NATO communiqu'e targets conventional arms cuts and goal of `stability'

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The position paper on conventional arms control issued at the NATO summit Wednesday: Focuses on getting ``highly asymmetrical reductions by the East, [including] tens of thousands of Warsaw Pact weapons relevant to surprise attack, among them tank and artillery pieces.''

Makes no reference to the inclusion of tactical nuclear weapons in the negotiations on conventional arms reductions.

Stresses that the aim of negotiations is ``stability'' in Europe and elimination of the ``capability for surprise attack and large-scale offensive action.''

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Avoids specifying just how ``asymmetrical'' Soviet cuts would have to be to promote stability.

President Reagan called the statement a demonstration of NATO unity and a major step forward.

The emphasis on ``stability'' (by contrast to reductions for reductions' sake) is aimed at Western publics.

The intent is to avert any popular belief that arms cuts in themselves promote peace - and thereby to avert pressure for cuts that might leave the Soviet Union with a continued ``capability for surprise attack.''

Tactical nuclear weapons were deliberately left out of the statement, since NATO relies on nuclear weapons more heavily than does the Warsaw Pact to offset the Soviet Union's conventional superiority and deter even a conventional attack by threatening to escalate any war it is losing to nuclear war.

The British wanted to exclude nuclear weapons explicitly from the negotiations; the West Germans wanted to include them.

The statement says only that the alliance would not accept ``an erosion of the Allies' nuclear deterrent capability.''

Failure to state just how disproportionate Soviet arms cuts would have to be to promote stability reflects continued skirmishing within the NATO alliance about how ``negotiable'' the West's position will have to be.

Some US studies have suggested that the Soviets would have to remove five to eight times as many tanks as the West, but proposing such a disparity might not be saleable to Western publics.

According to wire reports, leaders of the Western alliance endorsed President Reagan's efforts to negotiate new reductions in nuclear arms and demanded sweeping cutbacks in the Soviet Union's vastly superior conventional forces in Europe to rule out a surprise attack.

Reagan and leaders of 15 other NATO nations declared that Soviet conventional forces ``cast a shadow over the whole of Europe'' and must be reduced sharply to ease the imbalance in East-West military strength, wire reports said.

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