GENEVA — The United States and the Soviet Union announced Tuesday that, after six years of work, they have completed a treaty to ban all ground-launched medium-range nuclear missiles.
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, who resolved the outstanding obstacles with Secretary of State George P. Shultz in two days of intensive talks here, called the agreement "historic" and of "tremendous importance for the world."
The agreement, the first ever that would actually reduce the number of nuclear weapons, is scheduled to be signed by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev at a Washington summit meeting just two weeks from now.
Soviets Eliminating More
Under its terms, the Soviets will eliminate four times as many missiles as the United States and roughly six times as many warheads. The weapons will be eliminated within three years, and inspectors for both sides will monitor compliance for 10 years after that.
The announcement of an agreement was made by Shultz and Shevardnadze outside the U.S. Mission to the United Nations here in a cold but gentle rain late Tuesday afternoon.
"We've now completed agreement on all the outstanding INF issues," Shultz said, using the initials for Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces, as the medium-range missiles have been called. "All that remains is treaty language, which others will be able to do."
Once ratified by the U.S. Senate, the treaty will provide for a system of on-site inspection in both countries that will go "far beyond anything attempted before," Shultz said.
Ratification is expected despite opposition from more than a dozen Senate conservatives. To opponents who plan to vote against the agreement, Shultz said, "Critics must say why they want more nuclear weapons rather than less." This argument--that fewer nuclear weapons are better than more--is expected to be the Administration's mainstay in the ratification debate.
In Denver, where he stopped off to make a speech while on his way to his Santa Barbara ranch for the Thanksgiving holiday, Reagan said he is pleased about the pact.
"It appears that all of the remaining issues on reaching an INF agreement have been resolved, including a reliable and credible verification package," he said.
Verification issues were the last to be resolved.
Two U.S. Facilities
Under the terms of the treaty, Soviet inspectors will have the right to examine two facilities in the United States. Shultz would not specify which U.S. plants will be subject to inspection, but U.S. officials provided enough detail so that the possibilities could be narrowed to a ballistic missile production plant, probably in Orlando, Fla., and a General Dynamics Corp. plant in San Diego that produces cruise missile launchers.
The last issue to be agreed upon, a senior U.S. official said, was Soviet acceptance of these two U.S. facilities as "comparable" to the two Soviet facilities to be inspected by U.S. personnel.
Besides the United States and the Soviet Union, on-site inspection will take place at U.S. facilities in five North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries where U.S. weapons are based or were planned to be based--West Germany, Britain, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands--and in two Warsaw Pact nations--East Germany and Czechoslovakia--where Soviet missiles have been stationed.
"This is the first negotiation of a truly international agreement as it involves nine countries," Shevardnadze said.
"This is also the first renunciation by the two powers of a portion of their sovereignty" by giving the other the right to such inspections, he added. "A political thaw is starting which may lead to a change in the political climate on our planet."
The treaty will be the first one in the nuclear age to wipe out a whole class of nuclear weapons--ground-launched missiles with a range of between 300 and 3,000 miles.
The agreement is precedent-setting in two other respects: It establishes the principles of on-site inspection and of "asymmetrical" or unequal reductions, in which the side with the most weapons must reduce the most.
Both principles will be of great significance in the continuing negotiations toward reducing by half the much bigger and more threatening arsenals of intercontinental weapons on both sides.
U.S. and Soviet negotiators reported some progress in their talks to cut these strategic weapons. Their aim, a senior U.S. official said, is to prepare Reagan and Gorbachev so that they can agree at their summit meeting on common "instructions to negotiators," guidelines for the diplomats in Geneva to speed work on a treaty that the Soviets hope will be completed in time for signing at a summit meeting in Moscow next spring.
Shultz said he and Shevardnadze also completed "all of the basic arrangements for the summit meeting."
Shevardnadze predicted that the Dec. 7-10 summit "will be successful" as a result of the work done here.