In the strongest indication to date of Soviet interest in superpower cooperation on international terrorism, a U.S.-Soviet counterterrorism task force today will issue a sweeping list of recommendations for joint action.
The proposals include the "timely exchange of information about terrorist groups or individuals, their tactics, plans, specific operations and supply, training and support structures," members of the task force told The Times.
They also call for mutual assistance in investigations of aircraft bombings, in release of hostages, in restricting the movement and financial activities of terrorists and in preventing terrorist acquisitions of weapons of mass destruction--from plastic explosives to chemical or nuclear weapons.
Sensitive Stumbling Block
Sharing intelligence on terrorism has been the most sensitive stumbling block to superpower cooperation because both nations fear disclosure will endanger or expose sources.
The weeklong, closed-door talks in Santa Monica held by the Soviet-U.S. Task Force to Prevent Terrorism are considered important in testing the waters for more formal efforts. Both Bush Administration and Soviet officials have expressed interest in probing the depth of commitment on specific joint actions--especially on intelligence issues--through unofficial channels before direct negotiations.
"Terrorism has been a continuing source of tension for many years," said terrorism specialist Brian Jenkins of the RAND Corp., which hosted the discussions. "For the two countries now to address this issue with the degree of candor that has been evident throughout the talks is extraordinary. There was nothing that was not on the table.
"We were specific and often blunt about what concerns us the most. The Soviets were equally frank about putting their cards on the table."
"The Soviet Union is genuinely committed to do whatever is necessary to eliminate terrorism, preferably with the United States," said Andrei Shoumikhin of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, a member of the Soviet delegation.
The group of 10 American and 10 Soviet experts on terrorism met in Moscow in January for the first discussions on terrorism held at any level between the United States and Soviet Union, which helped pave the way for the opening of formal superpower talks on the issue last June.
The task force proposals issued today will be relayed to both governments in preparation for what Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze announced last week would be a second round of official talks on terrorism in early 1990.
Indication of Interest
Although this week's talks are unofficial, the Soviet delegation includes the two highest-ranking former KGB officials ever to publicly visit the United States. Their presence is considered an indication of Soviet interest in establishing a new framework for joint counterterrorism efforts.
"The KGB has sent a clear message. It is willing to cooperate with the CIA," said John Marks, chairman of Search for Common Ground, a Washington-based public-interest group that was one of the talks' co-sponsors.
The new spirit of cooperation was evident in a recommendation by former leading U.S. and Soviet intelligence officials at the conference.
"No nation, nor any of its government services nor representatives, should engage in or sponsor, encourage, train or supply any kind of terrorist activity," it declares.
It also calls on nations that condemn terrorism to "take all appropriate measures to prevent terrorism and to persuade other nations and groups with which they have contact to cease and desist from employing terrorism tactics."
The proposals even urge joint U.S.-Soviet efforts to prevent portable missiles and munitions from falling into the hands of terrorists, and to recover those already available on the black market.
On the growing problem with narco-terrorism, the task force calls for the superpowers to exchange information on production, smuggling and distribution of drugs as well as to cooperate on restricting laundering of funds derived from drug trafficking.
The American delegation included former CIA Director William Colby and former Deputy CIA Director Ray S. Cline. The two former Soviet officials are Lt. Gen. Fjodor Sherbak, who was deputy KGB chief, and Maj. Gen. Valentin Zvezdenkov, who headed the KGB's counterterrorism unit for eight years.
"They pay a price for being here. The mere fact they are engaging in discussions will be seen by some governments and groups as a hostile act," Jenkins said. "No matter what level of cooperation is ultimately established between the two governments, terrorist groups now have to take into account that KGB intelligence may be targeted against them."
Colby described his former Soviet counterparts as "very forthcoming and practical."
In addition, Cline said: "I'm impressed with the long experience in counterterrorism of the Soviet participants. I am convinced that they have come with a clear signal from their own government that it is in the Soviet interest to come down on the side of combatting terrorism."
He said he thought Soviet cooperation was produced by more than just \o7 glasnost, \f7 as President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's policy of openness is known.
"In my view, they have finally realized that terrorism may turn against the Soviet Union, perhaps because of the increasing tension of ethnic minority groups," he said.
Bush Administration sources also have speculated that ethnic and religious turmoil in several Soviet republics, as well as a continuing exodus from East Bloc nations, could lead to the emergence of new terrorist groups that may target the Soviet Union or its personnel and facilities abroad.