MOSCOW — Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev said Wednesday that a Soviet-American treaty to abolish intermediate-range nuclear missiles can be worked out by the end of this year and a follow-up accord to cut intercontinental arsenals by half could be achieved "as early as the first half of next year."
The Kremlin chief gave his optimistic appraisal in an article carried by the official Tass news agency for publication in today's issues of Pravda and Izvestia, the two leading Soviet newspapers. It was the first major statement in several weeks by the 56-year-old leader, who reportedly has been on vacation away from Moscow since late August.
"The situation is becoming more stable," Gorbachev said, declaring that an agreement to eliminate the two classes of intermediate-range missiles--those with a range of 300 to 600 miles and those with the ability to reach from 600 to 3,000 miles--was "possible and realistic." His article was made public as Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze conferred in Washington with Secretary of State George P. Shultz on the terms of such a pact and on other issues.
"This treaty on medium- and shorter-range missiles would be a fine prelude to a breakthrough at the talks on large-scale--50%--reductions in strategic offensive arms in conditions of strict observance of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty," Gorbachev said. "I believe that, given mutual striving, an accord on that matter could become a reality as early as in the first half of next year."
In the past, Soviet arms negotiators have said that sizable reductions in intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) would not be possible unless the United States agrees to restrict testing of President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, the space-based missile defense system popularly known as "Star Wars."
Gorbachev made no direct reference to SDI in the article but said in another context that it was unacceptable to speak about human rights "while intending to hang in outer space the chandeliers of exotic weapons."
Speaking of the proposed accord to abolish the two classes of intermediate-range missiles worldwide, Gorbachev added: "I would only like to note that it would deal a tangible blow at concepts of limited use of nuclear weapons and the so-called 'controllable escalation' of a nuclear conflict. There are no illusory intermediate options."
The Kremlin chief also denied that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had to build up its conventional forces to overcome a Warsaw Pact numerical advantage if the medium-range and shorter-range missiles were eliminated.
"If a disbalance (or) disproportions exist, let us remove them," he said.
As for comparing levels of defense spending in the West and East Bloc, he said it might be possible to provide comparable figures for both sides within two or three years.
In addition to the Soviet-American negotiations on nuclear and space arms, Gorbachev said, a convention barring the use of chemical weapons is close to being concluded.
All this, he claimed, will "intensify the advance to detente and disarmament."
In his wide-ranging article, Gorbachev also called for future accords on defense strategy that would provide demilitarized zones as a buffer between potential adversaries.
He said an agreement on "military sufficiency" might limit a nation's armed forces to the size necessary to resist aggression but not allow it to conduct offensive actions.
As for the argument that nuclear weapons deter a potential aggressor, Gorbachev was adamant.
"Some time back, the sides had several scores of atomic bombs apiece," he said in an obvious reference to his own country and the United States. "Then each came to possess hundreds of nuclear missiles and, finally, the arsenals grew to include several thousands of nuclear warheads.
"Not so long ago, Soviet and American scientists . . . arrived at the unanimous conclusion that 95% of all nuclear arms of the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. can be eliminated without stability being disrupted. This is a killing argument against the 'nuclear deterrence' strategy," he said.
Gorbachev also proposed that the United Nations increase the use of peacekeeping forces and establish a special tribunal to investigate international acts of terrorism. He suggested, too, a new U.N. organization to verify compliance with agreements to reduce arms and to monitor the military situation in areas of conflict.
This unit would collect information and submit it to the United Nations to help provide an objective picture of military preparations and impede sneak attacks, Gorbachev said.
He also called for collective measures, worked out in advance, to deal with the possible piracy of a nuclear weapon.
Gorbachev alluded to his own policy of more openness as one of the building blocks of international security. American congressmen, he noted, recently visited a super-secret Soviet radar installation at Krasnoyarsk, and American scientists have installed measuring devices near the Soviet nuclear testing range. Soviet and American observers, he said, have witnessed each other's military exercises.
"Previously unknown standards of openness, of the scope and depth of mutual monitoring and compliance with adopted obligations are being established," he said. The sphere of the reasonable, responsible and rational organization of international affairs is expanding before our very eyes, although admittedly timidly."