WASHINGTON -- George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev sought Friday to propel the superpowers beyond the Cold War by agreeing to sharp cuts in chemical and nuclear weapons and signing a trade pact despite U.S. concern over the crisis in Lithuania.
After two days of summit talks imbued with goodwill, Bush handed Gorbachev a boost for perestroika and used a flow of agreements from arms control to student exchanges to proclaim a new era of cooperation.
'We may not believe on everything and indeed we don't agree on everything,' Bush said during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, 'but we believe in one great truth and the world has waited long enough. The Cold War must end.'
Inviting Gorbachev to 'renew our pledge and build a more peaceful world,' Bush announced a series of accords -- some pre-arranged, others nailed down in the last 24 hours -- to place an indelible stamp of success on their four-day summit.
Consistent with the goal set at Malta six months ago, the emphasis was on arms control: agreements to destroy most of their chemical weapons, monitor nuclear tests and wrap up the first Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) treaty in a decade.
Bush and Gorbachev moved the agenda forward and sent their negotiators back to Geneva to tie up loose ends of an accord to cut strategic nuclear weapons -- the most powerful armaments in their arsenals -- by about one-third over seven years.
And while that goal has been criticized as modest to some in view of the rapid change narrowing postwar political divisions, the two agreed to move beyond START 'without delay' to a new round of talks on enhanced stability.
'There are still many challenges awaiting us,' Gorbachev said. 'It is evident that to dismantle that monumental artifact of the Cold War, the accumulated arsenals of mutual destruction, is not at all a simple or an entirely safe thing to do.'
In other areas, the summit leaders celebrated agreements to increase Soviet purchases of U.S. grain, expand commercial air service, provide greater access to port facilities and broaden scientific, educational, environmental and cultural cooperation.
In the background of achievement, however, lay continued differences. And in handing Gorbachev the promise of expanded trade, Bush swallowed earlier complaints about the Soviet intimidation of Lithuania and risked a backlash among conservatives.
Until Bush's announcement that the trade agreement would be signed, it loomed as a source of political leverage over Gorbachev. Bush, who has been urging political dialogue in the confrontation over Lithuanian secession, had hinted the trade pact could fall victim to tension over the standoff.
Once implemented, the groundbreaking agreement would improve the climate for U.S. firms to do business in the Soviet Union by providing improved market access, operating conditions and patent, copyright and trademark protections.
It did not, however, come without strings attached.
Bush will not submit it for congressional approval until the Soviets fulfill a promise to liberalize their emigration laws, which would then clear the way for lowest-possible tariff treatment of their exports to the United States on a most-favored-nation basis.
The crackdown on Lithuania still may prove an obstacle to the business and investment Gorbachev hopes will spring from the trade pact. Congress has signaled a strong reluctance to hand Gorbachev any such plum unless he loosens the screws on the Baltic states.
Secretary of State James Baker insisted there was never any formal linkage between the trade accord and Lithuania, though he himself contributed to the widespread -- and not unintentional -- appearance of an implicit connection.
Baker refused to say what Bush had told Gorbachev about the conflict with the Baltics, but indicated the U.S. side exacted no commitments, even on a timetable for emigration law reform. Bush said only that 'we're looking forward' to that action.
Asked if the talks had given him any reason to believe that the outlook for political dialogue had improved, Baker was non-commital. 'We have been hopeful,' he said, 'and we remain hopeful.'
Bush has made a major point of saying he wants Gorbachev -- and his domestic reforms -- to succeed. Just as he resisted conservative calls to pressure Gorbachev with sanctions, he again placed U.S.-Soviet relations ahead of support for Lithuanian self-determination.
At a dinner at the Soviet Embassy, Gorbachev, who earlier in the day said he would not 'beg' for economic help, seemed grateful for the trade agreement and predicted the Soviet people would appreciate the fact that Bush signed it 'at this moment of special importance for our country.'
At a breakfast meeting with congressional leaders at the Soviet Embassy, Gorbachev earlier had seized the initiative on the economic front, declaring he was 'not asking for a free ride' and would be seeking 'normal credits.'
'For us, it would be humiliating if we were to beg for something from you,' he said, 'and, of course, hopeless.'
Gorbachev also delivered an animated defense of his handling of the restive Baltic states, asserting he has acted with restraint and resisted domestic pressure to deal with the crisis in a more forceful fashion.
When Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell of Maine predicted most Lithuanians would support independence if polled, Gorbachev retorted, 'Fine, let them, do it and we will agree, but only through a constitutional process.'
Gorbachev has offered to open a dialogue with the Lithuanians only if they suspend their March 11 declaration of independence and adhere to secession laws contained in the Soviet Constitution.
The five-year grain agreement would incease the minimum and maximum amounts of grain the Soviets could purchase without U.S. government review. The Soviets had been described as reluctant to sign that without the trade agreement.
Negotiators have struggled for the past year to resolve several difficult issues blocking conclusion of a START treaty. Baker told reporters that 'almost all of the major substantive issues' had been settled, offering hope of signing a formal treaty later this year.
