YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Gorbachev Rejects U.S. Short-Range Arms Bid

April 11, 1987|MATHIS CHAZANOV | Times Staff Writer

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia — Kremlin leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev said Friday that the Soviet Union will not go along with U.S. suggestions that missiles with a range of 600 miles or less be included in the ongoing Geneva talks on intermediate-range nuclear forces.

Instead, he restated the Kremlin's readiness to open a parallel set of negotiations designed to reduce and eventually to eliminate short-range nuclear weapons, known in Soviet parlance as operational-tactical weapons.

American diplomats have said that an INF--or intermediate-range nuclear force--agreement that does not include the short-range weapons would leave the United States at a disadvantage since it has no such missiles.

Complication Seen

While the Kremlin is aware of U.S. concerns, Gorbachev said that linking the short-range weapons with the Geneva talks would "complicate the reaching of an agreement on medium-range missiles, which is of most importance today."

Viktor P. Karpov, head of the Soviet Union's arms control agency, made the same point in a London news conference March 12, but Gorbachev's Friday speech, delivered at a meeting of the Czechoslovak-Soviet Friendship Society, wrapped up the Soviet position in a neat package for Secretary of State George P. Shultz when he arrives for talks in Moscow next week.

The Soviet leader also called for a freeze on deployment of the short-range missiles, of which the Soviet Union has about 130 stationed in Czechoslovakia and East Germany.

U.S. negotiators have proposed that American Pershing 2 missiles based in West Germany and now classified as longer-range intermediate nuclear forces be modified to reduce their range and thus help equalize the Soviets' position in operational-tactical weapons.

'Warhead Is Same'

But Gorbachev said this would be "useless." Kremlin spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov later said the only difference would be that these "castrated" missiles would not be able to hit the Soviet capital but would fall instead on cities in the western part of the Soviet Union.

"The warhead is the same," Gerasimov said. "So if it doesn't hit Moscow, it hits Minsk. What's the difference between Moscow and Minsk? If it hits either one, it's the same." Gorbachev said the Soviet Union would remove its short-range weapons from Eastern Europe if agreement is reached in the INF talks.

Until then, he said, there should be a freeze on further deployment of the short-range nuclear weapons.

Gerasimov said the idea of including the short-range weapons in the Geneva talks was "a late comer." At the time President Reagan first proposed his so-called zero-option plan for reducing intermediate-range nuclear forces in Europe, the short-range weapons were not included, he said.

Speech Applauded

"Now we find charges that we have more short-range missiles than they have," Gerasimov said. "They create obstacles. We suggest the removal of this obstacle."

In his speech--which was greeted by long applause and chants of "Druzhba! Druzhba!" (friendship), Gorbachev also spoke about Europeans' concerns that the INF talks would leave them in a weak position if American Pershing 2 and cruise missiles are removed from the Continent.

Declaring that representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact have been meeting for years in Vienna with little to show for their efforts to reduce conventional weapons in Europe, he said, "The question arises whether it is not time for all foreign ministers of the countries participating in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe to meet and approve a decision on starting extensive talks with the aim to radically reduce the numbers of tactical nuclear weapons, armed forces and conventional armament."

This would expand the participants of the Vienna talks to include representatives of neutral and nonaligned countries, a position that the United States has rejected in the past.

Address to Party

Gorbachev also told the rally of several thousand Czechoslovak Communist Party officials that the Soviet Union has stopped production of chemical weapons and that a new factory is being built that will destroy existing stockpiles.

Gerasimov said that he did not know where the factory is being built or when it would go into operation.

Reporting on his two days of talks with Czechoslovak officials, Gorbachev indicated his satisfaction with the Prague leadership's adoption of his plans for revitalizing the economy of the East Bloc.

While he praised Czechoslovakia's high state of industrialization and its freedom from foreign debt, he said that the discussions included "existing unresolved problems and difficulties."

"An honest admission of one's own errors and mistakes and the determination to eliminate them strengthen the prestige of socialism," he said. Launching into a detailed account of his own efforts to restructure the Soviet economy, Gorbachev said, "We are far from calling on anyone to copy us."

Specialization Accords

Los Angeles Times Articles