German defense chief chides US Senate for 'pressure' on Europe
West Germany will soon increase both its own military spending and its contribution to the NATO infrastructure fund, Defense Minister Manfred Worner says.
That much should please a United States Senate that almost passed legislation last week insisting that European allies spend more on defense or else face US troop withdrawals from Europe.
Dr. Worner's pungent words about such senatorial ''pressure'' on ''an alliance of sovereign nations'' might be less welcome to the Senate.
These were the highlights of an interview in English with ex-Luftwaffe pilot and Defense Minister Worner. Other points included:
* A downgrading of Worner's earlier public criticism of the American ''star wars'' plan to the level of ''critical and skeptical questions.''
* A conditional endorsement of NATO's evolving ''second echelon'' strategy - along with a skittishness about any accompanying ground counterattack behind the East-West border.
On the sensitive issue of defense spending, Worner said he is ''confident'' that decisions will be made this summer that will increase the West German contribution to the new six-year NATO infrastructure budget. He also projected an increase in Bonn's real defense spending for 1986, 1987, and 1988 of ''at least 2, most likely 3 percent,'' and of perhaps 1.5 to 2 percent in 1985, under standard NATO calculations.
The infrastructure funding triggered one of the more acrimonious disputes in NATO this spring when Worner was unable to wrest out of the Bonn Cabinet the 7.4 billion deutsche marks ($3 billion) requested by US Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger as West Germany's 26.5 percent share of the funding. Bonn offered instead 4.5 billion deutsche marks.
The European failure to meet the goal of 3 percent annual defense increases pledged by NATO members at the end of the 1970s has also been a constant irritant to Washington. The narrowly defeated Senate amendment proposed by the very pro-European Sam Nunn (D) of Georgia - a longtime friend of Worner - in fact used European hikes in security budgets as a main measure of whether the Europeans are shaping up enough to avoid the sanction of American troop withdrawals.
In an interview with The Christian Science Monitor, Worner hardly sounded like a man who was grateful to the US Senate for strengthening his hand in intramural negotiations about Bonn's austerity budget.
''This is not the way to handle Atlantic relations,'' he asserted. ''The American Senate has to accept the fact that we are an alliance of sovereign nations. . . . I would be interested to have the (American) reactions if the German Bundestag made a resolution dictating to the Americans what to do'' and set up ''automatic responses'' in case of noncompliance. ''I think American parliamentarians have to accept the fact that alliance partners are not subject to any dictate of any other country. And this I say as a very alliance-minded man and as a man who is known for his pro-Americanism.''
Worner continued with the familiar argument that West Germany's defense contribution is in fact impressive in including a doubling of defense spending between 1970 and 1982 (when American defense spending was generally declining), a contribution of 50 percent of NATO's land forces and air defenses in central Europe as well as 60 percent of the naval forces and 100 percent of the naval air power in the Baltic Sea, an increase in military investment by a real 3.5 percent and of research and development by a real 6 percent even in the tight year of 1984, and an efficient Army that manages to field 12 divisions out of 350,000 men.
In addition, West Germany's budget for ammunition stocks - a second key measure of Senator Nunn's - went up a real 35 percent in 1984 and, said Worner, ''I have now reached the limits of (production of) our ammunition industry.'' Part of the stocks are up to the NATO target of a 30-day supply, he said, while stocks for new weapons, such as the Tornado aircraft, are being built up step by step.
In a third measure of Sen. Nunn's - increasing the European capacity to base American reinforcement aircraft - Worner pointed out that the Roland-Patriot air defense program should be agreed on this summer. (It was initially agreed on by the US and West Germany last year, but Washington subsequently reopened the 50- 50 deal with additional financial claims.) Worner also expected help here from the increased NATO infrastructure fund.
On ''star wars,'' Worner retreated somewhat from his comment two months ago that an American space missile defense could destabilize the East-West balance, decouple the US and Western Europe, and even lead to a splitting up of the Western alliance.
He still raised these issues as ''critical questions.'' But he prefaced them by terming it ''absolutely legitimate, even necessary'' for the Americans to catch up with current Soviet capability in satellite killers and in research and development in space antimissile defense.
On NATO's ''deep strike'' concept for attacking second-echelon forces, Worner approved the acquisition of high-tech weapons in general and of deep-interdiction conventional missiles in particular. He raised Bonn's strong qualms about the strategy, however. He wanted a ''two-way street'' in America's and Europe's purchases from each other, and a correction in the present seven-to-one US advantage in weapons sales to West Germany. Furthermore, he didn't want first-echelon front-line holding power to be sacrificed to second-echelon capabilities.
In particular, he also declined to approve in advance any ground force counterattacks onto East German or other Warsaw Pact territory. (NATO commander Bernard Rogers has said he would authorize such limited counterattacks up to a depth of 25 to 30 kilometers (about 15 to 19 miles) to regain any territory seized in a Warsaw pact attack.)
Worner stated, however, ''There are no plans for it. That is my answer. And I have put these words very carefully.'' He added, though, that he wouldn't cede a sanctuary to an attacker.