President Reagan keeps telling the Soviet Union that his "Star Wars" program is as benign as the legendary good fence that makes good neighbors. The Soviets want it in writing, and so should he.
Reagan would lose nothing by agreeing to written ground rules for further research and development of what he insists can be a shield that would make nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete. What he could gain is something of value to both countries--serious negotiations toward major reductions in offensive weapons on both sides.
The President and his aides keep insisting that his refusal to give any ground on either research or testing during his Geneva summit meeting with General Secretary Mikhail S. Gorbachev was a triumph. Unidentified White House officials say, in fact, that Gorbachev is not as worried about Star Wars as he says he is. That was scarcely the message that Gorbachev delivered in Moscow last week in a somewhat defensive speech that could indicate that some of the people with whom he must share power doubt that the summit was as successful as the principals say it was.
The President's Geneva position could be more tragedy than triumph if refusing to discuss defenses in detail blocks arms-control talks. The chances are that it will. The Soviets are no more likely to think about dismantling missiles that they thought they might need to punch holes in a defensive system than would the United States if the situation were reversed and Gorbachev were pushing a crash program to develop such a shield.