GENEVA — American and Soviet negotiators met here Tuesday for their first arms control talks in 15 months. The session lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes, according to U.S. Ambassador Max M. Kampelman, and was "serious and businesslike."
Another meeting was scheduled for Thursday.
The talks began after the surprise disclosure by Soviet chief delegate Viktor P. Karpov that his negotiating instructions had been approved by Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the new Soviet leader, even before President Konstantin U. Chernenko had died.
Karpov's remarks were apparently intended to tell the West that the leadership transition in Moscow will not change the Soviet position and should not affect the pace of the three sets of talks here on strategic intercontinental nuclear weapons, intermediate-range nuclear weapons, and on space and defensive arms.
Karpov, in a voluble mood with reporters before Kampelman arrived, said Gorbachev had "presided over the meeting of the Politburo that approved the instructions last Thursday." The Soviets formally announced that Chernenko had died on Sunday.
Pressed on why the Kremlin might have acted in this fashion, Karpov abruptly cut off the subject. "That's quite enough," he said.
He also brushed off suggestions that the arms talks should be recessed for the Soviet negotiators to return to Moscow for Chernenko's funeral today. "I am not going," he said, "We are not going to recess."
The opportunity to speak with Karpov arose when the U.S. delegation was 123 minutes late for the first meeting because it had stopped elsewhere in the Soviet compound to sign a condolences book for Chernenko.
In contrast to the Soviet chief negotiator, U.S. delegation leader Kampelman spoke with reporters only very briefly. He read a short statement but answered no questions afterwards, claiming that the "principle of confidentiality" to which he and Karpov had agreed barred him from saying anything more.
In the remarks of the two men and in the conditions surrounding their first session, differences immediately emerged that presage difficult negotiations on both procedural and substantive issues in coming months.
For example, Karpov was alone for the meeting, while all three of the relatively equal U.S. negotiators were present: Kampelman, former Sen. John Tower of Texas and Ambassador Maynard W. Glitman.
This disparity emphasized Soviet insistence that all three negotiation forums are "interrelated" and that the issues presumable must be resolved together.
In particular, the Soviets want curbs on space arms as a first priority and are expected to hold up progress on offensive weapons until they get some space agreement. In contrast, the United States maintains that progress in one forum should not be arbitarily held back because of a slower pace in another.
The different turnout for the opening session also showed that the U.S. delegation is more unwieldy than that of the Soviets, with the degree of Kampelman's authority over the American group not clear.
For example, Tower, who heads the negotiations on intercontinental weapons, recently told a Senate hearing, "I report directly to the President of the United States." Glitman, who heads the intermediate-range negotiations, and Kampelman, who both heads the overall U.S. delegation and is chief negotiator for the space talks, also have the same mandate.
Soviet negotiator Karpov told reporters Tuesday that these are "negotiations by two delegations, one from each side. I presume Mr. Kampelman has all powers, full powers, to head the delegation."
More substantively, Karpov dismissed U.S. concerns that the Soviets have been cheating on past arms agreements, even as a delegation of U.S. senators here seemed unanimously behind the Reagan Administration in seeking to resolve the non-compliance issues.
"The single most important thing the Soviets could do to advance these negotiations would be to dismantle the radar station in Siberia," Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said at a press conference Tuesday.
He was referring to a phased-array radar station near Krasnoyarsk that appears to be in violation of provisions of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. It is the most serious of as many as 14 violations of agreements with which the Administration has charged Moscow.
'Fuss About Nothing'
"Somebody is making a fuss about nothing," Karpov said in referring to the non-compliance charges.
Asked about verification disputes, Karpov told reporters, "If there are any questions, they can be discussed in the proper mechanism, the U.S.-Soviet Standing Consultative Commission, created just for that purpose." New negotiations, he implied, are not the correct place to bring up such issues.
The commission was set up by past agreements to hear complaints, but many in the Administration contend that the United States has gotten no satisfaction from raising its charges there. Some U.S. officials want old charges cleared up before new agreements can be negotiated.
Verification is of concern to the Soviets "not less than to the United States," Karpov said. "We have always in mind (that) verifying is important. We'll try to make an agreement that can be verified by both sides, not only by the United States...You can be sure of that."