LONDON -- The United States and the Soviet Union will hold a summit in Moscow at the end of this month to sign a treaty sharply reducing their stockpiles of long-range nuclear missiles, it was announced here yesterday.
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, will mark the first time the two superpowers have agreed to reduce intercontinental nuclear weapons -- those on bombers and sea- and land-based missiles that can reach U.S. or Soviet territory. Talks are expected on even further missile cuts following the ratification of the treaty.
The agreement will also reduce to more or less equal levels the strategic offensive arms stockpiles of the two countries, cutting them by about a third over a period of seven years.
"We have moved far away from the threat of nuclear war. It is our common victory," Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev said at a news conference after his luncheon with President Bush at Winfield House, the U.S. ambassador's residence.
The Soviet president said that his nation and the United States "have agreed to finalize everything in Geneva, and we will give commensurate instructions so that we could then sign that treaty."
He then threw out a welcome mat to Mr. Bush, saying, "I've invited the president to come to the Soviet Union on a visit at the very end of July, and I hope that everything is clear now about the visit. . . . The Soviet people, all of us, will be ready to give our hospitality to the president of the United States."
The president said, "We accept with pleasure." A U.S. official said the Moscow summit is tentatively set for July 30-31.
The breakthrough on START was not wholly expected. On Tuesday night, Secretary of State James A. Baker III was dubious about the possibility of getting an agreement, since, as he put it, "the experts haven't been able to generate anything that looks like a solution."
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater also gave a gloomy assessment the same day.
The arms negotiations, which began nearly a decade ago, stalled Sunday on a final technical sticking point, the question of missile "throw-weights," which determine the size of the payload and also relate to the introduction of new missiles in the Soviet arsenal.
The status of the technical barrier was not clear, but Mr. Baker said an agreement at the Moscow summit was assured.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Gorbachev told their arms negotiators in Geneva to"finalize" details and put the agreement into treaty form so it can be ready for the summit.
When the treaty's provisions are finally implemented seven years after its ratification, each side will ostensibly be left with about 6,000 missiles, but exceptions would allow both to breach that ceiling by several thousand warheads.
The United States would be limited to 10,400 nuclear warheads -- down from 12,000 currently -- and the Soviets to 8,000, down from 11,000.
Under the agreement, the Soviets would have to reduce by one-half -- to 154 -- the number of their SS-18 missiles capable of hitting the United States. The United States, on the other hand, would retain its advantage over the Soviets in such categories as long-range bombers and cruise missiles.
There is a likelihood that Mr. Gorbachev's invitation to Mr. Bush -- and the determination to get a significant missile accord -- was an exercise of political will on the part of the Soviet leader.
The United States did not appear eager to rush into a signing of an accord, so the movement most likely came from the other side.
Earlier Mr. Bush said the United States was not going to agree to a treaty until all the issues were resolved. His spokesmen have reiterat
ed that intention over the past couple of days.
Asked at their brief news conference yesterday which side gave way, Mr. Gorbachev said, "It's a common victory."
He also said, "I hope very much that the meeting that will take place in Moscow will be in the interest of all mankind, of all those who will be able to now breathe more quietly and to say that we have moved further away from the threat of nuclear war."
Later last night, the Soviet president said, in connection with the announcement earlier about the treaty, "We've rejected the methods of the Cold War and have come to realize that we are living in one civilization."
Before Mr. Gorbachev's arrival, Mr. Bush met in the garden of Winfield House with his chief advisers, including Mr. Baker and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft. They reviewed the U.S. position on the treaty in anticipation of a meeting first with Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander A. Bessmertnykh, who arrived with what were described as some "new positions."
Apparently they were enough. A go-ahead decision was made (( on the START treaty.
Mr. Gorbachev arrived 20 minutes after Mr. Bessmertnykh, and the agreement was confirmed at talks during and after lunch.