President Reagan's plans for a super-weapon to make nuclear war obsolete brought applause from some West German leaders Thursday, but the Soviet Union, Poland, church and arms control groups protested it would intensify the arms race.
Reagan announced Wednesday he was calling on U.S. scientists to develop a space-age system to destroy attacking nuclear missiles before they strike, theoretically eliminating the possibility of nuclear war.
Senior administration officials said such a missile defense system could employ such technology as lasers, microwaves or high-energy particle beams. The weapon could be ground-based or stationed in space.
'The picture that Reagan is suggesting -- that his proposal will lead to the abolishment of nuclear weapons -- is complete nonsense,' said Frank Blackaby, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
'It is more likely to lead to a multiplication of nuclear weapons rather than the dismantling of existing ones,' he said.
SIPRI, an independent institute for research into disarmament and arms regulation, is financed by the Swedish Parliament.
Blackaby was joined in his disapproval by West Germany's anti-nuclear Greens party and, in the Netherlands, the Dutch Inter-Church Peace Council.
Former Gen. Gerd Bastian, now arms spokesman for the Greens, said he viewed Reagan's program 'with skepticism and astonishment.'
'If his idea were realized, it would simply lead to an intensified arms race with the Soviets and the Americans trying to outmatch each other in weapons that could destroy the so-called defensive weapons,' Bastian said.
Strategist Laurens Hoogebrink of the Dutch church council condemned the plan as 'simply a new step towards a U.S. first strike capability.'
The Soviet Union accused Reagan of proposing to carry the nuclear arms race into the 21st century. Moscow's communist ally, Poland, called the program 'a threat to the whole world, including the United States.'
At the Dutch Foreign Ministry in The Hague, spokesman Jan Dirkx said it was too soon to comment on Reagan's speech.
A spokesman for West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's ruling Christian Democratic Union said Reagan had made 'a very interesting suggestion' that would be examined in full before the party commented on it.
West German Defense Minister Manfred Woerner, however, welcomed the concept as an effort to convert to a 'strongly defense-oriented strategy' by the end of the century.
Egon Bahr, the opposition Social Democratic party's arms control expert who usually criticizes Reagan's defense policy, uncharacteristically welcomed the latest announcement.
'President Reagan has broken a taboo. He has opened the way for dispensing with the strategy of deterrence and (replaced) the concept with defensive weapons systems.'
'The question is whether the Soviet Union would be prepared to switch to purely defensive systems and give up deterrence,' he said.
U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar issued a cautiously worded statement praising Reagan for his intentions.
U.N. spokesman Francois Giuliani said the secretary-general fully shared Reagan's view that the 'human spirit must be capable of rising above' dealing with countries by 'threatening their existence.'
'He welcomes the importance attached by the president to the goal of lowering the level of all arms, and particularly nuclear arms,' Giuliani said.
At NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, a spokesman said the organization could not comment because it had not received a text of Reagan's speech. The spokesman emphasized NATO 'has no plans to militarize outer space.'