadlocked on the crucial issue of restricting the U.S. space-based missile defense program widely known as "Star Wars."

    Secretary of State George P. Shultz, reporting in a strained voice on a meeting that began with bright promise and ended gloomily after more than seven hours of negotiation today, said he was "deeply disappointed" and no longer saw "any prospect" for a summit meeting in Washington between the two leaders in the coming months.

    Gorbachev, in a news conference tonight, painted a bleak picture of U.S.-Soviet relations leading up to this weekend's summit and said that the talks had "ruptured" over the fundamental differences between the superpowers on the Strategic Defense Initiative and the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. He said Reagan's insistence on deploying SDI had "frustrated and scuttled" the opportunity for an agreement.

    The United States, Gorbachev complained, had come to Reykjavik "empty-handed," with the same "mothballed" proposals that the Soviets opposed in Geneva. But after the talks here, he said, he had told Reagan that "we were missing a historic chance. Never had our positions been so close together."

    Reagan, in remarks to U.S. service personnel at the airport before leaving Iceland, said, however, that "though we put on the table the most far-reaching arms control proposal in history, the general secretary (Gorbachev) rejected it."

    "We moved toward agreement on drastically reduced numbers of intermediate-range missiles in both Europe and Asia," Reagan said. "We approached agreement on sharply reduced strategic arsenals for both our countries. We made progress in the area of nuclear testing, but there was remaining at the end of our talks one area of disagreement" -- the American SDI program.

    (Reagan returned to Andrews Air Force Base late Sunday night, where he was met by Nancy Reagan. He had no comment on the talks, saying only "tune in tomorrow night," a reference to his televised report to the nation scheduled for 8 p.m. Monday.)

    Shultz told reporters that the two leaders, aided by groups of experts, had reached a contingent agreement to eliminate all nuclear ballistic missiles within 10 years and also had made progress on human rights issues.

    But Shultz said that the two days of talks here had ended without agreement because the Soviets insisted on a change in the 1972 ABM treaty that would have limited Reagan's SDI antimissile program to laboratory research.

    (Returning to Washington on Air Force One, President Reagan's national security affairs adviser, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, told reporters that before the summit collapsed, the two leaders had agreed tentatively to limit intercontinental nuclear weapons to 1,600 delivery vehicles and 6,000 warheads on each side, which he termed "a breakthrough." The talks foundered, Poindexter said, because "the Soviet side is holding all agreements hostage to the rest of the ABM treaty.")

    The meeting here, which had been billed by the Reagan administration as only a preparatory session before a Washington summit, turned into a full-blown summit involving marathon meetings and extraordinary negotiations that moved far beyond the limited agenda that officials on both sides had suggested would be the case.

    The foundering of the talks on the missile defense issue also raises doubts about the future of the long-running superpower negotiations on nuclear arms at Geneva.

    Instead of nuclear arms reduction, the fate of Reagan's SDI program now looms as the dominant issue in superpower relations. But both Shultz and Gorbachev said the two sides would present their arms reduction proposals at Geneva, holding out a slim hope that some progress could be made if the impasse over SDI can ever be resolved.

    The impasse seemed certain to sharpen debate on the Reagan administration's arms-control strategies in the final three weeks of the midterm election campaign and could heighten the difficulties of persuading Congress in 1987 to increase funding for SDI.

    Key House Democrats predicted last night that there would be a fresh flurry of debate about the compromises reached late last week on arms-control issues embedded in the continuing resolution now before Congress, which contains the money for operating the government in the current fiscal year. But adjournment pressures are expected to work to keep the compromises intact.

    The contingent agreement reached by the two sides would have reduced all strategic strike forces by 50 percent in the first five years. In the following five years all ballistic missiles on both sides would have been eliminated.

    Tonight, in a 1-hour-and-40-minute news conference, Gorbachev said he had proposed the Iceland meeting because "we could not have allowed the failure" of a summit in Washington. And he indicated that he would not agree to come to the United States unless the deep dispute on defensive systems can be solved.

    "If we had a third meeting in Washington that would have no results, I think that would be a scandal, unacceptable, impermissible," he said.

    Reagan, weary and unsmiling when he left the white-shingled Hofdi House here after his negotiations, displayed some of his buoyancy when he spoke to U.S. service personnel and their families at Keflavik International Airport, praising them for their service and joking that he was returning home late for dinner.

    But Reagan was defiant when he discussed SDI, which he has called a "peace shield" that will someday protect civilian populations from nuclear destruction.

    "While both sides seek reduction in the number of nuclear missiles and warheads threatening the world, the Soviet Union insisted that we sign an agreement that would deny to me and to future presidents for 10 years the right to develop, test and deploy a defense against nuclear missiles for the people of the free world," Reagan said. "This we could not and would not do."

    The two leaders met for more than 11 hours yesterday and today, including an unscheduled afternoon meeting today of nearly four hours. U.S. officials said they were hopeful last night of an agreement because both sides wanted deep cuts in offensive nuclear weapons. They remained optimistic this morning when they reached tentative agreement on what Shultz called "a breathtaking reduction" on intermediate-range missiles in Europe and Asia.

