Soviets try to block new US missiles with stick, not carrot
Moscow is stepping up efforts to talk West Europe out of deploying new US missiles later this year. The bid comes amid increased public unity among Western leaders on starting deployment if the snagged arms control talks in Geneva fail to yield an acceptable accord with the Soviets.Skip to next paragraph
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Two recent European elections - in West Germany and Britain - have backed governments firmly committed to this arms strategy.
A clearer idea of what, if any, amendments Moscow may make in its negotiating stand as part of a bid to head off Western deployment should come in the next few days.
First, Kremlin chief Yuri Andropov will meet other Warsaw Pact leaders here. The summit, although not publicly announced at time of writing, is expected to begin June 28.
Then Mr. Andropov welcomes West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl for talks centering on the ''Euromissile'' issue. Mr. Kohl, whose country is to deploy the largest portion of the nearly 600 new US rockets over the next few years, arrives July 4. His visit is the only Soviet-Western summit currently planned before the new deployments are to start.
The Soviets, who have long combined carrot and stick in statements on the Euromissile issue, have of late begun putting greater emphasis on the stick.
On the eve of the recent Williamsburg summit of the Western nations and Japan , Moscow warned publicly that if new missile deployments in Europe went ahead, ''The necessity would arise of launching, upon agreement with the other Warsaw Pact countries, further measures to deploy additional weapons in order to create the necessary counterbalance. . . .''
The Williamsburg summit proceeded to endorse the NATO Euromissile position - a task that, Western diplomats here argue, was probably made easier by the Soviets' preemptive statement.
And Mr. Andropov has twice in recent months - in an April interview with a German magazine and in a June 27 introduction to a German edition of his speeches - warned Bonn that deployment of new rockets would reduce, perhaps fatally, the country's security and not enhance it.
The assumption among foreign diplomats here is that the imminent East bloc summit will endorse the earlier, unilateral Soviet warning of joint Warsaw Pact moves in reply to any new US missiles.
The open question, however, is whether stick or carrot will predominate in Mr. Andropov's talks with the West German leader. The Soviet strategy for the last high-level Euromissile talks with a visiting West German - Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher in 1981 - was to talk tough before he arrived but rather more subtly and softly behind closed doors.
In the run-up to Chancellor Kohl's arrival, Moscow has taken a similarly tough line. Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov, in a Kremlin statement June 27, echoed Mr. Andropov's recent remarks by declaring: ''We cannot watch indifferently the deployment of many hundreds of American medium-range nuclear missiles. . . . It is clearly stated in the (pre-Williamsburg) statement of the Soviet government . . . that it will take measures and reply jointly with its friends.''
The Soviet news agency Tass has also gone to the trouble of rebutting recent remarks by a West German official arguing that, despite tough Soviet words, siting of new US missiles would not seriously impair Moscow-Bonn ties over the long haul.
The main Euromissile issue is numbers. The West wants to deploy the new US rockets in reply to several hundred highly accurate, mobile, three-warhead missiles - SS-20s - that Moscow has targeted on Western Europe since the late 1970s.
Western leaders add that, although Britain and France have 162 nuclear missiles, these are national forces not available to NATO for defense of other European states, and are less powerful than the Soviet weapons.
Moscow says it will cut back the number of SS-20s, but only to the figure of British and French missile forces.
The West has also insisted that any SS-20s removed under eventual accord be scrapped, not just repositioned out of range of West Europe. Moscow rejects this demand.