House Panel Criticizes Reagan for Performance at Iceland Summit
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Reagan was poorly prepared for the U.S.-Soviet summit meeting last October and the two-day meeting ended with ″an astonishing degree of confusion″ about potential nuclear arms control agreements, the House Armed Services Committee said Sunday.
The report by the Democratic-controlled panel was sharply critical of Reagan and his administration, citing confusion and disputes among U.S. officials about the wide-ranging arms control proposals discussed and almost accepted by Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Four months after the meeting, there is still an ″astonishing degree of confusion surrounding what actually happened″ and what the two leaders discussed and nearly agreed to, the report said.
″With the value of hindsight, it is possible to suggest that the Reagan administration was ill-prepared for the negotiations it participated in, and consequently, would have been ill-served had its product been accepted,″ the panel said.
The report was based on a series of hearings held by the committee’s defense policy panel, which listened to a variety of witnesses, including several U.S. participants in the Iceland summit last Oct. 11-12.
White House officials declined comment on the report, saying they had not yet seen it.
Rep. Les Aspin, D-Wis., chairman of the panel, said, ″The complete record, from the decision to accept the Soviet invitation to the effort to put a favorable ‘spin’ on the outcome, shows the White House in confusion and disarray.″
Sweeping U.S. proposals for deep reductions in nuclear arsenals were never studied in advance by the Pentagon for their impact on the military balance, Aspin said. ″This table-now, study-later approach is symptomatic of the whole problem.″
The summit was proposed by the Soviets and accepted by Reagan in late September. The panel’s report noted that ″the announcement of a summit to take place in less than two weeks astonished most observers. Reagan’s longstanding and considerable opposition to unprepared summits was well known.″
The report noted that the summit came in the wake of the Soviet release of American journalist Nicholas Daniloff, arrested for allegedly possessing classified material, and the U.S. release of Gennadi Zakharov, a U.N. employee arrested for espionage.
″There is yet to be a convincing explanation of the administration’s claim that there was no trade of Daniloff for a Soviet spy, nor any linkage between the summit and the entire Daniloff affair,″ the report said.
Between the time the summit was announced and the meetings began, administration officials failed to consult with U.S. allies or to study the military implications of U.S. proposals, the report said.
When Reagan and Gorbachev meet, the U.S. side expected the agenda to be limited to setting a future summit date and trying to nail down the final stages of a treaty limiting atomic-tipped missiles in Europe, the report noted.
Instead, Gorbachev proposed sweeping reductions in superpower stockpiles and Reagan responded with proposals that were even more wide-ranging, the report noted.
In the immediate aftermath of the two days of meeting, U.S. officials described the summit as a failure and said sweeping plans for deep cuts in atomic arsenals were derailed by Gorbachev’s efforts to scuttle Reagan’s ″Star Wars″ anti-missile research plan. Reagan said he refused to scale back his plan, known formally as the Strategic Defense Initiative.
But the administration quickly changed the way the summit was portrayed, the report said, and tried to present it as a near-success rather than a failure.
″In the rush to put a positive ‘spin’ on events in Reykjavik, the administration succeeded only in contradicting itself and spreading the impression of confusion and disarray,″ the committee said.
″Differences between the two sides over what was agreed upon were spurred by an inability of the United States to present a coherent picture of the summit events,″ the report said.
″Administration officials directly contradicted one another over such important issues as what they had agreed to eliminate in 10 years - ballistic missiles, all nuclear weapons - and whether they anticipated the breakdown over the Strategic Defense Initiative or the ultimate decision by Gorbachev to link all elements of the proposals discussed,″ it said.
The review found that ″in the immediate aftermath of the meeting, the more obvious conclusion is that the process moved too fast - ‘progress’ went too far, overshot its mark, and yielded the United States nothing but the appearance of confusion and frustration.″
″Great progress may indeed be made possible when real flexibility is available,″ the report said. ″But when dealing with the Soviets at this level, great disappointment - or worse, strategic mistakes - may be more likely.″