NATO's commander says he thinks NATO could probably reduce its number of nuclear weapons without reducing their deterrent value, reports Monitor correspondent Elizabeth Pond.
Gen. Bernard W. Rogers, speaking to US, West German, and other NATO officials and strategic theorists here, pleaded for strengthened conventional defenses that could enable NATO to raise the nuclear threshold in repelling attacks. He said the Warsaw Pact's superiority in conventional weapons is growing every year , and that as commander he would have to request the use of nuclear weapons ''fairly quickly'' to maintain the cohesiveness of defense.
General Rogers does not wish to throw away any nuclear warheads without getting credit for it in Western public opinion, however - or without getting matching concessions from the Soviet Union. When NATO withdrew 1,000 nuclear warheads in 1980, it got no quid pro quo from the Soviet Union - and very little publicity even in the West.
Also at the 20th annual Wehrkunde meeting, which ended Sunday, was Manfred Worner, West Germany's defense minister. He stressed the importance of NATO's determination to station new missiles in Europe by the end of this year. This determination he described as the most persuasive incentive to Moscow to abandon its current ''monopoly'' on intermediate-range missiles and compromise on arms control.