The START agreement would limit each side to 1,600 strategic nuclear launchers, which include land- and sea-based missiles and long-range bombers, and an overall cap of 6,000 warheads for those weapons systems.
Because of an arcane formula for counting air- and sea-launched cruise missiles against the overall limits, total warheads on each side could exceed that numerical limit.
The agreement calls for no more than 4,900 warheads on intercontinental and sea-launched ballistic missiles, no more than 1,540 on heavy ICBMs and no more than 1,100 on mobile ICBMs.
The limits would force the Soviets to scrap an estimated 50 percent of their heaviest land-based ICBMs. Hardline conservatives have criticized the fact that the accord would not specifically bar the Soviets from modernizing those systems.
Still to be resolved: ways to prohibit bypassing the limits by shipping arms or technology to third countries, flight testing of new heavy missiles and the disputed status of the Soviet Backfire bomber.
A notable lack of progress was recorded in talks on German unification, where the superpowers are at odds over NATO membership for a united Germany, and in the CFE negotiations on reductions in Conventional Forces in Europe.
While satisfied the Soviets 'now accept and even welcome German unification,' Baker could report no real narrowing of differences. The 'new ideas' U.S. officials welcomed Thursday, he said, were merely 'nuances of earlier ideas.'
On conventional arms, Baker voiced some hope of seeing the negotiating stalemate in Vienna broken, saying 'we made a little progress' on such matters as definitions of armor and the destruction of demobilized equipment.
Dubbing their ceremony 'an event of momentous importance,' Gorbachev called the agreements 'the best demonstration that we are ready to participate at the level of our responsibility in building a new civilization.'
It was in the same majestic room that Gorbachev took a place in history in December 1987 as co-signer, with President Ronald Reagan, of a historic treaty to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
This time around, bowing to a degree of emotion, Gorbachev told Bush he was 'pleased to know that the turbulent developments' they have witnessed since Malta -- a period that has seen him battle political and economic crises -- 'have not led us astray from the goal we set together.'
'So I believe we have passed the first test,' he said.
The accomplishments, which came close to completing the agenda set at Malta, left Bush and Gorbachev free to end their summit over the weekend -- at Camp David Saturday and over tea briefly Sunday before a joint morning news conference -- without pressure for more tangible results.
Their relaxation, if not relief, was evident at the signing ceremony and later at dinner at the Soviet Embassy, where Bush said the agreements 'stand as a memorial not to the past, but to the future -- a memorial to wars that need never be fought.'
The agreements and the pomp and ceremony of the signings were in stark contrast to the tone that had dominated the summit earlier Friday.
At a breakfast meeting with congressional leaders at the Soviet Embassy, Gorbachev seized the initiative, stating bluntly that he would not 'beg for anything' in a trade agreement with the United States, nor tolerate a great deal of outside interference.
'Certainly, we're not asking for a free ride. We'll be asking for normal credits,' said Gorbachev. 'For us it would be humiliating if we were to beg for something from you and, of course, hopeless.'
Many of the U.S. lawmakers who met with Gorbachev have been very concerned by the Soviet's economic sanctions imposed on Lithuania and there is a good chance the U.S.-Soviet pact could encounter difficulties on Capitol Hill as long as the Baltic situation remains unresolved.
After the signing, U.S. officials went to great lengths to insist there was never any formal linkage between Lithuania and the trade pact, even though the administration, pressed by Congress, had made clear it threatened the climate for better economic relations.
However, administration aides said Bush told Gorbachev that most-favored trade status that could boost Soviet exports to the United States would not go forward without passage of liberalized Soviet emigration laws.
'He (Gorbachev) promised to keep working on the emigration legislation,' said deputy White House press secretary Roman Popadiuk, 'and we expect that the trade agreement will go forward once this emigration law is passed.'
Earlier Friday, Gorbachev strongly defended his position on Lithuania, saying he could have been more harsh in his sanctions but has not been because he did not want to jeopardize his economic reform program.
'This is a test for perestroika,' he said, referring to his program of economic and political restructuring.
Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell of Maine sparred with the Soviet president, predicting at one point that a poll of Lithuanians would show that most support independence.
'Fine, let them do it and we will agree, but only through a constitutional process,' Gorbachev responded.
On the other main point of contention, the Soviet leader told the lawmakers that he stressed to Bush the Soviet Union had no problem with the United States keeping a military presence in Europe and did not 'fear' Germany.
However, he argued that the issue of whether a unified Germany remain a part of NATO was 'a question of imbalance' and he warned against the West trying to 'squeeze out' the Soviet Union for an advantage.
As the two presidents met for the second round of summit sessions, first ladies Barbara Bush and Raisa Gorbachev travelled to Boston and Wellesley, Mass., where they addressed the graduating class at the prestigious Wellesley College.
Mrs. Bush, whose invitation had been criticized by some students as 'inappropriate,' in good humored but pointed remarks, defended her career as a wife and mother, reminding the crowd of 5,000 that the school was known as a place where 'diversity is not just tolerated but embraced.'