Gorbachev Reaffirms Space Weapons Stand
MOSCOW (AP) _ Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev reaffirmed the Kremlin’s firm stand against U.S. space weapons research Thursday, a visiting Western leader said. A senior Soviet commentator called the American program ″myopic and dangerous.″
On his fourth day in office as general secretary of the Communist Party, Gorbachev finished a series of Kremlin meetings with the foreign politicians who came to Moscow for the funeral of his predecessor, President and party chief Konstantin U. Chernenko.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany, who met the new Soviet leader Thursday, said ″Gorbachev indicated that he doesn’t want Western Europe to go along with or participate in it (the space weapons program).″
The Soviet party chief also said West Germany should not have allowed installation of new U.S.-made Pershing 2 missiles, according to Kohl. The new missiles were part of a NATO program to strengthen arsenals in five West European nations.
The start of deployment prompted the Soviets to break off arms talks in Geneva in late 1983. The Kremlin did not return to the bargaining table until Tuesday.
Some of the Western dignitaries who spoke to reporters after talking with the new leader said they were impressed by his character and style.
Kohl called him a man ″of great sovereign authority and a remarkable mastery of the material.″
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada spent 45 minutes with Gorbachev on Thursday and said he seems ″truly in command″ and ″capable of great firmness but reasonableness as well.″
Some Western diplomats residing in Moscow said the presence and style displayed by Gorbachev appeared to be a sharp contrast to the stiff, infrequent appearances of Chernenko, whose 13-month tenure carried an aura of transition and was marred by persistent attention to his failing health.
Gorbachev at 54 is the youngest member of the ruling Politburo and the youngest man to assume control of the party in 60 years.
Some visitors, including Vice President George Bush, came away from their meetings with optimistic opinions about the future of East-West relations.
Bush said he believed it was time for an improvement in relations and said his talk with Gorbachev ″enhanced″ that view.
But the visiting statesmen did not indicate that Gorbachev revealed any shifts in Kremlin policy. In fact, their reports showed he reiterated some key Kremlin positions, including the often repeated demand for a ban on space weapons.
Mulroney did not say whether Gorbachev had said anything new to him on arms control issues, but said: ″I think he understands full well the importance of the Geneva dialogue and is committed to its success.″
Gorbachev’s meetings were reported prominently in the Soviet newspapers and on the evening television news. The government newspaper Izvestia reported his talks Wednesday with Bush on the front page at the top of a series of brief items on the discussions between the new leader and visiting politicans.
Earlier this week, the chief Soviet negotiator at the new Geneva talks, Viktor Karpov, made a point of identifying Gorbachev with the arms control issue - saying he had presided over the Politburo meeting shortly before the death of Chernenko that endorsed the Soviet bargaining stand.
Two commentaries issued by the official news media Wednesday were based on Gorbachev’s only public comment so far on arms - a reference in his speech Monday to the party meeting that named him as Soviet leader.
Gorbachev reiterated the Soviet call for a nuclear freeze and a halt to deployment. ″We want a real and major reduction of the arms stockpiles and not the development of ever new weapons systems, be in space or on earth,″ he said.
In an article distributed by the state-controlled Novosti news agency, commentator Alexander Malyshkin used Gorbachev’s speech as the basis for an attack on the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative - commonly known as Star Wars.
″It is myopic and dangerous not to consider the fact that space militarization would actually put an end to nuclear arms limitation and reduction,″ he said.
Malyshkin asserted that the Soviet Union went ahead with the start of the new arms talks despite Chernenko’s death because it ″would not like to lose a single day for the drafting of an effective agreement.″
The official news agency Tass also cited Gorbachev in criticizing U.S. nuclear arms policy and reiterating Soviet opposition to the deployment of U.S.-built missiles in Western Europe.
Tass contended that the Soviet position as expressed by Gorbachev ″gives a real chance of resolving the task of curbing the arms race.″