WASHINGTON — Pushing for ratification of the U.S.-Soviet treaty outlawing ground-launched medium-range nuclear missiles, U.S. arms negotiators said Tuesday that they had concluded the landmark agreement without having made major concessions to the Soviet Union.
While conceding that "there is always give and take with respect to details," chief arms negotiator Max M. Kampelman told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "I am impressed by the fact that I don't think it was necessary for us to give up any of our objectives."
The negotiators' satisfaction did not assuage Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who in the first two days of ratification hearings has established himself as the foremost opponent of the pact, which was signed by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in December.
Helms, who first suggested that the Soviets might have far more triple-warhead SS-20 missiles than counted in the treaty, called the agreement seriously flawed because it does not require the destruction of the fissionable material that fuels the warheads carried by the banned missiles.
The charges, and Helms' further suggestions that the Soviets' SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missiles could be aimed at the European targets now covered by the medium-range SS-20s, were labeled "red herrings" by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and other senators on the foreign relations panel, where the agreement apparently has near-unanimous support.
Kampelman and Maynard W. Glitman, who headed the treaty negotiations for the last three years, expressed sharp concern at the suggestion that the pact's approval by the Senate might be linked to other U.S. objectives, such as balancing opposing conventional military forces in Europe.
One of the most protracted debates with Soviet negotiators throughout the six years of off-and-on INF negotiations, Kampelman said, was over the issue of linkage. The United States finally prevailed over Soviet insistence that the intermediate-range weapons reductions be linked to progress on intercontinental weapons as well as space and defensive weapons.
Now, if the Senate links the treaty with other issues as a price for ratification, Kampelman warned, "we may wind up having no agreement at all."
As the arms negotiators recounted the years of deliberations leading to the agreement, former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States should move immediately to reassure its European allies that removal of all the U.S. ground-launched missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,000 miles does not herald the removal of all U.S. nuclear weapons from the Continent.
Coming in the wake of the Reagan-Gorbachev summit stalemate in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1986, the medium-range missile treaty "seemed to suggest that the Americans might agree to or even seek the denuclearization of Europe," he told that panel, which is also conducting hearings on the treaty.
While he said that the treaty "should have a favorable impact on the military security of the Western world," Schlesinger also cautioned that the agreement's extensive verification provisions do not assure Soviet compliance. He warned that the negotiating success should not be allowed to rush the United States into a hasty accord on intercontinental weapons.
Addressing the issue of treaty violations before the Foreign Relations Committee, Kampelman said that any Soviet cheating should be greeted by a commensurate U.S. response. Gross violations, he said, could be justification for the country to withdraw from the agreement, which has a provision allowing withdrawal if "supreme national interests" are involved.
With provisions for on-site inspection of missile facilities, observation of missile destruction and the use of satellite monitoring, Glitman said, "we are as confident as we can be" that Soviet compliance with the treaty can be verified," but he acknowledged "there is no way that we can be 100%."
Had the United States pushed for the right to go anywhere in the Soviet Union for on-site inspection, it would have been necessary to reciprocate, and the United States was not willing to grant complete access to missile installations and facilities.
"I am happy to say we do have some secrets," he told senators. "We do have some places and some facilities that we consider very sensitive."