    But the discussions foundered this afternoon when it became apparent that Reagan was unwilling to accept the revision in the ABM treaty that U.S. officials said would have made development of SDI impossible.

    The account given by the U.S. side was that Reagan agreed, for the first time, to delay deployment of a missile defense system for 10 years while research and development testing continued. Reagan wanted to deploy the system at the end of this time, while Gorbachev wanted the decision on deployment to be reserved to the end of the 10-year period.

    "As we came more and more down to the final stages, it became more and more clear that the Soviet Union's objective was effectively to kill off the SDI program," Shultz said, "and to do so by seeking a change, described by them as a strengthening, . . . in the ABM treaty that would so constrain research permitted under it that the program would not be able to proceed forcefully."

    Shultz, his eyes red and his voice occasionally cracking, made no attempt to hide his evident disappointment at the failure of the leaders to reach an agreement. Max M. Kampelman, the chief U.S. representative at the nuclear arms talks in Geneva, appeared to be fighting back the tears as he watched Shultz answer questions in the White House briefing room here.

    The collapse of the summit talks on the SDI issue left both leaders in an uncertain political position.

    Reagan had persuaded a reluctant Congress to remove restrictions on his arms programs from a pending budget bill largely on the hope that he could make progress on arms accords here and at a prospective future summit meeting in the United States. Gorbachev has unilaterally observed a 14-month nuclear testing moratorium despite skepticism in Soviet military circles, hoping he could persuade the United States to join the moratorium.

    Instead of returning with an agreement to cut nuclear arsenals and reduce testing, as seemed possible earlier today, both leaders are returning home empty-handed.

    Reagan's explanation for the failure of the Iceland summit in his departure speech tonight appeared to differ in one important particular from the account given by Shultz and White House officials who briefed reporters on the meeting on condition they not be identified.

    In his speech Reagan said that he made to Gorbachev "an entirely new proposal" for a 10-year delay of SDI and added, "So long as both the United States and the Soviet Union prove their good faith by destroying nuclear missiles year by year, we would not deploy SDI." But Shultz said that the United States intended to deploy a scaled-down SDI at the end of the 10-year period.

    In his news conference Shultz took issue with the notion that Reagan's insistence on SDI had killed the prospects for an arms agreement. He said "the existence of the strong research program about strategic defense and its undoubted promise" had caused the Soviets to engage in negotiations on arms reductions and that continuation of such a program was "the best insurance policy" that Soviet interest in arms reductions would continue.

    When the two leaders met last November in Geneva for the first time they reaffirmed their commitment to deep cuts in strategic weapons and agreed to hold successive summits, in 1986 and 1987, in Washington and Moscow.

    Instead, Gorbachev last month proposed a meeting in Iceland to give an "impulse" to the arms negotiators and Reagan accepted it, saying the meeting would be a preparatory one for a full-dress summit in the United States.

    But White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan also indicated that there would not be a Reagan-Gorbachev summit in the United States. In a news conference here, Regan said, "No, there will not be another summit in the near future that I can see at this time. The Soviets are the ones who refused to make the deal. It shows them up for what they are."

    Reagan had vowed before he left Washington to raise human rights issues face-to-face with Gorbachev, and Shultz said tonight that the president had. But progress in this area was blocked by the final disagreement on the SDI provision.

    "The issue of human rights was brought up on a number of occasions and some very significant material was passed on to the Soviet Union," said Shultz. He said that this included lists of Jews who had been denied permission to emigrate and numbers of people who had signified their desire to leave.

    Shultz said that the subject would have been explicitly referred to if the two sides had issued a statement at the end of the talks.

    He said also that the two sides had reached a tentative agreement today on reducing intermediate-range missiles on terms favorable to the U.S. position. He said the two sides had agreed to global limits on these missiles that would have eliminated them entirely from Europe.

    Each side would have been permitted "a global ceiling on INF missiles of 100 warheads," Shultz said. The Soviet missiles would have been stationed in Asia and the U.S. missiles in the United States.

    Asked why the two sides did not at least go back and take up the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces part again, which they agreed on at least in principle, Shultz cited fatigue as a factor in the break-up of the talks:

    "Human beings being what they are, and the hour being what it was, to say, 'Well now let's just go back and talk about this, that and the other thing' -- there was just no mood to do that in any effective way," Shultz said.

    The failure to conclude an INF agreement that would have removed all missiles from Europe because of American determination to continue Star Wars could also produce renewed friction with U.S. allies in Europe.

    The Soviets in recent months had led the United States to believe that INF and other aspects of the arms package could be achieved independently of an SDI agreement but yesterday it appeared that they had restored the linkage between all the elements.

    Gorbachev indicated to reporters that all of the arms reductions were necessarily conditioned on limiting SDI. Shultz said the meeting just "adjourned" when the two sides, after their long negotiations, could not reach accommodation on the missile defense issue.

    Asked whether he thought the Soviet position was "set in concrete," Shultz replied, "I don't know what concrete is like, but it seemed fairly firm."

    © Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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