When the U.S.-Soviet summit meeting in Iceland broke up in disagreement over the restraints to be put on strategic missile defense programs, disappointment was mixed with hope that the superpowers would be able to build on the seeming near-miss at Reykjavik in follow-up negotiations. That hope has been greatly diminished by the dismal results of last week's meeting in Vienna between U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze.
Both sides agreed that the five hours of conversations between the two men failed to produce any progress toward arms-control agreements. The subject of a possible visit to the United States by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev didn't even arise. No plans were made for a future meeting at the foreign ministers' level.
The Reagan Administration and the Kremlin leadership are standing firm on the issue that produced the impasse at Reykjavik: President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, or "Star Wars." The President refuses to accept constraints on plans for developing and testing components for a strategic missile defense system. The Soviets still insist that agreements to cut offensive nuclear forces are impossible unless SDI is kept inside the laboratory.
It does appear that Shultz went to Vienna in a more workmanlike frame of mind than did Shevardnadze, who did not even take senior military experts with him. The United States wanted agreement on a list of what was decided and not decided at Reykjavik before the meeting broke up over SDI; such a clarification would seem to be clearly needed in light of the post-summit confusion over just what transpired. However, Shevardnadze insisted, in effect, that Shultz accept the Soviet version, which differs in important particulars from the now-official U.S. interpretation.