The Moscow summit ended with the superpowers far apart on a strategic arms reduction treaty and on an issue that will become more important in months to come - cuts in conventional forces in Europe.
Although hopes dimmed for a new arms treaty under President Reagan, the news was not all bad.Both sides are still talking, rather than shouting as they did early in the Reagan administration, and they are discussing more issues more seriously than ever before.
Perhaps the most important development that the summit showed, and the one that is hardest to measure, is the growing role that domestic political developments in the Soviet Union are playing in superpower relations.
Reagan, who built his political career as a Communist basher, was impressed by the changes in Soviet policy under Mikhail S. Gorbachev, whom he called "a serious man seeking serious reform."
"Quite possibly, we are beginning to take down the barriers of the postwar era, quite possibly we are entering a new era in history, a time of lasting change in the Soviet Union," said Reagan, who early in his term branded the Soviet Union, an "evil empire."
Within hours after Reagan left Moscow on Friday, Gorbachev exhibited the harmonious summit in a political battle against domestic opponents of his campaign of "perestroika" to reform the Soviet economy.
The Kremlin leader fought off a conservative attempt at a Moscow Communist Party executive committee meeting to block prominent reformers from attending an important national party conference starting June 28.
As Gorbachev looked on, one of his allies, Moscow party chief Lev Zaikov, told opponents of reform that the summit marked "a concrete result of perestroika in foreign policy."
The change in Soviet political debate, while nowhere near as open as the battles in the West, has been accompanied by a shift in the nature of arms control negotiations. The superpowers are now discussing deep cuts in new systems, unlike agreements of the 1960s and 1970s, which limited rather than reduced arsenals.
And the Soviets, for the first time, are willing to allow Americans to make on-site inspections to monitor compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (NF) pact signed last December and ratified by the U.S. Senate last month.
Reagan and Gorbachev shook hands over the INF pact at the summit and ended five days of intensive talks by declaring some progress on two of five major obstacles to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (TART) to slash nuclear arsenals by 30 percent to 50 percent.
But they did not clear the major hurdle to START: Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative plan for space-based defenses. And they reported no progress on Soviet demands to limit the number of sea-launched cruise missiles or U.S. demands that the Soviets phase out their heavy SS-18 missiles.
On conventional arms, there was a subtle hint of motion.
A few hours after Reagan arrived in Moscow last Sunday, Gorbachev proposed they exchange data on conventional forces to try to eliminate "asymmetries" in the opposing forces. The Warsaw Pact has more forces and NATO has more anti-tank guns.
A senior U.S. official called Gorbachev's presentation "a restatement of past Soviet ideas rather than a proposal."
"He just sort of moved some commas around" on a 1986 proposal for a 500,000-troop reduction in Warsaw Pact and NATO forces in Europe, said the official, speaking on condition that he not be identified.
U.S. analysts said before the summit they anticipated Gorbachev might announce unilateral cuts of 50,000 to 100,000 troops.
But one Soviet spokesman rejected that.
"I would not be in favor of the idea of a unilateral cut," said Sergei Plekhanov, deputy director of the Institute for the USA-Canada. "We have been making a lot of concessions."
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