The Iceland Summit: 'A Difficult Dialogue': Gorbachev Angrily Accuses Reagan of Scuttling an Accord at Reykjavik

The New York Times, October 13, 1986

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REYKJAVIK, Iceland, Oct. 12, 1986

 

Mikhail S. Gorbachev said today that by insisting on development of ''Star Wars'' weapons, President Reagan ''scuttled'' a series of broad arms control agreements reached by the two men at their meetings here.

The Soviet leader said that ''only a madman would accept'' the American insistence that research and development of a space-based missile defense system be allowed to proceed beyond laboratory work under a broad agreement to reduce nuclear weapons.

Mr. Gorbachev said at a news conference after the collapse of his talks with Mr. Reagan that he had come to Iceland thinking that the best way to end the arms race was to present President Reagan with a radical package of new proposals.

 

'Major Concessions' by Moscow

Mr. Gorbachev said Moscow had presented a package of ''major concessions and compromises'' at the meeting, while the United States side ''came empty-handed, with a whole set of mothballed proposals.''

Mr. Gorbachev, leaning forward in his seat and slashing the air with his right hand at times for emphasis, spoke without notes for an hour before responding to questions. His presentation was polished and at times impassioned.

In an apparent effort to put Mr. Reagan on the defensive, he presented a detailed defense of the new Soviet proposals and Moscow's handling of relations with Washington since their meeting in Geneva last November.

Portraying the Soviet position as a radical and far-reaching effort to end the arms race, he placed the overall blame for the failure of the talks on the influence of the military-industrial complex in the United States.

 

'Let Us Not Panic'

Mr. Gorbachev, flanked by top aides on a makeshift podium at a Reykjavik movie theater, said he was not discouraged by the breakdown in the talks.

''Let us not panic,'' he said. ''This is not the end of contact with the United States. It is not the end of international relations.''

He said the Soviet proposals remained on the table and expressed hope that the agreements nearly concluded this weekend could be revived.

''Let America think,'' he said. ''We are waiting. We are not withdrawing our proposals.''

Mr. Gorbachev, who appeared serious but not grim, reported that he had told Mr. Reagan that they ''were missing a historic chance: Never had our positions been so close together.''

Mr. Gorbachev said ''both of us should reflect on what happened here,'' adding, ''The meeting was important and promising.''

 

'Not an Unproductive Meeting'

Although he called the failure ''sad and disappointing,'' Mr. Gorbachev added that ''it was not an unproductive meeting.''

He described the talks as ''a step in a difficult dialogue.''

As he spoke, Mr. Gorbachev was flanked on his left by Aleksandr N. Yakovlev, a national secretary of the Central Committee in charge of propaganda, and Marshal Sergei F. Akhromeyev, a First Deputy Defense Minister and Chief of Staff. Marshal Akhromeyev wore a suit rather than his normal green army uniform.

To Mr. Gorbachev's right were Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze and Anatoly F. Dobrynin, the former Ambassador to Washington who is a Central Committee secretary and a key foreign policy adviser to Mr. Gorbachev.

 

Asked whether the weekend's events ended the prospects for a visit by him to Washington, Mr. Gorbachev said, ''It doesn't mean we are farther from Washington than we used to be. We are closer, if the United States considers our proposals.''

 

Dim Prospects for U.S. Visit

However, he said nothing about setting a date for a visit to Washington.

Another senior Soviet official, Georgi A. Arbatov, the director of the Soviet Institute for U.S.A. and Canadian Studies, said before Mr. Gorbachev's appearance that unless Washington changed its position on basic arms control issues there would be little chance for a Gorbachev trip to the United States.

Mr. Gorbachev said that Mr. Reagan, noting his disappointment at the Soviet position on ''Star Wars'' research, asked, ''Why because of one word are you so intransigent?''

Mr. Gorbachev said Moscow could not back down on Mr. Reagan's program to develop exotic new missile defense technologies because the program threatened to produce new offensive weapons and to extend the arms race into space.

Mr. Gorbachev said that he brought new proposals to Iceland covering all facets of the arms control talks in Geneva because those negotiations ''were at a standstill.''

 

Trying to Restore Momentum

''We brought proposals which, had they been accepted, could in a short time make it possible to avert the threat of nuclear war,'' he said.

Mr. Gorbachev said Moscow's expectation was that he and Mr. Reagan could issue binding instructions to their negotiators to prepare agreements to reduce strategic nuclear weapons by 50 percent, to eliminate intermediate-range missiles in Europe, and to deal with defensive systems by extending the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty for 10 years.

He contended that the Soviet proposals eliminated several major stumbling blocks to agreement. He said, for example, that Moscow was willing to set aside its long-standing insistence that reductions in strategic weapons include cuts in American bombers and nuclear-capable tactical aircraft stationed in and around Europe.

 

Mr. Gorbachev said he was surprised by Mr. Reagan's initial reluctance to accept the proposal for eliminating intermediate-range missiles because the United States had made a similar suggestion in 1981.

 

''I said, 'I don't understand how you can abandon your own child,' '' Mr. Gorbachev said.

​© 1986 The New York Times Company