WASHINGTON — President Reagan said Tuesday that he regards his November summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev as a "starting point for progress" and a "beginning point for better relations" between the United States and the Soviet Union, but he warned that "free people must be mature, vigilant and stand in solidarity."
Alluding to headlines that Gorbachev made last week--and to the public maneuvering for position that is going on months before the two leaders meet--Reagan said that "a more stable peace, which is what we want most next to the preservation of our own freedom and independence, will not be secured by wishful thinking or public relations campaigns."
The Soviet leader has charged that in advance of the Geneva summit, where arms issues are expected to be a key element, "a scenario of pressure" has begun to emerge in Washington. "It looks as if the stage is being set for a bout between some kind of political 'super-gladiators'. . . .," he said in an interview with Time magazine.
Reagan, reacting to a Soviet media campaign that has included offers for nuclear, space and chemical weapons freezes, said Tuesday that the United States has "already reached out in a cause of a safer world on numerous occasions, and we will continue to do so."
"We have offered major reductions in strategic and intermediate (nuclear) weapons as well as a lowering of the level of conventional forces," he continued. "We look forward to the coming meeting in Geneva, not for an end of all that has been wrong between East and West, but a beginning point for better relations--a starting point for progress."
Reagan made his remarks Tuesday as he welcomed Danish Prime Minister Poul Schlueter to the White House for private talks, which included an exchange on the upcoming summit.
Later, the President met for more than an hour with a Senate delegation that visited with Gorbachev in Moscow last week. According to the senators, who spoke with reporters afterward, Reagan listened to their assessment of the Soviet leader but did not discuss his summit strategy or what he expects to achieve in the talks.
Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-Me.) said he told the President that he believes the essential elements of the superpowers' arms control debate are becoming increasingly clear as the summit approaches--and that it is impossible for the impasse to be broken.
Soviet leaders, he said, see the United States' position as one of demanding deep cuts in offensive weapons before it is willing to discuss controls on defensive systems such as the President's "Star Wars" space research program. Only if the United States shows some flexibility in discussing defensive systems, Mitchell said, will arms control progress be possible.
Thurmond 'More Optimistic'
But Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), another member of the delegation, said he emerged from the Kremlin session "more optimistic than when I went there."
Specifically, Thurmond said, he believes that Reagan holds a "trump card" in "Star Wars" research and that this may lead Gorbachev to "come around" in his discussions with the President.
While Reagan discussed the summit, an activist group concerned with peace issues went to court in an effort to stop an Air Force test of an anti-satellite weapon scheduled Friday.
The suit, by the Union of Concerned Scientists, asked the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to issue a temporary restraining order barring the Pentagon from spending any money to carry out the test.
The complaint contends that Reagan wrongly certified to Congress last month that he had complied with a law requiring a "good faith" effort to negotiate a ban on the new weapon before beginning flight tests.
In the test planned Friday, a small ASAT rocket will be launched from an Air Force F-15 and will attempt to destroy a derelict American satellite in low Earth orbit.
Undermining Any Pact
California Rep. George E. Brown Jr. (D-Colton), one of four members of Congress who joined in the suit, charged in an affidavit that one of Reagan's reasons for proceeding with the test is to destroy any chance of an ASAT agreement with the Soviets.
"The President has never supported arms control agreements with the Soviets on anything," Brown said. "Hence, I perceive these efforts in trying to meet the certification as more trying to fool the Congress than trying to comply with the requirements."
Brown also asserted that the "jury-rigged test . . . inserted strictly for its impact on the summit meeting" is also a disguised effort to test elements of the "Star Wars" system.
At the White House, spokesman Larry Speakes reiterated the Administration position that it has fully complied with the law in going forward with the test.
One Administration official who sat in on the talks between Reagan and the Danish leader said the President outlined the four main areas that he expects to discuss with Gorbachev and indicated that "he hopes to make some progress in all of them."
But the official said the President also indicated that he would see the meeting as "productive and useful" even if it yields only a "process for problem-solving."
In private as well as public, Reagan has stressed the importance of allied solidarity at the U.S.-Soviet meeting.