WASHINGTON — Contrary to reports that the latest U.S. mission to Moscow had failed, President Reagan's national security adviser, Frank C. Carlucci, said Saturday that he expected speedy removal of the latest Soviet roadblock to arms control and suggested that a summit meeting might occur as early as December.
Carlucci, who with Secretary of State George P. Shultz met with Soviet officials last week at the Kremlin, predicted that the Soviets will again drop their implicit demand for curbs on the U.S. space defense work in exchange for agreement to eliminate medium-range nuclear missiles.
He complained that the Soviets sought to capitalize on congressional moves to curtail the Administration's Strategic Defense Initiative. While he refused to blame Congress, saying it and the Administration had an "honest difference of opinion," he called for quick resolution of the dispute so that arms control progress could be resumed.
In an extended telephone interview with The Times, Carlucci explained why he was not pessimistic on prospects for a new summit between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev:
"He (Gorbachev) kept coming back to the issue, saying 'I want a summit. I want it for both personal and political reasons. Of course the political reasons (U.S.-Soviet relations) are more important than the personal (desire to visit the United States).'
"He said, 'Maybe we can have one (a summit) in December,' " according to Carlucci.
There had been widespread anticipation, based on official statements by both sides, that the summit would be held here in November, at which the new missile accord would be signed.
While this timetable now seems ruled out, "it was not bango! Gorbachev slamming the door on the summit," Carlucci said. "And the overall tone on other issues was very positive."
Specifically, 85% of the outstanding issues on the medium-range missile negotiations were resolved to U.S. satisfaction, he said. Moreover, the progress came after Gorbachev declined to set a summit date, Carlucci said, indicating "they want to keep the process moving."
When Shultz proposed that the missile agreement might be concluded and signed independent of a summit, "Gorbachev said no, it would be better at a summit," Carlucci said.
The turning point in the Moscow trip came during a key meeting at the Kremlin on Friday, he said, when Gorbachev called on the U.S. side to accept limits on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, or "Star Wars") program.
"He clearly expected us to concede on this, because Congress is pushing us in the same way, and because, he said, 'you want a summit, don't you?' He seemed a little surprised when we said no, we're not here to negotiate restraints on SDI," Carlucci continued.
Gorbachev then said he was not prepared to come to Washington to meet Reagan under those conditions.
Reflecting Carlucci's views, Reagan told his weekly radio audience Saturday that as a result of the meetings in Moscow, the United States and Soviet Union were "closer now to completing a treaty on eliminating an entire class of U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles, and progress was made in other areas as well.
"No date was set for a summit meeting," Reagan continued, "but we're in no hurry. And we certainly will not be pushed into sacrificing essential interests just to have a meeting."
To Carlucci, last week's surprising developments meant that Gorbachev "was just taking one more run at the Administration on SDI, particularly while Congress is debating whether to insist on the narrow interpretation" of Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty provisions. He indicated that progress with the Soviets on arms control will have to wait until Congress finishes its deliberations.
Amendments to the $280-billion defense authorization bill now in House-Senate conference would force the Administration to keep its SDI work within the narrow interpretation of the ABM treaty--that is, research only--which is akin to the Soviet position. Moscow insists on the restraints in exchange for agreement on 50% cuts in the offensive strategic nuclear weapons of both sides.
The Administration, in contrast, believes in the broader interpretation of the treaty, which permits testing and development as well as research. It wants the 50% cuts in offensive arsenals independent of the space defense issue.
The Moscow conversations on the issue, Carlucci said, "were laced throughout with reference to the Congress. It was very clear that the Soviets follow congressional actions very closely, and obviously they know we're in a difficult spot.
"The Soviets are levying this demand (for ABM restraints) on us in negotiations, and the Congress is levying the demand on us by legislation," he said.