WASHINGTON — President Reagan sent Max M. Kampelman, his chief arms negotiator, back to the bargaining table with enhanced status and a vote of confidence today, despite a glum assessment of where the superpowers stand after 22 months of talks.
With the seventh round of talks opening Thursday, Reagan said the Soviets have appeared more interested "in conducting an arms control public relations campaign than in the hard give and take of the confidential negotiating process."
At the same time--matching a Soviet challenge to put the negotiations on a higher level--he elevated Kampelman's status by announcing his nomination to the dual role of State Department counselor.
Adviser to Shultz
The counselor has the difficult-to-define job of advising Secretary of State George P. Shultz and taking on diplomatic missions for him.
While Kampelman will continue to devote primary attention to the negotiations in Geneva, his nomination to a ranking State Department position coincided with an upgrade in the status of the Soviet delegation and a call by Moscow for Washington to follow suit.
Administration officials indicated the U.S. and Soviet moves were related, although Shultz said in Lagos, Nigeria, that he had been discussing "a key role" for Kampelman for two or three months.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes said all three U.S. negotiators--Kampelman, Ronald Lehman and Maynard Glitman--"enjoy the President's highest confidence" and "have full authority in all matters of negotiation."
New Soviet Negotiator
Kampelman was given the new title after the Soviets passed word that Yuli Vorontsov, a first deputy foreign minister, will replace Viktor Karpov as their chief negotiator in Geneva in an effort to energize the stalled talks.
In his new role at the State Department, Kampelman will replace Edward Derwinski, a former Illinois congressman who becomes undersecretary of state for coordinating security assistance programs.
A senior Administration official said the Soviets may have replaced Karpov with someone of higher rank and clearer authority in response to doubts U.S. negotiators had raised "about the clout" their Soviet counterparts could wield in Geneva.
Although major decisions are still likely to be made in Moscow, the official said Vorontsov may have more "running room" than his predecessor to explore areas of compromise with the U.S. side.
In any event, the official speculated that "the Soviets fully understand the next substantive move is theirs" and insisted U.S. proposals on the table in Geneva "deserve a great deal more serious consideration" than the Soviets have given them. The official reported hints that the Soviets are preparing new proposals of their own, but declined to elaborate.
Reagan, noted for his unabashed optimism, was less than sanguine about the state of affairs in Geneva.
In a written statement, he reported "no narrowing of differences" during informal preparatory talks last month and said that since the Iceland summit in October, "Soviet actions to move forward on arms control have not matched our own."
"Indeed," Reagan said, "the Soviets sometimes seem to be moving in the other direction."