Baker Will Check Out Bugs
WASHINGTON — PART of Secretary of State James Baker III's busy schedule in Moscow will include a tour of the infamous new United States Embassy chancery. All construction on the monolithic brick structure halted almost four years ago, when US intelligence agencies determined that it was so riddled with listening devices that it was unusable. Last October, President Reagan concluded it should be razed. But the Bush administration decided to reexamine its options. It is now nearing a decision, State Department officials say.
These options include:
Removing the top floors and replacing them with bug-free floors or an adjoining annex.
Tearing down the building and starting over. The new building would be constructed in pieces in the US, transported to Moscow, and assembled there by American workers.
Selling or leasing the building to a consortium of US businessmen.
Painstakingly removing the bugs from the new embassy. This option was recommended by Anne Armstrong, head of Reagan's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
The first option was proposed by two aides to Secretary Baker who inspected the building in March. They concluded that reconstructing part of the building, or adding an annex, would be cheaper than the $500 million that a complete rebuilding would cost.
In Congress, which must approve funds for whatever option is chosen, opinions are mixed. Some key members, such as Rep. Neal Smith (D) of Iowa, chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee, opposes spending $500 million. Other members feel the only way to have a secure Moscow embassy is to start over.
Late last year a US trade group led by Dwayne Andreas, the chairman of Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, offered to buy or lease the building to use as headquarters for joint ventures with the Soviets.
Meanwhile, the US and Soviet governments are preparing to go to arbitration over the costs of the abortive project. The US plans to file three claims, one for defects in construction, one for delays, and one for ``intentional defects'' - diplomatese for bugs. The US has not figured the cost yet, pending a decision on which option to pursue.