President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev began the new year Wednesday with historic, televised peace appeals directed at the American and Soviet people.
Reagan, in a five-minute address carried by the Soviet state television network, made no direct mention of Afghanistan and other sore points in U.S.-Soviet relations, but emphasized that "there is much work to be done" before the two nations can enjoy genuine peace.
Gorbachev's message, broadcast simultaneously on American major commercial networks, expressed hope for a reduction of mistrust between the two superpowers.
In Moscow, the main evening television news program began with Reagan's New Year's greeting and his simple appeal: "Let's work together to make it a year of peace. There is no better goal for 1986."
Reagan also emphasized the importance of human rights and defended his plan, condemned by the Kremlin, for starting a space-based missile defense system.
On TV screens in the United States, Gorbachev appeared with the greeting "Dear Americans," and he went on to say that he saw "a good augury in the way we are beginning the new year, which has been declared the year of peace."
There was no immediate official reaction in the Soviet Union to Reagan's extraordinary appearance, unprecedented since President Richard M. Nixon addressed the Soviet people via television in 1972.
Reagan's appearance on Soviet TV appeared to alter the harsh portrait the Kremlin has painted of the President. A Soviet office worker said of Reagan's presentation: "It produced a better impression than I expected. He is a very smooth speaker."
Several Soviet citizens said they were heartened by Reagan's words of peace, though one elderly woman in Moscow commented, "They talk beautifully, but it's only talking so far."
Reagan watched Gorbachev's speech from the Palm Springs estate of millionaire publisher Walter H. Annenberg, where he and Mrs. Reagan were spending the New Year's holiday. The President later issued a brief statement welcoming the Soviet greeting as "a continuation of our discussion in Geneva."
Reagan's message, taped Saturday in Los Angeles, urged a continuation of the "fresh chapter" in U.S.-Soviet relations that began with the President's November meeting with Gorbachev in Geneva.
"While there were many areas (in) which we did not agree, which was to be expected, we left Geneva with a better understanding of one another and of the goals we each have," Reagan said. "We are determined to build on that understanding in the coming months and years."
White House spokesman Larry Speakes called Reagan's speech a "hopeful expression" of progress in Soviet-American relations.
"Let us hope that these words will be the foundation for making 1986 the year of peace our peoples deserve," he said.
Reagan personally wrote his speech last week from drafts prepared by the State Department and the National Security Council. The finished product, delivered before a homespun backdrop of American and presidential flags, two family pictures and a pot of poinsettias acquired from a hotel flower shop, contained no new proposals for the Soviets.
It opened with the simple phrase, "Good evening. This is Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America," and concluded with wishes for \o7 chistoye nyebo--\f7 clear skies or fair weather--for all mankind in 1986.
Reagan assured the Soviets, as he has before, that the United States means no harm to the Soviet people and that Reagan believes a nuclear war cannot be won.
He also repeated American hopes that U.S.-Soviet arms reduction talks, set to resume shortly in Geneva, will make speedier progress toward the goal of a 50% reduction in nuclear weapons, agreed to in principle at Geneva in November.
Much of the message was aimed at giving the Soviet people a rare glimpse of the American view of some sticking points in the bilateral relationship, including human rights and the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative, the "Star Wars" space defense program.
'Star Wars' Attacked
The Soviets have vociferously attacked "Star Wars" as an effort to expand the nuclear arms race into space. The President alluded to the Soviet Union's own space defense research efforts.
"Both the United States and the Soviet Union are doing research on the possibilities of applying new technologies to the cause of defense," he said. "If these technologies become a reality, it is my dream that, well, to one day free us all from the threat of nuclear destruction" by erecting invulnerable shields to incoming missiles.
On the human rights front, the President explained that the American "democratic system is founded on the belief in the sanctity of human life and the rights of the individual--rights such as freedom of speech, of assembly, of movement and of worship."
"Progress in resolving humanitarian issues in a spirit of cooperation would go a long way to making 1986 a better year for all of us," he said.