WASHINGTON — U.S. and Soviet negotiators, already in agreement on 98% of a treaty banning medium- and short-range nuclear missiles, will settle their remaining differences by "tilting" toward tougher verification procedures, White House National Security Adviser Frank C. Carlucci said Sunday.
The decision to go for maximum safeguards against cheating apparently is intended to undercut conservative critics of the pact who want to reject it outright or weigh it down with amendments when it comes to the Senate for ratification.
President Reagan faces a topsy-turvy ratification battle, with Democrats generally supporting the arms control pact but some Republicans expressing opposition or strong reservations.
Dole Stresses Verification
Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas said Sunday that he would "like to support the President" but wants to make sure that verification provisions are adequate.
On the other hand, Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), the Democrats' whip, said he is prepared to lead the fight in favor of the treaty and warned that if the measure is rejected, it could spell the end of U.S.-Soviet arms control efforts for years to come.
Carlucci said that Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze agreed Friday that "on the remaining issues, the tilt will be on the side of better verification."
Interviewed on the NBC-TV program "Meet the Press," Carlucci said, "The verification provisions are going to be the most intrusive in the history of arms control.
"We're 98% of the way there," Carlucci said of the treaty negotiations. "There are a few remaining issues on verification--a handful of which are significant--but those are easily resolvable."
Unlike earlier U.S.-Soviet arms control negotiations in which Moscow resisted U.S. demands for on-site verification, surprise inspections and other provisions to prevent cheating, both sides have demanded strict verification this time. According to U.S. officials, the remaining unresolved issues include some provisions in which the Soviets are demanding more intrusive measures than the United States and its allies are willing to permit and some in which Washington wants tougher measures than Moscow.
In effect, Carlucci said, the negotiators have been instructed to take the toughest proposal from either side when there is a disagreement. This could result in Soviet inspections of facilities in West Germany, Britain, Italy and Belgium where U.S. Pershing 2 and cruise missiles are deployed.
Moscow is known to have demanded on-site verification in Western Europe over the objections of U.S. allies, who say such inspections would give the Soviets an opportunity for espionage.
President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev are scheduled to meet in Washington on Dec. 7 to sign the pact, which would ban missiles with ranges of 300 to 3,000 miles.
Both Washington and Moscow are apprehensive about prospects for the pact in the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required for ratification. The second strategic arms limitation treaty, signed by President Jimmy Carter and Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev in 1979, was never ratified. At a Washington press conference Friday, Shevardnadze said the Soviet Union does not want to see another arms control pact left in that sort of limbo.
Cranston, interviewed along with Dole on "Meet the Press," predicted that 15 to 20 conservative Republicans would oppose the treaty outright while other GOP lawmakers would propose amendments that would have the effect of killing the pact. He said it may prove difficult to assure the two-thirds majority required for ratification, but he warned of dire consequences if the measure is rejected.
"If Ronald Reagan can't get this kind of a modest treaty through the Senate, I don't know when any American President will be able to negotiate successfully with the Soviet Union," Cranston said. "That could lead to a very dangerous, escalating, costly arms race in terms of many, many years."
Brent Scowcroft, former President Gerald R. Ford's national security adviser, agreed that Senate rejection of the treaty would have dangerous implications, although he said the pact itself is "a distinct step backward" because it would reduce Western nuclear weapons in the face of an overwhelming advantage in conventional weapons in Europe enjoyed by the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact countries.
"The consequences of not ratifying would be to complete the traumatization of our European allies and to complete the picture of a United States that simply does not know what it is doing," Scowcroft said on the ABC-TV program "This Week With David Brinkley."