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Moscow Summit: Gorbachev Criticizes Reagan, Seeing ‘Missed Opportunities,’ But Calls Visit a ‘Major Event’

The New York Times, June 2, 1988


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MOSCOW, June 1, 1988


Mikhail S. Gorbachev complained today that his fourth and probably final summit meeting with President Reagan was filled with ''missed opportunities'' and impeded by contradictions in American policy.

But in a concluding two-hour news conference he balanced his criticism of Mr. Reagan by calling the President's visit to Moscow this week a ''major event'' that moved relations ''maybe one rung or two up the ladder.''

In a joint statement that recorded modest progress on a number of issues, the two sides expressed hope that the dialogue established by Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev in their four summit meetings since 1985 would endure, despite ''real differences of history, tradition and ideology.'' [ Excerpts, page A17. ] A President Proselytizing This week's talks, which officially end Thursday morning with Mr. Reagan's departure for London, seem likely to be remembered less for any particular achievements than the symbolic spectacle of an American President in the Soviet capital proselytizing for change and expanded liberties.

After the tentative nature of the Geneva summit meeting in 1985, the volatility in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1986, and the substantive accomplishments in Washington last December, the Moscow summit meeting seems to reflect a sense that the two men have all but exhausted the potential for advancing relations in the waning months of the Reagan Administration.

In separate news conferences, the two leaders said they were pleased with the gains recorded this week, but Mr. Gorbachev devoted a good portion of his remarks to criticism of Mr. Reagan, suggesting considerable frustration and irritation with the President. [ Excerpts from the news conferences, pages A16 and A18. ] Annoyance on Human Rights Mr. Gorbachev's exasperation seemed to stem less from an absence of progress on central arms-control issues - the chance for that had never appeared great - than from Mr. Reagan's concentration on human rights issues and the President's refusal to endorse the general guidelines for Soviet-American relations proposed by the Soviet leader. The general guidelines included in the final joint statement were written by the Americans.

The Soviet leader also accused the American negotiators of trying to dodge issues on conventional arms, and he complained about unfavorable trade treatment.

Although he did not say as much, Mr. Gorbachev left the impression in his news conference that he had lost patience with Mr. Reagan and was ready to turn his attention to the President who will take office in January.


Nevertheless, the Gorbachevs and the Reagans seemed in good humor as they attended a special performance of seven dances by the Bolshoi Ballet. They sat in the royal box in the neo-classical, 19th-century Bolshoi Theater. They then drove to an official guest residence in the northwestern outskirts of Moscow for a private supper.


After supper, the Reagans returned downtown, stopping for a brief stroll around flood-lit Red Square shortly before midnight. ''We're leaving tomorrow and I didn't want Nancy to miss it,'' Mr. Reagan said as they stood below the multi-colored onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral.


Earlier in the day, Mrs. Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev had inspected an exhibition of prized Russian icons at the Tretyakov Gallery.

At his news conference, Mr. Gorbachev seemed particularly irritated by Mr. Reagan's backtracking on including in the communique a proposed statement of principles for the management of Soviet-American relations.

The proposal included the traditional Soviet call for the renunciation of military force to settle disputes and praise for ''peaceful coexistence.'' The phrase of Lenin's was widely used by Nikita S. Khrushchev and Leonid I. Brezhnev, former Soviet leaders, and is anathema to American conservatives.


Treaty Documents Exchanged

Mr. Gorbachev said Mr. Reagan tentatively endorsed the proposed statement on Sunday when the Soviet leader presented it to him, but rejected it this morning on the advice of his advisers. One American aide basically confirmed Mr. Gorbachev's account and said that Mr. Gorbachev was incensed at Mr. Reagan's apparent change of heart.

Mr. Gorbachev vented his anger just before the two men met in St. Vladimir's Hall in the Kremlin for a public exchange of documents that put into effect the treaty eliminating Soviet and American medium- and shorter-range land-based missiles.

Reporting that the two leaders argued intensely about the joint statement in their final meeting this morning, Mr. Gorbachev said, ''I believe Mr. Reagan missed an important chance to take a step forward.''

The President seemed to go out of his way not to criticize Mr. Gorbachev an hour later at his news conference in Spaso House, the American Ambassador's residence. He and the Soviet leader had accomplished ''a good deal of important work,'' Mr. Reagan said.

He acknowledged that he had ''liked the whole tone'' of the five principles, but insisted that he had told Mr. Gorbachev last Sunday that he would have to let his advisers look them over.

The President said there were ''certain ambiguities'' that required that the American side rewrite the principles. It was the American version that was included in the statement issued today.

Mr. Reagan, who on Tuesday said he no longer thought the Soviet Union was ''an evil empire,'' added today, ''I think there is quite a difference today in the leadership and the relationship between our two countries.''


'Propaganda Gambits'

The Soviet press has almost gleefully reported Mr. Reagan's retraction of the ''evil empire'' description.

During his news conference, at the Foreign Ministry press center, Mr. Gorbachev also sharply chastised Mr. Reagan for his treatment of Soviet human rights policies, saying the President's visit included ''propaganda gambits and all sorts of spectacles and shows.''

''I'm not filled with admiration for this part of the visit,'' Mr. Gorbachev said.

The comment was an apparent reference to Mr. Reagan's meeting on Monday with a group of dissidents, and his emphasis on human rights questions during the first two days of the visit.

Mr. Gorbachev also sharply criticized Pakistan, and by extension the United States, for continuing to aid Afghan guerrillas during the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The Soviet leader warned that the assistance could lead to Soviet retaliation and could undermine the chances for resolving other regional conflicts.

The back-to-back news conferences offered a contrast in leadership styles, with Mr. Gorbachev plunging into policy details and repeatedly stabbing the air with a finger for emphasis.


'Common Ground' on Namibia

He was flanked by senior aides, including Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze and Defense Minister Dmitri T. Yazov.

Mr. Reagan was more subdued and appeared to be uncomfortable with the discussion of specific issues, preferring instead to keep his remarks general and anecdotal.

One American official said that the two sides had found ''important common ground on some aspects of the search for a Namibia-Angola settlement.''

The official said Chester A. Crocker, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, and Anatoly Adamishin, a Deputy Foreign Minister, had set Sept. 29 as the target date for resolving outstanding differences on a settlement that would lead to the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola, which is supported by Moscow, and independence for South-West Africa, the disputed territory also known as Namibia, now ruled by South Africa.

The New York Times erred in reporting today that Moscow and Washington had agreed in principle that Cuban troops should be withdrawn from Angola in the next 12 months and that South Africa, in turn, should relinquish control of South-West Africa.


Progress on Missiles

On arms control, the joint statement reported progress on verification of land-based mobile missiles and air-launched cruise missiles, though the two sides did not resolve all of their differences over these two weapons. They made no headway on limits on testing space-based defense systems and limits on sea-launched cruise missiles.

Although both leaders said they hoped a treaty to reduce strategic, or intercontinental, nuclear weapons could still be completed before Mr. Reagan leaves office, the prospects seemed remote. Mr. Gorbachev said a fifth summit meeting with Mr. Reagan was unlikely unless they were to get together to sign such a treaty.

On conventional arms, the two sides made no progress, an American official said. Mr. Gorbachev asserted at his news conference that the two sides were agreed on the basic principles for initiating new talks on reducing conventional arms. But a senior American official said that this was not true.

​© 1988 The New York Times Company

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