WASHINGTON — President Reagan faces substantial problems in seeking Senate ratification of the soon-to-be-completed treaty banning medium-range nuclear weapons and has little or no chance of reaching an agreement with the Soviets to reduce long-range strategic missiles, Kenneth L. Adelman, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, said Monday.
Adelman, who has announced plans to leave the Administration after the December summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, still expects the Senate to ratify the so-called intermediate nuclear forces (INF) treaty eventually. But he said Senate opponents will be emboldened by Reagan's political weakness in the aftermath of the Iran-Contra scandal and could try to attach "killer" amendments aimed at precluding ratification.
By the time political opponents have finished attacking it, Adelman contended, the agreement "won't seem like such a grand achievement." Although he said he supports the treaty, he added that opponents can make "powerful arguments" that it is bad for national security. And he expressed concern about verification of Soviet compliance.
Reagan and Gorbachev plan to sign the INF treaty, which Reagan has hailed as the first agreement ever to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons, at a summit in Washington scheduled to begin Dec. 7. Administration officials have said the two leaders may also reach agreement on a treaty to cut long-range missiles by 50% for a summit in Moscow next spring.
But Adelman, in an unusually pessimistic assessment of the arms control outlook that stands in sharp contrast with the President's views, raised questions about the INF agreement and predicted that Reagan and Gorbachev--instead of signing an agreement to reduce long-range missiles--will settle for a preliminary "framework" for agreement. And that, he said, would be "a very bad idea" for the United States.
The proposed INF treaty would ban ground-launched missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,000 miles. A strategic arms treaty would limit the number of long-range missiles, those that can reach targets more than 3,000 miles away.
Adelman's views on a possible strategic arms treaty, voiced in an interview during a luncheon session with reporters, are contrary to the Administration's official view that it is working toward a long-range missile pact and is not interested in a framework agreement.
In a television interview Sunday, National Security Adviser Frank C. Carlucci said the United States and the Soviet Union agree that "we need to move ahead on writing a treaty."
"They are not arguing for a framework agreement; in fact, they were quite specific on that," Carlucci said. "They said: 'Use any format you want. The important thing is for us to write a treaty.' We would not be happy with any formulation that has a set of principles disembodied from a treaty."
Moreover, Max M. Kampelman, chief U.S. delegate to the Geneva arms control talks, said in an interview with The Times that he is confident that the United States and the Soviet Union will reach agreement on a strategic arms treaty.
But Adelman--a reputed arms control hard-liner who plans to become a lecturer and syndicated columnist--said he had "no idea" why Kampelman was optimistic about reaching a strategic arms control agreement. In Adelman's view, it would take a "stupendous stretch" to imagine that such a treaty could be reached by next spring, in time for the Moscow summit.
30 Unresolved Issues
Even after "all of the agony" over negotiations on the INF treaty, he said, there are still 30 unresolved issues that must be dealt with between now and Dec. 7. And he stressed that negotiations for a strategic arms treaty are much more complex.
Verification of compliance with the INF treaty is still a major issue, Adelman said, and the Soviets, among others, are worried that this and other issues will make Senate ratification difficult.
The Soviets are nervous about the possibility that the Senate will reject the treaty, he said, quoting Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze as saying: "Now are you guys OK on ratification? How are you doing on this?"
Republicans are sharply divided on the INF treaty, and Adelman sees Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas as a key to the ratification battle.
Backing From Bush
Among the six candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, only Vice President George Bush has wholeheartedly endorsed the treaty.
A two-thirds vote by the Senate is required to ratify the treaty, which Democrats are expected to overwhelmingly support.