Baker Heads to Moscow for Arms Control Talks
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Secretary of State James A. Baker III is on his way to Moscow to try to work out arms control agreements with the Soviet Union for signing at the fast-approaching Washington summit.
Baker’s aides are not predicting success. ″By the end of the week we should know a lot more,″ a senior U.S. official said before takeoff Monday.
The four days of talks are Baker’s last chance to work out agreements with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze for signing during the May 30- June 3 visit of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
The two sides are in disagreement on several key issues. Gorbachev’s problems at home also could get in the way.
″The general assumption is that he has increasingly acquired more of the formal power,″ said the senior official, who demanded anonymity. ″On the other hand, his difficulties with the economy and nationalities, and the general level of dissatisfaction have, perhaps, limited his ability to use that power.″
Other topics Baker will take up with Shevardnadze starting Wednesday include the restive Baltic republics and outbreaks of anti-semitism in the Soviet Union as well as accords on space, the environment and trade being prepared for the summit.
On his way, Baker stopped in New York to make a speech, promising to keep American troops in Europe even if the treaties are concluded.
″Even if all Soviet armed forces return to the U.S.S.R. and conventional arms control moves forward, the Soviet military will retain forces many times larger than those possessed by any other single state,″ Baker said.
He said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would not dissolve, either. ″To prevent war, we must continue to deter aggression and contain the residual threat,″ Baker said.
He suggested the Western alliance take on more of a political role, however, and consider holding ″a solid political and military dialogue″ with the Soviet Union and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
Baker’s first meeting in the Soviet Union will involve the Middle East. He will see Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is visiting Moscow, Wednesday afternoon.
Administration officials said last week Baker does not plan to overhaul his strategy for getting stalled talks going between Israel and Palestinian Arabs. Mubarak has been acting as a middleman between the Bush administration and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Right after the Mubarak meeting, Baker holds his first round with Shevardnadze. He is to see Gorbachev Friday morning, and is scheduled to wind up his stay in Moscow with a news conference Saturday.
The most dramatic candidate for a summit signing - a treaty declaration to reduce long-range nuclear missiles, bombers and submarines - is far from complete. U.S. and Soviet negotiators have been wrangling for weeks over ballistic missiles with multiple warheads and over cruise missiles packed on jet fighters.
Baker, in a concession, is prepared to inch closer to the Soviet position on cruise missiles, limiting their range to 500 miles instead of 625 miles, but is looking for something in exchange, said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A separate treaty to reduce troops, tanks, airplanes and other non-nuclear arms in Europe is moving slowly in negotiations between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in Vienna.
That treaty is designed for signing at a 35-nation summit before the end of the year. But President Bush and Gorbachev would like to report progress when they meet here.
The biggest obstacles are which airplanes and helicopters to limit and how compliance would be ensured.
″We will be making our best effort, within our interests, to get the treaties done,″ the senior official said.
Margaret D. Tutwiler, the State Department spokeswoman, said, ″We have always said we hoped we could conclude a START (Strategic Arms Reduction) treaty this year, and that we hoped to be able to resolve all major issues in START by the summit.″
″If we do accomplish all that, so much the better. If we do not, we will keep working at it,″ she said.
Bush last week offered to halt production of U.S. chemical weapons if the Soviets set a schedule for demolition of their stockpiles and accept other U.S. demands.
Baker will follow up the offer with Shevardnadze, but an agreement depends on the Soviets accepting Bush’s demand that the two sides be allowed to retain small stockpiles of poison gas until 40 nations agree to a global ban and implement it.
Shadowing Baker’s trip is the unrest in Lithuania and the partial economic blockade Moscow has imposed on the Baltic republic to try to diffuse a drive for independence.
The Bush administration has urged the two sides to settle their differences through negotiations. Otherwise, Baker told Congress recently, pressure could build to impose U.S. economic sanctions against Moscow.
Congressional sentiment is strongly on the side of the Lithuanians. Bush and Baker have publicly supported independence but also stressed the importance of maintaining good U.S.-Soviet relations.